Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Working with Visual Impairment in Nigeria: A Qualitative Look at Employment Status

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Working with Visual Impairment in Nigeria: A Qualitative Look at Employment Status

Article excerpt

High rates of unemployment in both developed and developing countries are the norm rather than the exception for individuals who are visually impaired (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) (LaGrow & Davey, 2005; Lee & Park, 2008; Pavey, Douglas, & Corcoran, 2008; Simson, Gold, & Zuvela, 2005; Wolffe & Spungin, 2002). However, in developing countries there is staggering unemployment, with estimates ranging from 90% to 100%, with rural areas particularly hard-hit (ILO, 2012; Kyriacoy, 2005; Rowland, 2004; Ruba, 2006; Sashida, 2006). Classification of a country's status as a developed or developing country is determined by organizations such as the United Nations, The World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (Nielsen, 2011). The developing country of interest to us in this study was Nigeria because of its position as the most populous country in Africa. Nigeria has a population of over 158 million, thus accounting for 47% of West Africa's population (The World Bank, 2012).

The World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) is a general household survey that was fielded by the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics in 2010 and 2011 to collect data on Nigerian households and their characteristics. What we discovered is that 2% of LSMS respondents indicate that they have trouble with vision. This includes those who reported they cannot see and those with some difficulty seeing even when wearing corrective lenses. Of those reporting trouble with vision, only 6% indicate they are working, and an additional 3% indicate that they are looking for work. Of those working, 16% report they have at least two jobs. Approximately a third of the working LSMS respondents with visual impairments report that they work less than 35 hours a week, just over a third (35%) work 35-45 hours a week, and a little less than a third work more than 45 hours a week (The World Bank, 2012).

With these data in mind, we decided to investigate what is required to maintain employment in a developing country once a job is secured, in the hope of sharing how successfully employed individuals cope in such environments. In this article and its companion piece, which reported the quantitative results of our study (Wolffe, Ajuwon, & Kelly, 2013), we explored the attributes of a group of employed adults with visual impairments. In this qualitative report, we looked at the kinds of jobs the participants in our study were performing and what the study participants shared relative to the facilitators and challenges they encounter in employment. We wanted to identify factors that enable employed adults in Nigeria with visual impairments to sustain employment, which is a high priority for developing countries as articulated by the United Nations in its 2009 General Assembly (UN, 2009).


Many of the disability-specific services in Nigeria are provided through private, charitable organizations and membership organizations such as the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB). Although there are special schools for children who are visually impaired in all 36 states in Nigeria, no comparable public facilities serve adults. Therefore, following ethics clearance from the Missouri State University Institutional Review Board, one of the researchers (the second author) traveled to the headquarters of NAB in Lagos to initiate our study. NAB is an advocacy organization with representation in all six geopolitical regions of the country. This researcher familiarized the stakeholders with the research design and instrumentation, and trained four sighted research assistants to administer our questionnaires in the NAB regions. NAB identified candidates for this study (visually impaired adults living and working in Nigeria) from among their constituents.

The trained research assistants hand-delivered 400 copies of the questionnaire to prospective participants (employed NAB members) throughout Nigeria. …

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