Business Secretary praises braille firm for diverse workforce

The Business Secretary is meeting workers at the Scottish Braille Press to celebrate the success of the social enterprise and its diverse workforce.

The company, where around half the staff are disabled, manufactures large print, audio and braille transcription for people and businesses across the UK.

Over the last ten years, the business has tripled its turnover to over £3 million and increased its staff to 103 since moving to larger new premises in Edinburgh last year.

With high levels of unemployment among disabled people in Scotland, Jamie Hepburn MSP has praised the firm.

The Scottish Braille Press has been praised for its success and diverse workforce
The Scottish Braille Press has been praised for its success and diverse workforce (Maverick Photo Agency/PA)

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s visit, Mr Hepburn said: “In addition to providing a valuable service for visually impaired people, the Scottish Braille Press is an employer that recognises the benefits of a diverse workforce and has been proactive in addressing barriers to employment for disabled people.

“The Scottish Government continues to work with Scotland’s employers to create more inclusive workplaces and raise awareness amongst both employers and disabled people seeking employment of the support available to them.”

In Scotland, disabled people are currently twice as likely to be out of work than non-disabled people, and two thirds of working-age people who are registered as blind and partially sighted in Scotland are not in paid employment.

The Scottish Government has committed to halving the disability employment gap by 2030.

Mr Hepburn added: “Only through a collective effort across sectors will we achieve the ambition of reducing the unacceptably large disability employment gap by at least half.”

The new Scottish Braille Press office in Edinburgh
The new office of Scottish Braille Press in Edinburgh (Toby Williams/PA)

Suzie Lewis, a large-print proofreader who has vision impairment, said: “hen I first started here almost 40 years ago most folk in the Scottish Braille Press were disabled in some way and I felt comfortable working here and still do.

“Quite a lot were visually impaired and understood the problems and you could ask them for help. There was always support from your colleagues.

“I’ve had help with some equipment, for example my special glasses I use for reading were paid for by the Scottish Braille Press. I’ve got a big screen – bigger than the others and special software that makes it easier for me to read the text on the screen.

“I think people should be given a chance in a workplace. Other organisations could let disabled people have a trial. Assistants could help them get started until they were comfortable. You never know what people can do until they try.”

Chief executive of Royal Blind Mark O’Donnell added: “With more and more people living with sight loss there is a greater demand for documents to be available in accessible formats, and this means the Scottish Braille Press has trebled its business over the past ten years.

“We are proud that this means we can increase the number of employment opportunities we provide for disabled people who too often face barriers in the workplace.

“The success of the Scottish Braille Press shows that employers also benefit from providing employment opportunities for disabled people, and we hope more will take up the opportunity to gain from all they have to offer.”