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“Securing a Job Seems Nearly Impossible,” Says Visually Impaired Educator Who Had One Interview in Four Years

Claire, hailed as Ireland’s ‘first blind teacher’ upon graduation, has encountered significant challenges in securing employment. Despite her qualifications, she has faced numerous rejections and describes the system for supporting disabled individuals in the workplace as inadequate. Out of nearly 50 applications made over four years, she has only received one interview opportunity, highlighting the barriers she faces in gaining employment.

At 33 years old, Claire Shorten resides in Ballinteer with her husband David. She completed her undergraduate studies in geography and history, followed by a master’s degree in education after losing her sight. Initially celebrated as Ireland’s ‘inspirational first blind teacher’ upon graduating, Claire anticipated a smooth transition into employment without facing any significant barriers.

“We constantly hear about the pressing need for teachers. I had successfully completed two placements in schools during my MA, building excellent relationships with the students in my classes. I was eager to return to the classroom and fulfill my calling,” Claire expressed.

“In the first year, I received no interview invitations. The following year, once again, there was nothing. It wasn’t until the third year after leaving college that I finally secured one interview for a school in Dublin,” she recounted.

“At that point, I was quite nervous. I feel like I stumbled on a couple of questions, and ultimately, I didn’t get the position,” she recalled.

Claire acknowledged that while she never automatically attributes the barriers she encounters to her blindness, after applying for nearly 50 teaching positions without success, she began to suspect that discrimination might be a contributing factor to the ongoing rejections.

“I had a conversation with someone from the access office at Maynooth University where I studied, and he asked me, ‘Claire, do you think it might be because they see non-blind applicants?’ I hadn’t considered it from that angle, but I realized that’s likely the case,” she shared.

Claire highlighted that part of the issue lies in the system for personal assistant services in Ireland and how it places the responsibility on the employer.

“If I secure a job in a school, they would need to contact local services to arrange a personal assistant for me. While having that provision is beneficial, I believe if I could arrange the personal assistant myself, it might improve my chances of getting an interview,” she explained.

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