CLARITY – supporting blind people to support themselves

By Kasia MysiakMarketing & Communications Executive of CLARITY 

CLARITY, one of the oldest social enterprises in the UK, was established in 1854 by Elizabeth Gilbert who lost her sight at the age of three due to scarlet fever. The objective of “The Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind”, as CLARITY was called back then, was to enable blind people to support themselves. Blind people were employed and trained to make products, these products were then sold and the money reinvested into the company.

Nowadays CLARITY is pan-disability, employing not only people with visual impairment but with a variety of disabilities both mental and physical. According to GOV publications, disabled people remain significantly less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people; in 2012 46.3% of working-age disabled people were in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people. These stark figures emphasize the need for organizations like CLARITY who understand that work doesn’t only provide income, but it is also an opportunity for an individual to prove themselves, to show to others that he or she can do a good job. There is still a wide ranging perception that people with disabilities are an employment risk. Time spent at CLARITY doing a job in a real work environment builds transferable skills and creates the “evidence of employability” that can reduce the perception of this risk.

Being in work, especially for a person with a disability, means being able to support oneself, be part of society and not rely heavily on benefits. This can work wonders for confidence, self esteem and contributes to an increase in overall well-being. There are many positive stories at CLARITY. Employees say that through work they have managed to prove themselves to others, they feel a part of the community, they feel independent and they have a structure in their life that brings order and purpose.

All of this at CLARITY is achieved through the production and sale of toiletries and cleaning products. We design, manufacture, package and sell beautiful toiletry and cleaning products to generate our income. Our manufacturing process is more labour intensive than most factories to maximise the number of employment opportunities we can provide for blind and disabled people. All profits are reinvested into the organisation to grow our business and increase the employment and training opportunities for our staff. Before joining CLARITY many of our employees were unemployed, often for an extended period of time, and often since they became disabled. CLARITY is proud to offer people a bridge from long term unemployment to employment beyond our charity. By working at CLARITY a person can show a future potential employer that they are able to successfully integrate into a professional working environment. We know that people with disabilities are excellent and reliable employees who are a huge asset to our organization.

Unlike most charities, our reliance is not on donations, but on our supporters purchasing products that are made by our disabled workforce – we call it the “CLARITY Balance” – both supporting the charity and buying great products. And if by substituting everyday toiletries for CLARITY toiletries means that more disabled people could be trained and employed – the choice is clear.

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