Current disability barriers in the workplace

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While attitudes towards disabled people are steadily changing, many disabled employees still face attitudinal barriers from managers and colleagues who usually feel uncomfortable or awkward talking to them because of their disability. A fear of saying something wrong or coming across as patronising, are often the cause for people avoiding those with a disability.

In our second article in our series about disability in the workplace, Progression – Transformation Enablers give us more insight into the main barriers faced by disabled employees in the workplace. Below, we’ve highlighted these barriers and highlighted how employers and co-workers should handle these barriers to make the office environment an accommodating and friendlier place for everyone.

Barrier #1: Believing someone with a disability is given an unfair advantage because of his or her disability

Managers have a duty to ensure that they hold people with disabilities to the same standards as their co-workers, even though the means of accomplishing the tasks may vary from person to person.

Barrier #2: Avoiding someone with a disability because of a belief that you may say something wrong

Think of how you interact with the rest of your co-workers who are from different cultural or religious backgrounds. Just as frequent encounters with these co-workers make it easy for you to chat to them, taking the time to get to know someone living with a disability will lessen the “How do I talk to her without saying something wrong” awkward vibe.

Barrier #3: Thinking that a disabled colleague is exceptionally courageous for pursuing a career with their disability

People living with a disability are not looking for recognition or accolades for having the ability to perform their day-to-day duties. They have simply learnt to live with their disability and adapt to their work environment by using their skills and knowledge, just like how you’ve adapted to being short, tall, strong, brunette and so on.

Barrier #4: Thinking that you need to help a disabled person with their task because of a belief that they are incapable of accomplishing them on their own.

The fact is people living with disabilities are as capable of completing their tasks as those living without any disabilities. We see it every day. A quadriplegic who can drive a car, a blind man who can tell the time, a deaf person you can play soccer, you name it.

Barrier #5: Feeling sorry for someone with a disability which often leads to patronising attitudes.

People with a disability generally don’t want pity or charity, but instead, prefer to be treated and given equal opportunities to earn their own way and live independently.

Negative attitudes towards the disabled are not the only barriers disabled people usually deal with. On the other side of the spectrum are positive attitudes. For instance, you may believe that because someone is blind he or she must have a greater sense of smell and hearing, or that someone in a wheelchair must be a great Paralympic. Not only does this attitude belittle someone’s abilities, but it often sets standards that are either too high or low for the individual who in essence, is human like you.

Breaking down attitudinal barriers

Unlike physical and systematic barriers, attitudinal barriers usually lead to illegal discrimination which cannot be easily overcome through the law. To eradicate these barriers, the best remedy is to familiarize yourself with people living with disabilities. Over time, mingling with a disabled co-worker, say at the end-year function or during coffee breaks, will allow you to build a comfortable and respectful friendship with him or her.

Physical barriers in the workplace

Section “S” of the National Buildings Regulations and Buildings Act Act sets minimum requirements that every building, including the office space, should meet. Once you’ve hired a disabled employee, every effort should be taken to ensure that the disabled person is reasonably accommodated.

If you cannot provide a work environment that caters for those living with a disability, you need to prove to the person living with the disability and those without, that the facility cannot accommodate them.

However, if a building or work station is designed correctly, it is very possible to make the office a safe, comfortable and a convenient work environment for all people.

How to safely fix your eye problems yourself

Red and itchy eyes are really irritating, but the good news is that, in many cases, you can soothe away the problems yourself. Health24’s eye expert gives her top DIY eye-saving tips.

Yentl Barros

Megan Goodman, a qualified optometrist and Health24’s eye health expert, says there are various causes of eye irritations, and symptoms should never be ignored, and if the tips we describe here don’t work, you should definitely see a specialist.

The most common eye problems and what you can do to fix them:


If your vision is blurred, it’s likely due to dry eyes.

When your eyes are dry it causes inflammation in the cells of the eye. This is due to increased tear film evaporation and/or decreased tear production. This is a very common condition in females and those over the age of 40 (thought to be due to hormonal changes), as well as people who spend long periods in air-conditioned or heated environments.

DIY treatments for blurry vision caused by dry eyes: increasing fluid intake as well as decreasing exposure to air-conditioning are quick measures to relieve dry eye.

If you wear contact lenses, you can also give your eyes a break by not using them when you don’t absolutely need them.

Preservative-free artificial tears will also help restore lubrication to the eye.

Also, avoiding spending long hours in front of your computer and take a break every 20 minutes. Computer users should also remember to look away from their screens from time to time.

Persistent blurry vision could also be a sign of cataracts, in which case you should see an ophthalmologist.


Itchy eyes are most commonly caused by allergies or a hypersensitivity to something in your environment, such as pollen or a household pet. Itchy eyes can be accompanied by some redness and tearing as well as a runny or congested nose and sneezing.

DIY treatments for itchy eyes as a result of an allergy: the first step is to remove or reduce the allergen. Determine what is causing the possible irritation – for example, if you’ve just got a new pet and your eyes are suddenly itchy, don’t let them sleep on your bed or sit on the couch.

Spring is also the time when allergies increase. If you regularly suffer from hay fever, be prepared and take oral anti-histamines before symptoms start to appear. You can also take a look at our natural ways to manage hay fever.

Using lubricating, preservative-free eye drops can be soothing and also assist in reducing the amount of allergen, and you can use it many times during the course of the day.

Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can also be used for a limited period of time. Don’t use eye drops that “whiten the eye“ as this is not fixing the problem, only hiding it.


There are many possible causes of red eyes. You could be over-tired or even have a growth on the eye. The possible causes and its treatments are listed below:

Pterygium is a noncancerous growth of tissue that usually grows from the inner part of the eye. The growth often develops in people who live in a warm climate, so it’s common in South Africans.

DIY treatments for Pterygium: using lubricating eye drops will help reduce redness and irritation, but if the growth starts to affect your vision, it is best to see a specialist.

– Wearing contact lenses can cause red eyes because they have a drying effect on the eye. Again, preservative free lubricating eye drops can offer some relief, but it’s not a solution. If the problem persists or both eyes are suddenly or persistently red, head back to your optometrist.

– Subconjunctival haemorrhage is a sudden painless, redness in the white of the eye (conjunctiva) and it often occurs without you noticing it. A subconjunctival haemorrhage is due to a tiny blood vessel bursting. This can occur as a result of an episode of coughing or vomiting any obvious cause.

DIY treatments for subconjunctival haemorrhage: this usually requires no treatment and resolves spontaneously within 2-3 weeks. Using eye drops that whiten the eye will only delay the healing process. Just like when you have a bruise on your skin, the blood will slowly clear spontaneously. If these haemorrhages occur more frequently and do not resolve please see a specialist to determine the cause.

– Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. Also known as pink eye, it can be allergic, viral or bacterial and is highly contagious.

DIY treatments for conjunctivitis: this is a tricky one to try treat at home as you need to know if it’s viral or bacterial, and if it’s the latter, you’ll need antibiotic eye drops or ointment.

– Blepharitis is very common in the elderly. It’s inflammation of the eyelids that can cause dandruff-like scales on the eyelashes.

Possible DIY treatments for blepharitis: Good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control this. Face washing, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids as well as doing an eyelid scrub with some baby shampoo. If this does not improve the symptoms, prescription antibiotics may be required.

Hordeoulum, which is more commonly known as a stye, is when the eyelid looks out of shape with a painful red swelling at the eyelid margin. This occurs due to an infection in one of the glands of the eyelid.

DIY treatments for hordeoulum/styes: warm soaks and compresses will speed up the eruption of the stye’s point and assist in drainage. Removing the eyelash that has turned in would also assist in speeding up the healing process. Be cautious of doing this yourself and consider that you may still need antibiotic eye drops if more styes form or if they don’t resolve.


– Floaters, medically known as “muscae volitantes” (fluttering flies), occur when the vitreous, which is the jelly at the back of the eye, starts to age and separates and can cause strand like pieces to become visible in the line of sight.

This process is normal and can occur earlier in some patients, e.g. in patients who are short sighted. They become more visible when one looks at a plain white wall and sees “worm“ like objects floating against the background.

DIY treatments for muscae volitantes: chances are they’ve always been there and you got so used to them that your brain simply blocked them out. But, if there is a sudden increase in floaters, or their appearance is accompanied by other symptoms like light flashes or a “curtain” in your vision, see your optometrist as soon as possible.

– Vitreous haemorrhage occurs when there is a bleed in the back of the eye. You would see dark objects and strands in your eyes. Don’t ignore this and see a specialist asap.

Our eye doc warns that one can never be too cautious when it comes to your eyes, and when in doubt about the cause, rather consult your optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP than trying to fix it yourself.

Breakthrough may improve glaucoma treatment

Scientists have discovered genetic variants that should improve diagnosis and treatment of the eye disease glaucoma.

A trio of studies published in the journalNature Genetics by separate groups of researchers found telltale variants on genes that also play a role in regulating cholesterolin cells and in an age-related arterial disease, atherosclerosis.

A variant in one of the genes, called ABO, also seems to be more common in people with blood group B, the authors reported.

The flaws came to light in a minute trawl through the genome of tens of thousands of people in more than half a dozen countries, comparing the DNA of those with glaucoma against those who were otherwise healthy.

More on glaucoma

Glaucoma – the leading cause of irreversible eye disease in the world – is caused by damage to the optical nerve, usually by a build-up of fluid pressure in the eyeball.

Early diagnosis is vital, as the damage can be averted if treated early enough. Spotting patients who are genetically more at risk would therefore be a plus.
Further work on exactly how faulty genes cause glaucoma could also lead to better treatments, the scientists said.

“Although eye drops are already available to treat glaucoma, these are not always effective,” said Chris Hammond, a professor at King’s College London.

According to the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO), 4.5 million people around the world have become blind through glaucoma, with the disease accounting for around one in eight of cases of blindness.

Glaucoma: a silent but devastating eye condition

4 in 50 South Africans over the age of 40 suffer from glaucoma, the 3rd leading cause of blindness globally. This is what you need to know about this silent condition.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which affects approximately 70 million people and a further 4.5 million are blind as a result of the condition, according to the World Glaucoma Week website.

Sadly about 50% of people don’t even know that they have the disease – this percentage is as high as 90% in developing countries, according to the South African Glaucoma Society. It is estimated that 4 in 50 South Africans over the age of 4 suffer from the condition. Also called “the blinding disease” or “thief of sight”, glaucoma develops without warning or obvious symptoms.

What is glaucoma?

In a nutshell, glaucoma is an eye disease that involves damage to the optic nerve. This nerve sends visual signals to the brain, where they are processed into what you “see”. No one knows what causes glaucoma, but pressure build-up in the eye has been proven to be a major risk factor. When the pressure in the eye gets too high, the optic nerve can get damaged. This damage causes some signals from the eye not to reach the brain. The result is that you can’t ‘see” everything your eye sees. This leads to reduced visual field, and if not managed, may lead to blindness.


As there is no cure yet for glaucoma, early detection is essential to preserve your eye-sight and diagnosis is the first step – know your risk factors.

The family connection
One of the biggest risk factors for glaucoma is your family history. The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is hereditary. If members of your immediate family have glaucoma, you are at a much higher risk than the rest of the population. The statistics speak for themselves: A person who has a parent with glaucoma has a five times greater risk of developing the disease, and should you have a sibling with glaucoma, your risk increases nine fold.

Ethnic background also plays a part in determining your risk factors – glaucoma is six to eight times more common in the black African population than in the European population. Other glaucoma risks factors include ageing, nearsightedness, previous eye injuries, steroid use, and health conditions such as cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.

Though the cause of glaucoma is still unknown and there is no cure yet, the condition can be managed well with treatment and regular check-ups. Early diagnosis and treatment is also very effective in delaying or preventing disease progression.

What are the symptoms?
At first, there are no symptoms. Vision stays normal, and there is no pain. However, as the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma may notice their vision gradually failing.

“Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes,” says Dr Ellen Ancker, Cape Town ophthalmologist and director of the World Glaucoma Patient Association. “Objects in front may still be seen clearly, but objects to the side may be missed. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision.” They seem to be looking through a tunnel. “Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains.”

The South African Glaucoma Society recommends that individuals who fall into the risk groups for glaucoma, or who experience symptoms such as described above, see an ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined. “If someone in your family has glaucoma, you should have your eyes tested regularly. This is especially important if the affected relative was under 40 years of age when the glaucoma was discovered. Generally, if you are over 40, you should have your eyes tested every two years, and every year once you are over the age of 60.”

How is it treated?
According to Ancker, once a patient has been diagnosed with glaucoma, they have to go on life-long medication – often in the form of medicated eye drops. “Glaucoma is a chronic disease which requires patients to use medication on a daily basis – regular use of the medication can help retain their eye sight.

eye drops

“It is also really important to go for regular checkups and have a good relationship with your doctor. You must be able to trust your doctor and notify him or her as soon as there are any changes in your vision or when you are experiencing any problems.”

If treatment with one or more medications is unsuccessful, your ophthalmologist can also recommend surgery. “However, this is not a first option,” says Ancker, “as there is a greater danger of infection and it can lead to cataracts in older patients.”