Chrysella Lagaria, co-founder of Black Light Athens talks to Business Partners about accessibility, innovation, and the steps businesses and society need to take to ensure the integration of people with disabilities in the labor market.
What is Black Light and why was it created?
Black Light is a social cooperative enterprise with a mission to improve daily life for people with visual impairments and act as a major stakeholder for their integration in the job market. To accomplish this, Black Light acts as a bridge between people who can see and visually impaired people. We offer multidimensional B2B education services with the aim of bringing businesses closer to a consumer group virtually excluded from retail trade and enhancing skills and awareness regarding blindness. We started operating in 2018, and our staff consists mostly of visually impaired people. Our starting point was Dialogue in the Dark, an experiential interactive exhibition which was held for four years at the Athens Badminton Theater and had more than 40,000 visitors of all ages.
Undeniably, the influx of new technologies has resulted in better access to the labor market for people with disabilities
What specific services do you offer?
We are the first in Greece to offer educational seminars for retail stores on serving blind customers. We also give corporate workshops based on experiential learning with the aim of cultivating soft skills and team spirit for executives through familiarity with visual impairment. At the same time, we enable companies to train their store staff through specially designed webinars and to attend our experiential workshops remotely. Also, this autumn, our new business consulting service will start focusing on rendering our clients’ websites and e-shops fully accessible to visually impaired people.
Are Greek companies ready to serve visually impaired customers?
Both as customers with disabilities and also as professionals, we regularly experience customer service that is founded on ignorance about the right approaches and effective service to visually impaired people—although helpful employees do exist. Black Light can play a key role in changing this situation.
What is the role of innovation in making the labor market more accessible to people with disabilities and promoting integration?
Innovation is considered a given in recent years, but the pace has been slow as far as serving people with disabilities goes. Yet undeniably, the influx of new technologies has indeed resulted in better access to the labor market for this group. Smartphones and tablets are part of daily life for blind people and can help drive integration as long as they are paired with the right opportunities.
Should people with disabilities be involved in the process of developing innovative ideas?
It is imperative in terms of both inclusiveness and equality. People with disabilities, being the target group, are in the best position to affect the design of such innovative ideas, as this will be a guarantee that solutions are shaped in ways that promote real inclusion and equity. Moreover, people with disabilities could exploit new entrepreneurship and career routes in this virgin market. All this may ultimately create the much needed change in culture and contribute to real and lasting results in the integration of visually impaired people in the job market and society at large.
For more information, visit black-light.gr