I’m a trainee reporter for News Shopper, and I’m legally blind and work with a guide dog

I’m severely sight impaired, otherwise referred to as legally blind, I have no sight in my right eye and very limited sight in my left.  

This is due to a congenital condition I have had since birth known as Septo Optic Dysplasia; the condition affects the optic nerves amongst other things. 

I also have something called Nystagmus which makes focusing difficult - which can impact my ability to read long pieces of text. 

The way I describe my sight is that it's rather like looking through the porthole of a ship which occasionally gets misted over.  

I can’t see very far distances and I only can see what’s in front of me, and what I can see sometimes becomes blurred due to my Nystagmus. 

 Becoming a journalist was always a long-term goal for me ever since my teenage years when I used to write for my school paper.  

Finally, at the age of 28, after being a freelancer and working part time, I was finally able to break into the journalism industry. 

 Personally, I do believe that the shift in working patterns since the pandemic has contributed largely to why people like me have been able to find employment. 

Being disabled can be difficult in terms of getting to and from an office job, and so working in a society that has grown more accustomed to working from home has been an absolute game changer.

In my case, I have a guide dog, but guide dogs can get sick, or it may be snowing, or the weather may be too hot to take her out. 

Aside from that, I also have rather heavy assistive equipment I need to use, as well as an underlying health condition that affects my immune system. 

All these things were huge issues I faced every time I hit that “apply” button on a job application. 

But apply I did and after many rejections and countless applications, I got there in the end.   

When I first began working at Newsquest I first had to apply for Access to Work, something I had never done before.  

Access to Work is a government grant awarded to disabled people in work to help them with things like specialist equipment, transport to work and a support worker if you need one. 

In my case I was awarded specialist equipment such as screen reading software that reads back what’s on the screen as well as a screen extender to make everything on my laptop screen larger.

I do pretty much everything my non-disabled team members do, I search for stories, I pitch them, I make social media content, there’s not a great deal I don’t do. 

Or if I don’t do it, you can be assured it’s not through want of trying. 

There are some elements of my job made more difficult due to my sight, especially when it involves looking at a lot of data or looking for photographs on social media. 

However, I’m in a lucky position to work with a very experienced and trusted support worker who I knew before the role I’m in now. 

My support worker helps me to do tasks that would otherwise be complicated or too time-consuming without him, like finding specific data on spreadsheets or finding images on Twitter to use for stories on things like traffic or travel.  

Ultimately, he helps me with the more visual elements of my job so I can focus on writing the stories. 

Having a guide dog, I’ve learned that one of the biggest challenges when going out on location to interview people is keeping them on the subject of them and not my guide dog.

News Shopper: Emily's guide dog RosieEmily's guide dog Rosie (Image: Emily Davison)

So often when people see us out, they want to speak about her and learn about all the wonderful things she does as my guide dog. 

Of course, I understand this and always try to answer their questions. 

But as a journalist working to deadlines, I sometimes feel a sense of guilt having to steer them back to the subject at hand.  

However, I always try and keep it polite and say something like: “anyway you’re the star of the show, let’s talk about you now”. 

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One thing I love about this job is how varied it is, I’ve covered so many topics from cost-of-living stories, local businesses, crime, community, transport, local history, and more besides.  

There have been hurdles that I’ve had to overcome and there will probably be more the longer I’m in this role.  

But all I can say is that I’m glad I persevered and didn’t let any thoughts of self-doubt or uncertainty prevent me on my journey. 

I feel very privileged to be in this position and to hopefully represent the community of disabled journalists who are doing the job they love.