New massage rooms to expand the employment opportunities of blind masseurs


Independence is important as it gives a certain freedom. For visually impaired people finding a job in Estonia is a big problem, because there are only few professions that they are taught.

Since 1999 the Estonian Association of Blind Masseurs is engaged in organising both the basic and advanced massage trainings for the visually impaired and supported employment opportunities.

43-year-old Mirjam from Tartu was one of the first to be recruited by EPMÜ massage centres. "I turned to be blind at the age of 22 as a result of diabetes. Complete darkness came overnight, after another laser treatment. For six years I stayed only a home, raised my daughter, listening to the radio and naively hoping that perhaps one day I will see again. Coincidentally, I happened to meet active people with visual impairment who helped me and my whole family to come out of this "black hole". This was followed by a nifty life stage with the acquisition of various skills. I got the first experience of typing and using a computer. And then I passed the massage courses. My eyes began to sparkle again. I dared to ask myself: "Where have I been in the past?" At the same time, it was still difficult to find a job on newly acquired profession.

For an individual entrepreneur with disabilities it is hard to find a permanent job and to build a customer base. Many potential employers were afraid to employ a blind person. Upon hearing that I was blind, I was even not invited to try the job. When in 2003 the association formed its massage centre, me and a few more people were asked to work in the centre. In that centre our specific needs are accounted for. They offer professional trainings, inform about new legislations and share information on job vacancies. Working as a masseuse is a good flexible opportunity to have a job," says Mirjam.

With the money collected through the Swedbank's Donation Environment we can help the visually impaired people living in different parts of Estonia to acquire them suitable employment and to join the open labor market or work at the Association's supported work centres.

At the moment there are 18 blind masseurs working at the Association's supported work centre and in autumn 2014 it is planned to start our next massage classes for beginners, with the participation of 8 visually impaired people.

In April 2013 we opened our own training massage centre in Tallinn, Tondi 8a. We renovated two classrooms, two massage cabinets, a kitchen, 2 shower rooms, toilets and the lobby - on total of 170m2.

Our objective today is the construction of two new massage cabinets, which can provide a training base for 8 participants and allow them afterwards to start their work at the Association's supported work centres.

At EPMÜ, a person with sight loss can acquire a profession of masseuse, work at the supported work centres established by the Association and to use a number of other support services intended to help visually impaired people's livelihood . Today there are 89 blind masseures at the Association, 57 of whom have become professional masseurs just at EPMÜ's training centre.

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