Dealing with Disability on the Job: First edition of series

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

This is the first segment of my article series ‘Dealing with Disability’. In this article, I will cover Dealing with Disability on the Job, using examples from my personal experiences.

Lived Experience

How does one handle disability in the workplace?

While living in Bermuda, I’ve had sporadic summer jobs and work experience. One paid job was working as a Junior Counselor at an inclusive Summer camp for disabled and non-disabled children.

Another paid summer job included representing Bermuda at the London 2012 Paralympic Games as a reporter. That was fun and unforgettable.

However, after graduating from university in 2017, my real career development and job searching began. My personal experience with job searching has been very tough.

Job hunting can be quite frustrating for the disabled community. We have special skill sets based on level of ability.

The problem is, we need a job to get work experience, and we need work experience to get a job. Going from interview to interview without any success can be quite discouraging.

Nowadays, there are an increasing number of disabled people starting businesses because the job searching and interview process is proving to be difficult.

If you desire to apply for benefits, you must be eligible for it. Before one is eligible, they must have a financial assessment. The unemployed who are actively seeking work can apply for the Jobseekers’ Allowance which is paid into their bank accounts from their local Jobcentre, fortnightly.

There is also the Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit that one can apply for.

Business owners are entitled to the Income Support Scheme. All of this is provided at the local Jobcentre Plus through the Department of Works and Pensions.

Purple Tuesday is an accessibility initiative for businesses and I am proud to know that Bermuda has joined this community. This initiative promotes inclusive marketing for the disabled shopper.(www.purpletuesday.org.uk)

All employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments, especially for wheelchair users. They’re also expected to conduct risks assessments for health and safety reasons. They should also provide a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan in case of any emergencies like fires or flooding.

From personal experience, I know that, the Park Place Jobcentre in Leeds, England, definitely prioritises and values the disabled community because they take precautionary measures first.

For example, during a placement that I completed under the Department of Works and Pensions at the Park Place Jobcentre, I had to complete a risk assessment for them to make reasonable adjustments in order for me to start the placement. This included checking the accessibility of escape routes for fire drills.

All employers have some level of a duty of care and can be held liable for accidents.

Employers must look at job design. Job design should play to people’s strengths. Talents and skills are important.

Employers should not give disabled people jobs out of sympathy. Problem solving skills make disabled people good candidates because they always have to overcome barriers which could make one employable.

Inclusive Workplaces

Channel 4 is a Disability Confident employer and they judge job applicants on their abilities against job descriptions. They try their best to recruit from groups in society that are underrepresented.

Job Agencies for the disabled include Remploy, Evenbreak and Scope. Remploy helps get our disabled community into cleaning jobs unless they have alternative career goals.

There’s a consultation agency called Inclusive Employers which also does this. Inclusive Employers is an organisation created to help employers develop an inclusive workplace, avoid the pitfalls of discrimination and get more from their workforce.

Inclusive Employers provides knowledge and networks to help build workplaces where people feel valued, and can add value. Their employer members are committed to creating an inclusive workplace, maximising the potential of all employees. They strive to lead the way in breaking barriers and building success.

Delsion Ltd. is another inclusive employer known as the People & Development Consultancy. They’re the award winning specialists in Learning & Development, Diversity & Inclusion and all things that help people and organisations reach their true potential.

Why should organisations employ disabled people? Why not? Political correctness is the enemy of inclusion. Political correctness is the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

The alternative is working from home but it doesn’t necessarily promote inclusion or diversity neither does it clamp down on discrimination.

Another interesting aspect is blind interviews vs physical interviews. Blind interviews are better than physical interviews because candidates are judged on skills not memory or tests.

Using technology and specialist equipment can make workplaces more inclusive for people with disabilities too.

Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that wheelchair users and the physically challenged face daily. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.

According to the British Government, the British can apply for dropped kerbs. However, I get really annoyed with drivers who park across dropped kerbs. Dropped kerbs are meant to make it easy for wheelchairs to enter and exit sidewalks. The Government needs to clamp down on these drivers with a fine. The same should happen in Bermuda.

AccessAdvisr helps to monitor wheelchair access. Disabled people going places. AccessAdvisr Board members are Rob Trent and Martyn Sibley.(https://accessadvisr.net)

The AccessAdvisr website allows disabled people to rate and find first-hand accessibility information. Photographs can also be uploaded alongside reviews. This helps to tackle wheelchair accessibility issues. It also encourages accountability and inclusion.

So, in ‘Dealing with Disability on the Job’, we must work towards inclusion, equality and diversity in the workplace by creating inclusion in the workplace, and inclusive workplaces. This could possibly help to improve the economy on a global scale. All jobs should be Disability Confident. I think Bermuda should also adopt this scheme to work on a better future for Bermudians.

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