Jill is one of our interns on the Disability Equality Internship Programme, placed with Bobath Scotland as a Media Intern. Here she details the key things she feels employers and colleagues should bear in mind when working with disabled people. You can read Jill’s internship blog here
As a disabled person who is in employment, I think it is really important to have a guide for employers that helps them to understand their disabled employee’s needs.
Communication – Communication is the key to everyday lives, especially in the work place. If you are working with a disabled person who has a speech problem and may use communication device, please give them time to say what they want to say. If they are in a big meeting with lots of people it would be good to explain that there is a person present who has a speech problem, so if that person wants to say something everyone should be mindful and give them time to get their thoughts across. As someone who works and talks through a Communication device, it is really important to me that everyone in my work place knows how communicate with me in the right way, such as giving me enough time to get my sentences together.
Good Access – It is good practice to make sure that your work place is accessible, such as having suitable wheelchair access for getting in and out of the building and making sure that you have enough space for someone who is in a wheelchair to manoeuvre the building. One of the most difficult things that I found when I was looking for employment was there weren’t enough workplaces with a suitable disabled toilet, which was a big problem for me. A disabled toilet should be quite big and be equipped with certain equipment that some disabled people will need, such as a hoist and changing bed. There is an organization called Changing Places which can offer support and advice on making sure that your disabled toilets are fully accessible for all. If you’re carrying out some renovations in your workplace, please consider installing one of these toilets in your workplace.
Equipment – Some people who are disabled may need certain equipment to enable them to work, such as special programmes to use on a computer, or a height adjustable desk. Equipment is very important to the people who need it, because without it they couldn’t do their job effectively. Personally, my communication device enables me to do my work; I used to link my device to a computer using a cable but I now use a device called a headmouse to use the computer. It is so much easier for myself and other disabled people if the right equipment is available for them to do the job -if my employer didn’t allow me to use my equipment I wouldn’t be able to work in their office. So if you do employ somebody who is disabled, please be open to making the necessary adjustments – it may be good to talk about equipment in any interviews to find out what the applicant would require.
Understanding the person and their needs – It’s important to understand the individual and their needs, such as equipment and access, but some disabled people may have other needs. For example, someone may be accompanied by a support worker or a guide dog. Personally, I have two support workers who come to work with me, to support me with things such as setting me up at my desk and personal care. It may seem strange at first having people in the workplace who don’t work for you, but please understand that these people are there to help your employee do their job.
People’s attitudes – Everyone has the ability to work, including disabled people, but it’s important to remember that disabled people’s abilities may be different from those of your other employees. They might work at a slower pace or they may need help understanding what you want them to do. I know that I can be quite slow doing my work, but I get my work done as quick and as best I can, and I am lucky enough that my employer understands my abilities and knows that I do my best. So please understand that everyone has the ability to work, including disabled people.
See the person not the impairment- If you do employ a disabled person it’s important that they are treated the same as any other employee, because disabled people have the same right to work in the jobs they want as anyone else.
Inclusion – Inclusion should be seen as an important part of any work place. It is really important to include all of your employees, including those who are disabled, in everything that is happening in the workplace, such as meetings, events and news. For me, feeling included in my work place shows me that my employer and colleagues see me as an employee just like them. So please remember that if you employ somebody who is disabled that it’s really important to ensure that they are recognised as a valued member of the team, and are included in the social aspects of the workplace