Housing Association giant L&Q commits to disability inclusion with Evenbreak

L&Q has partnered with two leading not-for-profit organisations to ensure it is offering the best service to its disabled staff and residents. As part of their disability inclusion initiative, L&Q will work with Evenbreak, to reach and retain more talented disabled people.Image shows a picture of a wheelchair symbol with the words 'step free route' above an arrow

L&Q is also working with disability charity Scope to develop housing advice content for its website and advice line. The two organisations have worked together for the last 18 months to upskill L&Q’s employability service so that they can better engage and support their disabled residents in securing sustainable employment.

Disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. To reduce the barriers facing disabled people, L&Q will advertise all its jobs on Evenbreak’s website, a specialist job board run by and for disabled people.

L&Q’s other disability inclusion initiatives for 2019 include:

  • Improving physical access for disabled staff, residents, and visitors over and above legal compliance“It’s important that there are no barriers to disabled people working at L&Q, and that includes at the very start of their journey as a prospective L&Q employee.”
  • Organising disability awareness training by Enhance UK
  • Upskilling staff so they can give great customer service to disabled residents
  • Reporting on the disability pay gap from 2019 as part of L&Q’s annual Fair Pay report
  • Offering flexible working for all its roles, including in its contact centre, which will break down barriers for disabled staff or carers
  • Becoming a Disability Confident committed employer, which means that candidates are guaranteed an interview if they meet the job criteria
  • Working with Genius Within to help staff understand ‘neurodiverse’ conditions such as autism

Jan Gale, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at L&Q, said: “By partnering with Evenbreak, we are investing in our people. We want our workforce to reflect the diverse make-up of our residents, and we also want to attract people with a wide range of different skills and expertise.

“If we can harness the creativity and innovation that comes from diverse teams, it will help us play our part in solving the housing crisis. There is a huge array of talent out there that organisations can’t afford to ignore as we seek to deliver quality services to our residents whilst building new homes to tackle the supply gap.

Jane Hatton, Founder and Director at Evenbreak, said: “We are delighted that L & Q are leading the way on disability inclusion for housing associations. The benefits of employing disabled people can have an enormous positive impact on all aspects of social housing, including having a more diverse workforce that residents can relate to. Advertising all of their vacancies on Evenbreak will support L&Q in being the type of organisation that excels.”

Stephanie Coulshed, Programme Lead at Scope said: “Based on our in-depth research into the information that disabled people need about housing, Scope’s content designers will collaborate with subject experts at L&Q to develop accessible advice that helps people solve problems. We believe that L&Q’s knowledge of housing issues and commitment to tackling them, combined with Scope’s expertise in content design, will result in an outstanding partnership that has real impact. “

If your organisation has an employment opportunity and you’d like to reach more diverse candidates, or if you have a disability and would like to find an opportunity with an inclusive employer, follow this link to Evenbreak or email adame@evenbreak.co.uk.

Employers, do you know how many disabled staff you employ?

Picture shows a question mark pointing to cogs pointing to a lightbulbI speak to employers about recruiting disabled staff on a daily basis. And I always ask this question. The response is always interesting and tells me a lot about an organisation.

Forward-thinking organisations can usually tell me this figure straight away. They also tell me they’re aware that the figure is very likely to be inaccurate. And if I’m having a great day they tell me what they’re doing to change this. They’re aware they don’t know the number of people with invisible disabilities. They’re aware they don’t know the number of employees with long term health conditions. They’re aware that often disabled people don’t disclose their condition. And for good reason.

Evenbreak candidates tell us that if they disclose their disability, they don’t get as many interviews. When they are employed, they often experience stigma and bullying. And fewer opportunities for career progression. So, if they don’t trust the employer, they don’t disclose it. And many disabled people don’t trust most employers. With good reason.  Take the word ‘disclose’ for a start.  Why not simply ‘tell’? Where else do you have to disclose something? Customs comes to my mind first! A quick internet search brought up this:

disclose verb

make (secret or new information) known. “they disclosed her name to the press” synonyms: reveal, make known, divulge, tell, impart, communicate, pass on, vouchsafe, unfold

allow (something hidden) to be seen. “he cleared away the grass and disclosed a narrow opening descending into the darkness” synonyms: uncover, expose to view, allow to be seen, reveal, show, exhibit, lay bare, bring to light; rare unclose “exploratory surgery disclosed an aneurysm”

It’s not brimming over with positivity, is it? What we all seem to forget is that different abilities, disability, long-term health conditions are normal. It’s part of life. Part of society. They shouldn’t need to be hidden or apologised for. And the battle for equal rights and opportunities shouldn’t be so utterly exhausting.

One day, I hope, it won’t be. Increasingly, organisations are being asked to ‘disclose’ the number of disabled people they employ. Organisations will have to explain the inconsistencies between officially disclosed disability and the actual disability figures given in staff surveys. And they’re being asked to consider the lack of representation of disabled people at senior levels.

So, there are a few questions for employers to ask themselves:

Do you know how many disabled people you employ?

Do you ask? If not, why not?

Do you know what difficulties disabled staff or those with long term health conditions experience while working for you?

Essentially, can you be trusted?

And if not… What actions are you taking to change this?

To attract disabled candidates and advertise jobs with Evenbreak click here.

To help all your employees become more confident and confident around disability inclusion, click here.

 

10 Top Tips for Becoming Disability Confident

 

Disability confident logo

The Disability Confident scheme supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace. It has three levels. Evenbreak was one of the first few organisations to achieve level 3 (leader). Essentially, being disability confident means removing barriers that disabled people might face. Here are our top tips:

  1. Know why you are doing this

There are dozens of benefits of employing disabled people. Do it to access the talent you need, not out of some kind of misguided sympathy!

  1. Get buy-in from leaders

Inclusion affects the whole business, and has to be led from the top. Leaders play a vital role in modelling best practice and creating an open and inclusive culture.

  1. Involve disabled people throughout the process

The real experts on inclusion are disabled people themselves. Involve disabled employees, or invite disabled people to give you feedback. Employee networks are great for this.

  1. Review your recruitment processes to ensure they are inclusive

Pro-actively attract disabled candidates. Also, CVs and interviews may not reflect the talents of a disabled candidate. Ensure you use relevant, accessible and inclusive application and assessment methods. How accessible is your recruitment process?

  1. Provide workplace adjustments

Employers should offer and provide necessary adjustments throughout the recruitment process and during employment. These enable disabled employees to work effectively.

  1. Support existing employees who are or who become disabled

2% of people of working age acquire an impairment or long-term health condition every year. Make sure you don’t lose valuable people by being unprepared to be flexible.

  1. Train and equip all staff to be confident and competent around inclusion

It’s important that all staff are trained in unconscious bias and disability awareness, and have access to resources to ensure their confidence and competence in inclusion.

  1. Remove any barriers to career progression

Employing disabled people is just the start. A disability confident company will also help to nurture that talent by offering training, mentoring and opportunities for progression.

  1. Provide opportunities for engaging disabled people

These might include work trials, apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, work experience, holiday placement or other opportunities.

  1. Encourage your supply chain to be disability confident too

Once you are disability confident, ensure that partners and suppliers follow your good practice. Ensure that inclusion forms part of your procurement process.

 

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

When should we start employing disabled people?

Image shows the word ‘now!’ on a torn out piece of paper, surrounded by other words including ‘someday’, ‘another day’, ‘never’.

When we talk to employers about employing disabled people, one of the first questions you often ask us is what you should put in place first.

In some ways, that’s an odd question, because you are almost certainly already employing disabled people. You just might not know. Most impairments (around 80%) are not visible, so many people just don’t mention them. Consider dyslexia, diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, autism, mental health conditions and so on.

You are almost certainly already employing disabled people…

Apart from that, if we waited for organisations to become completely inclusive before employing disabled people, no disabled person would ever be employed! The important starting point is to just get started. It’s a virtuous circle – the more disabled people you employ, the easier it gets, and the more confident you become.

On the whole, disabled candidates understand that no organisation will get everything right every time, but if there is a willingness to listen and learn that’s enough.

Disability inclusion is, of course, at the heart of everything we do at Evenbreak, and we are still learning. We are incredibly lucky because we have loads of opportunities to learn – from our amazing candidates, our enthusiastic employers, and each other. Between the nine people on the Evenbreak team, we have a wide array of impairments and learn something new from each other all the time.

We are still learning too…

Our recent video asks a number of disabled people what their advice to employers would be, and in their own way, each one of them said: “just do it!”.

The danger is that if you wait until everyone is trained, all the buildings are made accessible, all the policies are changed and all the budgets are in place, it will never happen. You can be working on all of those things in parallel with attracting disabled people to help you on that journey. Sometimes the ‘we can’t do it until …” becomes an excuse rather than a genuine concern. In particular, budgets! If this is really a priority for you, you’ll find the budget from somewhere.

So – what’s really stopping you?

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

Comic Relief join Evenbreak and challenge diversity apathy

The much-loved British charity, Comic Relief, well known for tackling poverty and social injustice in the UK and around the world, is the latest client to join Evenbreak and commit to advertising all of their job vacancies with us.

Comic Relief is determined to not only attract more, talented disabled candidates, but also to address workplace issues. The charity has signed up for our ‘best practice portal’, a smorgasbord of resources, which guides employers on best practice around inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. We feel it’s like having an expert around to hold your hand! Liz Warner joined Comic Relief as Chief Executive in 2016 and recently spoke out about the lack of diversity in the charity sector.  At a recent NPC event, focused on challenging the sector’s sluggish rate of progress in embracing diversity, Liz said: “I’m still relatively new to the sector. When I joined, I was shocked at the lack of diversity. I feel like there’s a long way to go until the sector is fully inclusive.”

Championing diversity in the Third Sector

Liz added: “Internally, we are putting a real focus on how we can champion diversity.  We have started to share ideas across the organisation about the issues to consider and how we could work in new ways.  The appetite for this is really strong and we are only just getting started.”

Jane Hatton, Founder and Director of Evenbreak, applauds the charity for tackling this issue: “Comic Relief has demonstrated a genuine commitment to inclusion and accessibility and Evenbreak is delighted to be involved in their programme to positively attract disabled candidates.”

Diane Lightfoot is Chief Executive of the Business Disability Forum. She too has urged other charities to step up and lead the way on disability employment. Cost is often touted as the main barrier to diversity initiatives in the third sector. But Diane reminds leaders that ‘a disabled role model costs nothing’. She suggests charities need to ‘live our values and demonstrate what we are campaigning for when it comes to disability in the workplace’.

 

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak click here

 

To find jobs on Evenbreak click here

 

 

Want to learn about diversity and inclusion? 10 books to read…

Last week I was having a big old think. Do some of us only become engaged with inequalities that affect us as individuals? I was more than a little nervous suggesting this. But I got some interesting responses and BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Something which always makes me happy. So, without further waffle, here are the 10 books recommended by a bunch of clever folks. Have a read. Or better yet, start your own learning and development library – a small step to make your own workforce more inclusive.

A Dozen Brilliant Reasons to Employ Disabled People: Why successful businesses see inclusion as an asset rather than a problem by Jane Hatton.

If you have ever wanted to understand (or help others understand) the business case for employing disabled people, this is the definitive book for you. Using evidence from a wide range of research, case studies and personal experience, every aspect of the workplace is examined in relation to inclusivity, providing a compelling business case relevant to every sector. “In all our UK internal training on accessibility, it is first on the recommended reading list.” Michael Vermeersch, Digital Inclusion Lead, Microsoft.

What the **** is Normal?! by Francesca Martinez.

If you grow up in a world where wrinkles are practically illegal, going bald is cause for a mental breakdown, and women over size zero are encouraged to shoot themselves (immediately), what the hell do you do if you’re, gasp … DISABLED?
Whatever body you’re born into, the pressure to be normal is everywhere. But have you ever met a normal person? What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they eat for breakfast?
And what the **** does normal mean anyway?
This is the award-winning wobbly comedian Francesca Martinez’s funny, personal, and universal story of how she learned to stick two shaky fingers up to the crazy expectations of a world obsessed with being ‘normal’.

Secrets & Big News: Enabling people to be themselves at work by Kate Nash OBE

Secrets & Big News is an engaging read about the subject of ‘declaration’ and ‘disclosure’ of disability in the workplace. Based on a two-year research project, the book details the reasons why people find it hard to share information and offers ideas for both employers and employees alike. 55 employers took part in the study and together they reached just over 2,500 of their employees who offered their views about what makes it hard to share personal information, as well as what makes it easier. The book is triggering a wave of new conversations between valuable employees and UK and global businesses. The book is not about medicine, politics or disability rights: it’s about what it means to be human and how employers can retain their talented people through periods of ill health and disability.

Why are You Pretending to be Normal? by Phil Friend and Dave Rees.

Do you want to manage your disability positively? Feeling frustrated that people do not understand your needs?

If you have a disability, then you should listen to this audiobook. Why Are You Pretending to Be Normal? asks the questions that anyone with a disability needs to ask themselves.

This engaging story offers viewpoints and ideas that have already inspired many disabled people to stop simply coping with their disability and start managing it. This enables them to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.  Phil Friend and Dave Rees present practical tools and techniques that have helped so many people to successfully tackle some of the most challenging aspects of their disabilities.

The Politics of Disablement by Michael Oliver

Dominant views of disability as an individual and medical problems have been vigorously challenged by disabled people in recent years. This book, by an author who is himself disabled, looks at the individualised and medicalised views of disability, describes the way they have been produced in capitalist society, and analyses the possibilities for change. Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the true nature of disability, especially as disability comes to occupy a prominent place on the political agenda.

Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability: A Personal Politics of Disability by Jenny Morris.

“Disabled people throughout the world are increasingly naming and confronting the prejudice which we daily experience, expressing our anger at the discrimination we face, and insisting that our lives have value. This book has grown out of the struggles through which, over the last decade or so, disabled people, and particularly disabled women, have asserted our reality. It is an attempt to analyse the nature of the prejudice we experience and to articulate the growing strength of our pride in ourselves. It has also been within the last decade that I myself developed an identity as a disabled woman, an identity which has been a source of much anger at the prejudice and discrimination that I and other disabled people face. But it is also an identity which has been an increasing source of strength and liberation.” Jenny Morris

The Inclusion Imperative: How Real Inclusion Creates Better Business and Builds Better Societies by Stephen Frost

The Inclusion Imperative showcases the inspiring commitment to inclusion the London Olympic and Paralympic Games’ organizing committee espoused and details the techniques and frameworks that enabled it to truly deliver a ‘Games for everyone’ at London 2012. Diversity and inclusion expert, Stephen Frost, challenges preconceived ideas and strives to inspire professionals to tackle inclusion in their organizations with courage, creativity and talent. With highly relatable examples, The Inclusion Imperative constitutes the best argument to convince sceptics that real diversity and inclusion can deliver more engaged employees and customers, improved employee recruitment and retention, increase productivity and better group decision-making processes.

Real inclusion saves money and improves efficiency in the systems of an organisation, making the world a better place as a by-product.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: The Sunday Times Bestseller by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.

A revelation … Undoubtedly essential (Spectator)

This is a book that was begging to be written. This is the kind of book that demands a future where we’ll no longer need such a book. Essential (Marlon James, Man Booker Prize-Winner 2015)

Set to blow apart the understanding of race relations in this country (Stylist)

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone is the most influential and talked-about book on society in the last decade – now updated with a new chapter on the controversy the book has ignited.

Why do we mistrust people more in the UK than in Japan? Why do Americans have higher rates of teenage pregnancy than the French? What makes the Swedish thinner than the Australians? The answer: inequality. This ground breaking book, based on years of research, provides hard evidence to show: How almost everything – from life expectancy to mental illness, violence to illiteracy – is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is. That societies with a bigger gap between rich and poor are bad for everyone in them – including the well-off. How we can find positive solutions and move towards a happier, fairer future.

Demystifying Diversity: A Handbook to Navigate Equality, Diversity and Inclusion by Jiten Patel and Gamiel Yafai.

This engaging and comprehensive tour of the world of diversity in the workplace is authoritative, yet witty and well told. Demystifying Diversity is an important book – a vital navigational tool for anyone getting to grips with the importance of diversity across the spectrum of today’s society.

This book is aimed at anyone with responsibility in company management as well as business professionals and HR practitioners.

 

I’d love to hear about any other recommendations people have. To connect and keep in touch click here.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak click here

To find jobs on Evenbreak click here

To find out more about best practice around disability in the workplace look here

The rewards of an open and flexible recruitment process

In this blog I described the recruitment process Evenbreak used in a recent hiring round. Any recruitment process can only really be evaluated by the outcomes it produces. In our case, we were aiming to attract a number of diverse candidates who had the qualities and strengths required to do the two roles we were trying to fill.

As described previously, we received over forty applications from a diverse range of incredibly talented people, and had the somewhat enviable ‘problem’ of identifying the most suitable ones. They had a lot to live up to, as our existing team, at the risk of sounding immodest (and just a little smug), is pretty remarkable.

In the end, although we were advertising two roles, we just couldn’t choose between two candidates for one of them, and decided to employ them both. So the Evenbreak team gained three new members instead of two. I’d like to introduce them to you.

Kiana, Candidate Engagement Manager

I must confess, my own prejudices kicked in a bit with Kiana at first. How could a young woman of only 24 have the life experience required to carry out such a crucial role for the business? However, I very quickly understood that she has the most amazingly creative mind (demonstrated in part by a videoshe had produced), and had all the qualities we had hoped for and so much more. Her degree in film-making, her experience in campaigning, her human rights approach to disability, and her ability to communicate complex issues articulately and persuasively made her the perfect choice.

Other employers may have hesitated because she has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, meaning she requires a lot of personal assistance, and as a full time wheelchair user would need to work in an accessible buiding. They sometimes also make (inaccurate) assumptions about what she is, or isn’t, capable of. If so, it would be their loss entirely. She may not be able to remove the top from her pen independently, but she engages really well with people, organisations and media and is already making a huge positive impact on the team and Evenbreak’s stakeholders. Thank goodness I ignored my initial prejudice (there’s perhaps a lesson there for us all!).

Cassandra (Employer Engagement Manager)

Cassandra was the first person to respond to the advert, and she was very keen, but concerned that she “might not be disabled enough” as her impairment is a mental health condition. We laughed that in most recruitment situations candidates would be concerned that they might be considered “too disabled”, and it was good to have turned the tables for once.

Cass immediately appealed, because she had a diverse background, including PR and health. She is particularly talented in marketing and social media, and has great writing skills. Her enthusiasm and motivation were what first impressed me, along with her strong desire to make the world, especially the world of work, more inclusive and accessible to disabled people. Another creative mind (like Kiana), she comes up with some amazing ideas, and is incredibly pro-active at finding solutions to improve the way we work. Evenbreak is already more effective as a result.

Adam (Employer Engagement Manager)

When it comes to working with large employers, Adam has experience in spades. Most of his working life has been spent working and engaging with a range of diverse companies. Over those years he has developed remarkable skills in problem-solving, strategic thinking, analytical skills and stakeholder engagement. His progressive condition, Multiple Sclerosis, had made his previous job increasingly difficult, and so reluctantly he left. His personal experience in trying to find work flexible enough to accommodate his health condition attracted him to the approach Evenbreak takes to addressing some of those problems.

Adam describes his immense skillset as ‘old school’ and ‘traditional’. I describe them, even after only two months, as ‘impressive’ and ‘successful’. He is already making some productive relationships with existing employers and ensuring they gain maximum benefit from using Evenbreak.

 

In addition to the demonstrable and amazing qualities that these individual people possess, the magic really happens when they come together as a team.  The four of us share fundamental values around inclusion and diversity, and also have different and complementary life experiences, work experiences, skills, qualifications and talents which combine together to form something really special. It’s early days – we have only been working together for a couple of months at the time of writing – but I feel really excited and optimistic about the future of Evenbreak.

I’m not sure that this would have happened with a ‘traditional’ recruitment process. And I know that such an open and flexible process won’t suit every employer. However, are there elements you could take from it to improve yours? The rewards are plain to see!

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

Evenbreak’s Own Recruitment Process

We advise employers to make their recruitment processes as accessible as possible, but do we practice what we preach? Here is the process we used in our recent hiring round, looking to fill two roles.

As a small social enterprise aimed at improving disability inclusion in the workplace, we have a policy of only employing disabled people ourselves. Our recruitment process therefore needs to be specifically developed to be both accessible and inclusive. However, we are also keen that our team is diverse in a much broader sense – diversity in terms of type of impairment, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, thinking styles, educational background, location and so on.

We advertise vacancies on our own job board, which is promoted in various ways to disabled people (partnerships with universities, colleges, charities, welfare-to-work providers, Jobcentre Plus, disability journals, social media, online and offline forums, etc).

We offer decent salaries and holiday entitlements and development opportunities as well as flexible working to ensure we attract the best candidates.

The adverts describe our mission and values, an overview of the role, and how we will support the candidate (smart-working, flexibility, relevant adjustments etc). We focus on strengths rather than competences, making it clear that qualifications and experience aren’t as important as drive, motivation and values, and that any protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) are irrelevant – our only interest is in what they can bring to the role.

Every candidate who meets the minimum criteria is sent a job description and put through to the next stage automatically (this applies to disabled candidates, but as we only employ disabled people it applies to all candidates who identify as disabled).

The rest of the process – the assessment of each candidate’s suitability for the role – is conducted on their terms. We state that we want them to have the best opportunity to shine in the assessment stage, and that we know the usual CV and interview process doesn’t work for everyone. Candidates are encouraged to demonstrate their strengths in any way which works for them – for example, written submission, video, conversation (face-to-face, telephone, Skype or email/messenger), examples of previous work etc.

Candidates can contact us (through telephone or email or whatever medium is accessible to them) to ask any questions they may have about the selection process, the company, or the role itself.

At each stage in the process candidates are asked if they would like any adjustments. As they know all the other candidates are also disabled, it is easier to request adjustments without worrying that this may disadvantage them.

Each candidate then engages in their chosen way to demonstrate they have the strengths we are looking for. The hiring decision is based purely on which candidate shows the most potential to add value to the business.

Each candidate (successful or otherwise) is offered comprehensive feedback and further advice if requested.

The outcomes of the process was that we had 41 applications – any one of whom would have been ideal. Written submissions were sent, telephone conversations had, face-to-face meetings took place, videos were watched, links were followed. Each candidate had the traits we were looking for. What a great problem to have! We were spoilt for choice.

In the end, we appointed three candidates, as we couldn’t choose between two for one role, and reluctantly rejected the remaining  37 candidates. The three candidates we appointed have turned out to be just the most amazing people, both individually and as a team (I’ll introduce them to you in a further blog!). Feedback from unsuccessful candidates was that they found the process open and inviting, and even tho they hadn’t got the job, many had increased their confidence during the process and found the feedback we gave them useful.

The process resulted in attracting a diverse group of ideal candidates, three amazing new employees, and 37 great advocates for Evenbreak, some of whom we can hopefully employ in the future.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

I’ve Lost My Sight, Will I Lose My Job?

This is a guest post from Daniel Williams from Visualise Training and Consultancy.

Will I lose my job if I have lost my vision?

With over 200 people being diagnosed every week with an eye condition in work which cannot be corrected by the wearing of glasses or contact lenses, there is a lot of people struggling to keep working. Many will even be in fear of their uncertain future and may not get the advice and support they need.

Carry on working

Do you keep trying to work in your present job, retire or try and live on disability benefits? If you enjoy working, it can be hard, and you may not be able to afford early retirement, but how can your current workplace be adapted? It is often much easier to remain in your current employment than try and find new work.

Time to think

Avoid acting on impulse, because vision loss does not mean job loss. You may be suffering from shock at the diagnosis, and may experience a form of grief and loss regarding your vision, your thoughts may be that you can no longer carry out the tasks you are employed to do, there is lots of help and assistance available and a specialist visual impairment work-place assessor can assess your needs, recommend solutions to your difficulties, to ensure you get the correct reasonable adjustments in place to carry out your role effectively,

What’s your job?

Talk to your workplace assessor about what type of work you do, and where and when you’re experiencing visual difficulties. The more help and advice you can get to maximize your existing vision, the more effectively and safely you’ll be able to continue working.

Workplace Adjustments

You may be having trouble with reading text on paper, completing forms, participating in team meetings or training, you may be having difficulties with the colour on your computer screen, font size or even just finding the mouse on the screen.  Your text on the keyboard may be difficult to see, and you find yourself with neck and back problems you have never experienced before. You may be troubled by headaches and need to explore the reason why? the lighting in your place of work may not be sufficient.  You may not feel confident navigating the workplace, negotiating stairs, or new areas to work. You may be making mistakes at work, or inadvertently bumping into things, perhaps your having difficulty recognising your colleagues.  You, the people with whom you work, including your employer, may have limited experience or knowledge about vision loss and low vision,  A visual impairment specialist workplace assessor can work with you to establish the difficulties you are having at work, understanding your individual need and what workplace adjustments can be put in place to assist you to overcome the barriers you are facing.

There are many solutions to these issues you may be facing, for example, magnifiers suitable for your needs, software that is able to read or magnify your screen, keyboards that are larger and easier to see.  Emotional support/job coaching to help you come to terms with your acquired sight loss. Lamps and lights that emit daylight rather than yellow light.  There is a vast array of specialist equipment available, and the important factor is for your employer to arrange a workplace needs assessment specifically in visual impairment, this person will be trained to identify and assess your individual needs, make the right recommendations for equipment and signpost you to the correct services to help overcome the barriers you are facing.  The assessor will take a holistic approach ensuring your health and wellbeing in all aspects of your life.

A realistic outlook

Are there any duties which you need to accept you can no longer perform? More obvious things are driving a vehicle, handling or moving equipment, or potentially dangerous or hazardous items.

Make a list of the essential tasks in your job that you will need to do to remain in your current employment. How can these be resolved? Or is there a member of the workforce who could perform a difficult or impossible task for you? Is there another responsibility that you could perform to replace this? After a diagnosis of sight loss, talking to your employer in a realistic way, offering pragmatic suggestions and negotiating options, is vital, not only for your health and wellbeing being but also for your employer to totally understand the difficulties you are experiencing.

Employer perception 

You may be the first person your employer has come across who has a visual impairment.  Some employers may embrace this, ensuring you have all the correct reasonable adjustments in place to fulfil your role, others may not know where to start.  They may not be aware of all the technological and environmental solutions that can aid you in your role.  Some employers may think “how will you use a computer”? “will you be safe carrying out your role”? but much of this is because employers do not know where to begin when seeking help.

Learning curve

As the change in your circumstances is new to you too, you will begin discovering more about workplace adaptations and the technology that can support you best.

It’s off to work I go

Getting to and from work may present additional difficulty, there are solutions to this and your work place assessor can advise.  When you arrive at work, you may have difficulty moving around your job site. Professionals, such as a rehabilitation officers, can give you huge support and teach you how to orientate yourself; taking a holistic approach, helping you to manage all aspects of your daily life and giving you the necessary tools to live and work as independently as possible. 

Your rights in employment

If you are blind or partially sighted, the Equality Act 2010 protects you from different types of discrimination at work.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

Where can Employers go for help with Disability Inclusion?

Making your organisation as accessible and inclusive as possible is a laudable aim, and one that increasing numbers of organisations are now recognising the importance of. There are, of course, many organisations that will offer support and guidance in this area (we particularly recommend Kate Nash for help with Disabled Employee Networks and Purple for help with becoming Disability Confident).

If you aren’t already a member of Business Disability Forum, now might be a good time to consider it. They are a not-for-profit member organisation that makes it easier and more rewarding to do business with and employ disabled people. They have more than twenty years experience of working with public and private sector organisations (formerly known as the Employers’ Forum on Disability). Their members employ almost 20% of the UK workforce and, together, they seek to remove the barriers between public and private organisations and disabled people. They are a key stakeholder for both business and government, and have contributed to the establishment and development of meaningful disability discrimination legislation in the UK.

Services offered to members are excellent, and include a valuable advice service with guidance offered always tailored to your situation

They also offer consultancy services to help you put in place robust policies and procedures that will equip your line managers and other colleagues to avoid or minimise risk before it arises and strengthen your disability-smart approach to working with disabled employees and customers.

Their learning and development offers will provide your colleagues with the skills and confidence to help ensure that a disability-smart approach is embedded in your organisation’s daily practice.

There is no virtue in trying to do everything from scratch, and learning from experts, and your peers who are on the same journey, can save a lot of time and effort. It may well be worth having a chat with the lovely people at BDF to see if your organisation might benefit.

Oh – and before I forget – BDF members have a 10% discount from unlimited advertising with Evenbreak, as we have a strategic alliance with them! What’s not to like?

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs