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

What was your dream job as a child?

 

Picture of the words 'dream job'
Picture of the words ‘dream job’ written in multicoloured chalk

Written by Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi, Evenbreak’s Candidate Engagement Manager.

We spoke to five different disabled candidates about their dream job as a child. We asked them what they do now. What barriers have they faced? How did they overcome them? And made a video to share their answers with the world…

As a child I wanted to be Pocahontas – yip, that was my dream job. At the age of two, it seemed like a viable career option to me.

I grew up and went through the astronaut phase. By then I was seven years old. Old enough for adults to start treating me like a person and not a gurgling baby to coo at. It was then an adult said, “You can’t be an astronaut”. Why? I asked. “Because you’re in a wheelchair and you can’t go into space with a wheelchair, they responded”.

By the age of eight, I wanted to become an actress. I saw Harry Potter on the billboards and thought ‘How come Daniel Radcliffe gets to be Harry Potter? I wanna be Harry Potter!’ I wasn’t content to sit and watch – I wanted to be in the movie.

What if you’re told you can’t do your dream job because of your disability?

Yet again I got hit with “You can’t be an actress you’re in a wheelchair”.

I was growing up and starting to wonder what I could be. Everything I wanted to do was not possible or not allowed. I didn’t understand the reasons. But they always culminated with “you’re in a wheelchair”.

I’m now near 25 years old. I’m a pro-filmmaker, semi-amateur rapper and proud member of Evenbreak. I’ve done almost every single thing people have told me I can’t do in life (when I’ve put my mind to it). I’m still working on space travel…

But back to our video! It was a challenge bringing five disabled people across the UK together on the same day. But disabled people tend to be good at problem-solving, and all five wanted to succeed.

And it was worth every minute.

Each person so different –  As children, they dreamed of being a broadcaster, an actress,  a fireman, a stuntwoman, and a space crew member.

Society forgets that disabled people are just as diverse and talented as non-disabled people. It was important to showcase that on video. We wanted people to hear authentic stories through the power of 21st Century technology and good old social media!

We learnt about what they do now, their hopes for the future, the barriers they’ve faced and how they’ve dealt with those barriers. We learnt about negative reactions and discrimination. All expressed concern about those two things turning into an awful self-perpetuating cycle. But we also learnt about pushing forward, no matter what.

There was one unifying message to all disabled candidates: Put yourself out there for opportunities. Know your rights. Realise that you offer immense value because of your unique experiences, and finally, believe in yourself. Enjoy!

 

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

Ever Considered a Career in TV Production? Why Not?

By its very nature, the TV industry needs a diversity of people, skills, talents, ideas and perspectives in order to come up with new and exciting ideas and put them into practice. People who are good at seeing things differently, used to overcoming obstacles. People who are brilliant at detail, and people who are great with creating new ideas. In essence, what it needs is more disabled people!

If you have never considered a career in TV production, maybe now is the time to think again. And we have found the perfect opportunity for you if you love TV and want to be part of the army of people behind the scenes whose job it is to make brilliant content.

The Network is a free intensive introduction to working in the TV industry, run by the world’s leading TV festival. There are 60 places offer across the country. You will spend four days in Edinburgh learning practical TV making skills and hearing from the biggest names working in television today.You’ll get CV advice and networking training, then put it into practice with the cream of the TV industry at parties, drinks and awards.

Networkers are paired with their own industry mentor and gain exclusive access to jobs and opportunities after completing the scheme. Food and accommodation in Edinburgh is provided.

Who can apply?

The Network is looking for talented people from all backgrounds, no experience or qualifications needed, just a love of TV. They aim to make the TV industry accessible to everyone.

You must be over 18 by 21 August 2018, but there’s no upper age limit on applying – applications are welcomed from anyone, including people looking to make a career change. You don’t need A levels or a degree to apply, but if you are currently in full time education you must be in your final year of college or university and available to work from September 2018.

This is not a scheme for presenters or actors. The Network is a training opportunity for those who want to work behind the camera.

Applications are open now until 27 April 2018

Assessment days will be held across the country in June and July

The Network at Edinburgh Television Festival is 21t to 24th August 2018

So if you’ve ever wondered about a career in TV production, now’s your chance! Good luck!

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

Spotlight on Talent – Alan

At Evenbreak we often warn employers of the talent they are missing out on if they exclude disabled people from their search. Alan is a prime example of this.

Alan’s goal is to obtain employment as a Web Designer and Developer or to work on 3D modelling or Motion Graphics. He is very well-equipped to excel in either of these fields. His recent BSc in Computing Technologies included learning:

  • Web Design
  • Web Development
  • 3D Modelling & Motion Graphics
  • Networking
  • Database design & build
  • Object Orientated Programming
  • Ubiquitous computing

His desire to constantly update his skills means he has recently qualified as an ACA (Adobe Certified Associate) which gives him expertise in PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign and DreamWeaver

Before embarking on his degree Alan worked in IT and Digital Marketing, including projects such as hardware and software upgrades of office equipment, and designing, building and updating company websites. He also created a positive organisational brand through social media pages, and developed training for staff on aspects of Microsoft office and social media.

In addition to the above, Alan has a real interest in 3D modelling and Motion Graphics. He recently recreated the 5Star logo and the logo for Virgin Media used on their sponsorship of some programs on the Discovery network. His 3D Modelling has mainly been cars and bikes but he has recently developed some 3D kitchen mock ups and put animation in to show opening doors and drawers etc. The package that he uses for this is Maxon Cinema 4D.

As well as his impressive IT and computer skills, Alan also has the soft skills required to work well within a team. He is a great communicator at all levels, highly motivated, and thrives on having challenging problems to solve.

In fact, in common with many disabled people, Alan has experience in finding innovative solutions to live, work and study with his sight impairment. We feel that his sight impairment may be the reason that some employers have overlooked his considerable talents, which is without doubt their loss.

If you feel that Alan has the skills your organisation is looking for, please let me know – janeh@evenbreak.co.uk (we don’t charge recruitment fees – we just want Alan’s talents to be put to good use!)

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

What Qualities are Employers Seeking in Disabled Candidates?

4 Qualities Companies Look for in Disabled Workers

Wheelchair

Globally, disability communities and organisations work hard to prove the value of hiring disabled employees. Despite the number of workforce-related challenges and adjustments in the workplace, some companies have gained a number of benefits, such as increased overall employee satisfaction as well as better retention and productivity rates, according to a document published by the United Nations. The same article listed the top reasons why companies need to hire disabled people, such as income opportunities, diversifying working groups, and and creating an adaptive service for clients.

However, even with a list of great reasons to hire disabled people, candidates must have specific qualities that fit the workplace. In this article, we have compiled a list of the top characteristics that HR managers look for in a disabled employee:

Knowing their strengths

Do you ever wonder why HR personnel always ask this question: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Employers want someone who knows what you’re good at as well as understand some personal areas of improvements that you need to work on. Weaknesses are not something you lack, but rather things that you need to develop and build. By being able to differentiate the two; it gives you a better understanding of yourself and how you function.

When looking for a job, you are already in a state where you have assessed yourself well and understand the limitations of the work you can do given your condition as well as the skills, knowledge, and characteristics that make you different from other candidates. Both strengths and weaknesses are equally important for self-development and personal growth – something that companies want to witness along your course in their business.

High affinity for technology

Disabled man at desk

As businesses become reliant on technology for day-to-day processes, companies search for individuals with a knowledge and passion for tech solutions and services. Thus, millennials have an advantage compared to other generations as they’ve grown up with technology.

Stacey Villani, a Behavioral Health Services Program Director, wrote in a LinkedIn post that the first wave of disabled millennials are entering the ‘transition age’ as they look for jobs and change the way the world see disability. The author noted that they are very different from other generations of disabled people as technology has given them more opportunity to communicate their choices as well as being able to stay updated with their colleagues even when working remotely.

New technology allows them to stay connected through virtual meetings as well as collaborate remotely with peers in real-time. A market insight post by FXCM which explained why millennials in general have the potential to become great forex traders, stated that it’s because their tech-dependency allows them to “obtain real-time access to information far more quickly than other generations.” This tech savvy attitude and ability to apply themselves in various working environments can help disabled millennials bridge new gaps in the workplace. Villani went on to say: “With new technologies and the forward thinking Millennial Generation, the possibilities are endless.”

Strategic thinking

Once a year, a company goes through a strategic planning process to develop a guidebook on the actions the business intends to take in the upcoming year. Thus, organisations aim to look for people with strategic planning skills to help them in developing and executing business plans effectively.

Strategic planning becomes the A-game of disabled people to be able to survive their daily life. They need to leverage it to create simple and creative alternatives for traditional ways of doing things (i.e. people with impaired vision need to use large text font or text-to-speech) to be able to fully participate in work-based learning experiences and perform their jobs effectively.

Work independently

Strong managers aim to look for people who can work and think independently. Companies need smart people around to brainstorm with. You must be able to share your insights with confidence and show your ability to perform tasks with minimal supervision after training.

This characteristic is vital to disabled people to find a work around so that they can enjoy the same things other people do – whether it’s sports, playing music, or even applying for a specific job. Being aware of your limitations and weaknesses allows you to focus more on your strengths and work independently. Of course, there will be times that you will need help, but showing that you can perform well and independently makes you not only a great employee but also an impressive leader. Angelina Zimmerman wrote in her Inc. article five practical ways to enhance your independent thinking skills, which she said will make more leaders than followers in our society.

While there’s still a lot of disabled people having difficulty finding jobs worldwide, there are some companies who are passionate about hiring disabled workers, as listed by the Huffington Post that look at it from a business perspective rather than an advocacy. By leveraging the aforementioned four top qualities (and considering the specific companies in mind), you are ahead of the other candidates, whether disabled or not.

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

Guest blog: 5 people with sight loss and their careers

Another guest post about careers for people with sight loss, this time from Zoe Chen:

Diagnosis of vision loss can be an agony for most people though eye ailments are not rare: even some celebrities, like Bono who announced his glaucoma the reason of his long time sunglasses wearing, have serious eye conditions despite the better treatment they could receive based on their wealth. Mass media always focus on famous stars with vision loss as unyielding role models; however, for people who barely expect rich ophthalmological resources in visual impairment, life situations and career development of ordinary ones seem more related to the daily life.

Today 5 people coping with chronic eye disease are introduced here: every one of them could be your friend, coworker, fellow, everything but someone armed with good fortune or fame. Let’s read their stories and see how “nobody” leads a positive life and makes a career choice with vision loss in various positions.

Cheryl Wilcox, Media Consultant

Cheryl Wilcox, Media Consultant

Cheryl Wilcox was diagnosed legally blind in 1985 after years of Retinopathy of Prematurity since she was born. Since 2011, she started to use cane as her advanced vision loss exacerbated. The blindness didn’t slow her down in career: She has been working in Gannett media and newspapers for more than 25 years, and invited to share her practical experience in our “living with low vision” column in various sections including shoppingtravelling,and other AT. Besides a stable job, she is now with her great friends and a cat with “good personality”.

 

Ike Presley trying Zoomax electronic magnifier M5

Ike Presley, Project Manager

Ike Presley was brought up in a family with congenital cataracts history. He is now a national project manager of American Foundation for the Blind in charge of projects in literacy for vision loss people after his career in Georgia Department of Education as an assistive technology specialist in 1993. The book Assistive Technology for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Guide to Assessment marked “A “must-have” reference and resource for anyone charged with educating visually impaired students”, was written by Ike Presley and Frances Mary D’Andrea and published in 2009.

 

Mohan Gurung trying Zoomax electronic magnifier Snow 7 HD

Mohan Gurung, School Manager

Mohan Gurung is a principal of a small boarding school supported by an Austrian charity “Schule macht Schule” in Jharkot, Nepal. Compared with the people who grow up with poor eye condition, his loss of normal eyesight was distinct: an accident in March 2012 led to retinal detachment. He carried on his organizational work coping with agencies, authorities and secondary schools for the children after surgery and treatment restored a little of his sight and peripheral vision. Mohan now uses an electronic magnifier to assist his daily work.

Yoshinori Arai, Teacher

Yoshinori Arai, Teacher

Yoshinori Arai is a middle school teacher who utterly lost his vision at the age of 34. He became a Japanese teacher after graduation from university and married his wife Mayumi who brought the family a daughter when he was 28, same year he was diagnosed retinal detachment. He lost the vision of right eye at 32 and left eye at 34. “I considered suicide in desperation at that time,” he said, but he “felt some faint hope that someday I’d be able to go back to work.” In 2008, Arai became the first completely blind teacher at any of the prefecture’s regular public primary and middle schools, and 6 years later, at his 52, he came back as a class teacher for the first time in 23 years.

Saqib Shaikh, Software Engineer

Saqib Shaikh, Software Engineer

Saqib is a software engineer who has devoted himself into Microsoft for 10 years. The complaint of excessive stare at screen most programmers are confronting doesn’t bother him: he has been blind since 7 year-old. In his answer of question” How can you program if you’re blind?” in 2009, Saqib indicated his 13 years’ experience in “programming on Windows, Mac, Linux and DOS, in languages from C/C++, Python, Java, C# and various smaller languages along the way.” with practical suggestions of software choice, settings and assistive technology. In 2016, He made an app called Seeing AI as a research project, featuring intelligence APIs from Microsoft Cognitive Services to “translate” real-world events into audio messages.

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

(Please note that the views expressed in guest posts are not necessarily the views of Evenbreak)

Spotlight on Talent – Neil

Returning to our popular “Spotlight on Talent” series, where we showcase a diverse range of talented Evenbreak candidates, today it’s the turn of Neil Barnfather MBE.

As a blind man, Neil’s greatest quality is his vision.
Neil Barnfather MBE has experience of forming and successfully growing and selling multiple businesses. He is a keen political commentator and an avid social entrepreneur.

Neil was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list (2014). He also received a Special Merit Award in the Serial Entrepreneur category of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (2013), is listed on the Power 100 (2014/15/16), and is currently ranked 10th in the business category on The List – Britain’s most influential and powerful disabled people as collated by DNS.

He is presently looking for a role to utilise his immense skills in strategy, stakeholder engagement and marketing.

Strategy – Neil has exercised a wealth of strategic development and implementation whilst overseeing each of his ventures, and within the organisations to whom he sold them: Cadbury, Klix, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Expedia, Orange S.A., AirBus, Boeing, Marks & Spencer and Sony, to name but a few. Within each role, Neil’s forward thinking “out-of-the-box” approach to strategy, permits him to execute programs to elicit the organisation’s desired commercial objectives.

Stakeholder Engagement – for Neil to succeed within the many arenas he has operated in (private/public corporate, political and charitable/third sector), he has had to nurture his ability to bring stakeholders of varying numbers together to positively influence their agendas. His easy-going approach, combined with a comprehensive command of the raw data, statistics and operational criteria, enable him to be an exceptionally talented negotiator, spokesperson and advocate. Neil believes firmly that his disability and the life-lessons this has taught him, allow him to carry out this role in a unique manner – which not only sets him apart from others, but makes him distinctive in his approach.

Marketing – Neil’s first love was always the sealing of a deal; making something happen based purely on the premise of supply and demand. His thorough understanding of marketing concepts and the realities of those mechanisms, coupled with his extensive corporate working knowledge and understanding, make him exceptionally well versed in all aspects of marketing.

If you have a senior/strategic role that would benefit from the remarkable vision that Neil would bring with him, please contact me (Jane) on janeh@evenbreak.co.uk. No agency fees applicable.

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

Are you a disabled Techie? BBC wants you!

Our friends at the BBC are keen to create an even more diverse workforce, and they are focusing on attracting disabled candidates to work in their technology roles. Here is the story of Ben, and how he came to gain a job at the BBC (original article here):

A year ago Ben Mustill-Rose, a developer who is blind, attended a PDT event in Salford, two weeks ago he joined the BBC as a Developer in Test, here he charts his journey.

It’s just after 7am and I’m on a train, traveling to a school to do some testing for an app we’re about to launch. A year ago I was unemployed and probably still asleep; now I work for one of the largest media organisations in the world and I’ve turned into one of those annoying people on the train who insists on taking up all the table space with their laptop.

My introduction to the BBC came in the form of attending a People with Disabilities in Tech (PDT) event in Salford this time last year. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect but I reasoned that since it was a free event I didn’t really have a huge amount to lose and the alternative was sitting at home continuing to look for a job in tech.

The PDT event was part of a series of free, open door sessions that are designed to encourage a range of more diverse people – including women and people with disabilities – to apply for tech jobs at the BBC.

Ben at People with Disabilities in Tech (PDT) event in Salford in 2015

I felt very welcome on the day and I really enjoyed finding out about what it’s really like to work at the BBC.  As someone with a disability it was particularly good to be able to talk to other disabled staff to find out what support is available, for example Assistive Tech and Access to Work.

In addition there was a huge amount of info on offer about the tons of tech products they work on, for example what it’s like to build a platform like iPlayer that gets hundreds of millions of requests per month. Or to hear from the team that design games played by millions of children or to learn how the BBC has automated the monitoring of all their online real estate. That’s just a taster of the sort of information you learn at one of these events – it’s all pretty impressive I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ben Mustill-Rose with some IT students from the Royal National College for the Blind

Having attended the event I decided to apply for the BBC’s Extend scheme. Extend has changed a bit this year but at the time ‘Extendees’ were given a 6 month placement within one of the BBC departments, the idea being that at the end of the placement you’d be in a good position to apply for further work at the BBC. I’m always hesitant to apply to things like Extend – as a rule I tend to lean more toward mainstream opportunities, but I was (rightly) encouraged to think of it as a foot in the door that would enable me to prove myself.

I could write an entire blog post on the things that I’ve done in my placement and still not scratch the surface. As a developer in test within mobile iPlayer I’ve been doing all the obvious things like developing and testing but even those two things warrant blog posts of their own.

We do lots of test automation in iPlayer so some of my work has involved extending our existing tools in tandem with running manual tests and helping other teams in adopting our testing practices with a small amount of devops mixed in for good measure.

I also spend quite a bit of time giving UX/accessibility type advice to other teams. I’ve had a noticeable impact on lots of other products that have yet to be released which is a really great feeling; I can’t quite believe how much responsibility I was given from day one – I definitely got thrown in at the deep end but fortunately I enjoy a challenge!

Something that I wasn’t aware of before I joined is how much outreach the BBC does. I’m now a STEM ambassador which sees me represent my department at various careers fairs / STEM events which is always incredibly satisfying; I really enjoy giving something back and I’m thrilled that the BBC recognise the importance of these sort of activities.

At the BBC we do things that change the world and we’re building things that nobody has ever built before. Every day that I go into work I know that the things I’m doing are making a real difference both externally and internally and it’s for these reasons that I was delighted to accept the offer of a permanent developer in test role on the iPlayer team a couple of weeks ago.

I’m the living proof that if you’ve got the right skills then it really is possible to go from attending a Diversity in Tech event to working on some of our flagship products.

Ben Mustill-Rose is a BBC Developer in Test

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