CASE STUDY – A successful working environment for deaf colleague(s) – what makes all the difference?
A recent visit to a deaf client and his employers proved illuminating. The whole team have recently won an award for inclusivity and our client is clearly very happy in his role; his employers are equally happy with productivity. A win-win situation it would seem. What made that difference? What is the key to this success?
Leaving education can be a confusing time for any teenager; throw a disability into the mix and things can get really tough. Our client (A for future reference) was lucky – a very supportive and pragmatic parent arranged a voluntary role at her own workplace. This was not as easy as it sounds as even the application process for this was not entirely “deaf friendly”, but the Powers that Be listened and have as a result changed the format for applications to be more inclusive and therefore compliant with the Equality Act. The first small victory.
Following a successful voluntary role, A was given the opportunity to apply for a fixed term contract. With support from Access to Work, BSL support was arranged for both the interview process and ongoing support in the workplace. People often question the “value for money” of this fund, but hopefully the following demonstrates the importance of this funding and the true “value” in every sense of the word!
In the Workplace
Ongoing support in the workplace proved key. A was successful at interview and gained a fixed term contract to remain in post. BSL support proved invaluable and the Deaf Awareness training put in place to help A and his colleagues establish good communication methods when a Signer was not present were a key feature.
It should be noted that A’s Team comprises a number of different disabilities and special needs. A is profoundly deaf and relies on BSL as his main form of communication. One of his colleagues is dyslexic, another is on the Autistic Spectrum and another has a visual impairment. This team dynamic works! The individual special needs mesh to make the Team as a whole:
Aware of each other’s weaknesses
Equally aware of each other’s strengths
The ability to maximise this knowledge to best effect and work holistically
The team dynamic is strong, and therefore their working is effective and efficient. Happy staff = productive staff = happy employer. Again, it would seem we have a win-win situation.
The AtW budget agreed for A allows for BSL support four times a week, at the beginning of his shift pattern. This has effectively opened the lines of communication with his colleagues and enabled a withdrawn, sometimes unco-operative teenager to grow in confidence and ability and mature into a well-rounded individual who is of value to himself, his employer and wider society.
A is no longer a teenager and is entering his 20s with a new focus and clarity for the future. Confidence gained in the workplace has spilled over into his private life and A’s family report a marked and positive change in the home too. What can sometimes seem hopeless has turned into optimism; a lack of motivation has turned into a vision for the future. Far fewer GP appointments are one extremely positive result. Good mental health brings good physical health – a happy worker is apparently a healthy one too.
A has now gained a permanent contract at his current employer and the future is looking very bright indeed. A has now realised his ambitions for employment and has future plans to move out of the family home and into independent living. He is keen to support himself and become as independent as possible. Employment has been integral to these wishes, so AtW funding has unlocked a huge potential in a number of key areas.
So, what can future and prospective employers learn from this scenario?
Accessible and flexible application processes attract a wider variety of applicants
This in turn enriches the working environment for everyone
Both differently-abled and able-bodied employees benefit from a wide-ranging working dynamic – everyone learns from each other and the working experience is more fulfilling for all concerned
Patience – a great skill to have in our fast pace age – is encouraged
BSL support to aid communication is vital
Deaf Awareness training to provide understanding is important
BSL tuition – not essential but it is fun and everyone benefits; it certainly aids confidence for all participants
Yes, a sense of humour is important but that is true of any working situation and life in general
In short, just because a prospective employee cannot use the telephone it does not make them unemployable! There are so many other ways to communicate. The Purple (Disabled) Pound is vital to the UK economy. Did you know:
1 in 5 potential UK consumers have a disability
Business lose approx. £2 billion a monthly by ignoring the needs of disabled people
73% of potential disabled customers experienced barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visited
75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service
£249 billion – the spending power of the disabled and their households to UK businesses
Employers ignore this market at their peril! Where employers are willing to open/broaden their minds and “take a chance” on a disabled employee, not only to do they enhance their workforce in a positive way, they can learn vital lessons which translate into income for their business too! Now there’s a thought to brighten everyone’s day!