Towards the end of last year the Government released the long-awaited green paper on work, health and disability, Improving Lives. With the disability employment gap stubbornly remaining at 32 percentage points, the green paper sets outs ideas to encourage and support more disabled people into work.
While the paper attempts to start a discussion on the range of barriers facing disabled people in employment, including the role of employers, employment support and benefit assessments, it fails to pick up on some vital aspects that would help make work accessible to disabled people, and in particular those with sensory loss.
Technology as an enabler of work
Technology can play a vital role in increasing access to employment for people with sensory loss. On Monday, Sense hosted a roundtable event with five other sensory loss charities and the people they support – Action on Hearing Loss, the Royal National Institute for Blind People, the Royal Association for Deaf people, Thomas Pocklington Trust and the National Deaf Children’s Society – to discuss the ideas put forward in the green paper.
One thing that emerged from the discussions on how best to help people with sensory loss into employment is that, as one participant succinctly put it, “Technology is an enabler and needs to be utilised by employers”.
The green paper shies away from talking about the current support available for disabled people in terms of accessing technology in the workplace, such as Access to Work. Participants at our event told us that delays with Access to Work can be frustrating and, at their worse, actively hinder employment opportunities.
Accessing the right technology at work – and in a timely manner – can make a significant difference. For our recent report, Realising aspirations for all, we spoke to people who are deafblind about their experiences of employment.
The experiences of Sam and Jo-Ann highlight the difference the right technology can make.
Sam is supported, through Access to Work, to use technology such as speech-to-text reporting and magnification software. However, his employer’s technology and phone systems are incompatible with Next Generation Text Relay, which means he is often excluded from important meetings – especially when they are arranged at the last minute. Our research also found that such exclusion can lead to limited opportunities for progression in the workplace.
In contrast, Jo-Ann’s accessibility needs are met by her employer through special computer software. Her positive experience, thanks to the availability of the right support, means that she is confident in knowing what she can do in the workplace, and the talent and benefits she brings to her employer in her role.
With technology playing such an important role in terms of increasing accessibility in the workplace, Sense wants to ensure better support outcomes and wider awareness of what’s available to both employers and employees through Access to Work.
In her recent blog on HuffPost, the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt, outlined the vital role technology can play in breaking down the many barriers faced by disabled people. She announced an ‘accessibility hack’, which will take place today. The idea is to bring together disabled people, designers and coders to develop solutions.
We welcome such an innovative initiative and agree with Penny Mordaunt. We want to say no to inaccessible Britain. This should be the mantra across all aspects of life for disabled people – from socialising, accessing vital services and when seeking employment.
Make your voice heard
Alternatively, you can email email@example.com or send in a response by post:
The Work, Health and Disability Consultation,
Ground Floor, Caxton House,
6-12 Tothill Street,
Sense would also like to hear from you if you are happy to share your experiences with the Work Capability Assessment, Employment and Support Allowance, Access to Work, Jobcentre Plus, and employers.
If you would like to share your thoughts, please fill in our survey on the green paper.
If you would like to be involved in other ways, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also telephone: 0300 330 9258.