When we spoke to people who are deafblind about their experiences of employment, it was clear that many had been through negative experiences with employers, including a lack of understanding about how to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments in the workplace.
This lack of support and understanding has meant that, for those people with sensory impairments that wish to work, they have come up against additional barriers like inaccessible recruitment processes and failures to adjust the working environment to suit communication needs.
These barriers are unhelpful for both employers and employees or job candidates. Finding the right support for any potential employee is essential to creating an inclusive workplace that has the best people in the right roles – which will ultimately benefit businesses as they can understand how to be responsive to the needs of disabled people.
Providing things like accessible recruitment processes mean that people with sensory impairments can demonstrate their skills and ability just as any other candidate throughout the process.
Understanding what employers need
Though employers are required by the Equality Act (2010) to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace – to remove barriers for disabled people seeking work – putting this into practice can be daunting.
Reasonable adjustments are not defined and it means it is up to the employer and disabled person to discuss what arrangements are needed and whether they are in scope for the employer.
As part of Sense’s response to the Government’s Work, Health and Disability green paper (Word 929KB), which included a focus on how to support employers, we spoke to disability recruitment website Evenbreak and EmployAbility – a scheme that supports disabled graduates into work.
In line with our findings from research with people who are deafblind, both organisations highlighted that often employers are unsure of how best to support people with disabilities and that they can worry about making mistakes. Some employers are concerned that reasonable adjustments are costly, and that they do not have the knowledge to offer the right working environment for disabled candidates.
Taking the first step to increase awareness of sensory impairments
That’s why it is essential employers can access information to know what steps to take to make their workplaces accessible. People who are deafblind and looking for employment still find that employers have very low awareness of the impact of their disability and are unsure of how to approach discussions around adjustments in the workplace.
To help support these discussions, Sense has created an initial guide for employers that gives information and tips for supporting people with sensory impairments to enter and stay in employment. They also include useful resources for support and more information, such as details on the Access to Work scheme, which can provide grants to support more expensive adjustments in the workplace.
This is just a starting point, and Sense is continuing to work to improve the experiences of people with sensory impairments that wish to enter employment. Working with employers, Government and disabled people will be essential to ensuring people can achieve their aspirations for work.