What is a ‘reasonable’ adjustment?

19 08 2007

I followed my own advice and got a new job two weeks ago. I’m now a careers adviser – it’s very different from being a finance manager but my communication support needs are the same as my disability hasn’t changed and neither has my preferred method of communication.

To date, making reasonable adjustments has become a major feature of my new role. I have been arguing with my case worker (I shall call him ‘Clueless’) at ATW (Access to Work) for four weeks for communication support, to which I am entitled by law. A request turned into an argument, which is typical of my experience.

To give you an idea of the kind of rubbish I have to deal with….. When I initially asked for a captioned telephone for my previous job, I was asked ‘why don’t you get an ordinary phone with a flashing light’? And this was after I had requested support and specified in great detail exactly what I needed, why I needed this particular kind of support, and how / why it would be beneficial to me in my post. I had a surprise recently when Clueless was invited to my office to discuss my ATW needs in my previous job, as I had been arguing for an increase to my allowance for six months. STTR support was set up for this meeting. Clueless admitted he had never seen a STTR before and hadn’t realised how it helped me. And he approves my allowance?! He spent the whole meeting mumbling to the table and using convoluted language. Helloooo, deaf awareness training, anybody? Six months of arguing for this support which is clearly needed to enable me to do my job?

The way I see it, it’s very simple. I am profoundly deaf and have been working for many years, therefore I am the best person to know what my personal communication needs and preferences are, and therefore my requirements, to enable me to carry out my required duties. ATW are there to provide the means to that support, and last year they had an underspend of £58 million. What do I require?

  • captioned telephony as I can’t hear on the phone but I can speak (the UK version has been updated to a web service which is in the final stages of development)
  • STTR – a speech to text reporter, sometimes known as a palantypist, as I can’t lip read people who mumble so would need one for client interviews, and I also can’t lip read every single person in a group meeting
  • I would have thought it was fairly straightforward to understand my communication needs.

    I requested a STTR for staff meetings and Clueless’s response was…

    Given Palantypist is very expensive as you know (about £250 for a half-day using STTR) I would need to know why the alternative of an ordinary interpreter could not help you in your staff meetings.

    What’s an *ordinary* interpreter? A sign language interpreter? I don’t use BSL. If Clueless had bothered to look in my file, it should be clear that I lip read, which is quite distinct from signing. I’ve never used a BSL interpreter, I have always used STTR. Why change now? Just because it’s cheaper?! Huh? And why is there an ‘alternative’…. an alternative to what? To being able to understand what everyone else is saying? And should the high daily charge of an STTR mean I can’t have one and should try something else that doesn’t work for me, just because it’s cheaper? If they are expensive, sorry but that’s really not my problem.

    I requested captioned phone support and Clueless asked me for a breakdown of how many incoming and outgoing calls would be made each week – how the heck should I know? Hang on, am I supposed to be telepathic? Do YOU know how many phone calls you will get each week? So I gave a guess as to how many hours a week I would use a phone. Clueless’s response was –

    x hours a week on phone duties – are you looking for an interpreter or a Communication Support Worker for this?

    What? BSL interpreting over the phone? Why would I want this? I spoke to a STTR who says they are sometimes asked to do speech to text for phone conversations, using a headset with a normal phone. That would mean booking a STTR for half day blocks or full day blocks, and I couldn’t ‘use’ the phone at other times, when I didn’t have a STTR available. Bang would go the freedom to use a phone whenever I want, I’d be depending on someone else being there to enable me to make or receive a phone call.

    I requested a STTR for client interviews and Clueless responded –

    x hours a week on interviewing duties. Again are we looking at an interpreter or a Communication Support Worker for this job?

    Clueless also wanted to know if there were any other deaf staff at my place of employment that are supported by ATW. He has in the past suggested to previous employers that I share my STTR with another staff member, to cut down the cost. Oh yeah, and what if we are in different meetings, and we have only got the one allowance for that day? What are we supposed to do, carve the STTR in half? Plus, ATW will cut the allowance as well, so there is even less support available for both staff members. No way, Jose.

    My new colleagues are shocked at the rudeness of Clueless’s correspondence and his attitude. I guess I’m used to it. One of them waded in and fired off a very firm email explaining what was required. The very next day, my support was approved. I am stunned. Do hearing people only take other hearing people seriously? Does Clueless think, because I have a disability, that he can mess me around?

    Now I have encountered another problem. I have meetings next week but have been unable to book a STTR as there are none available. There are not enough STTRs to go around and this is the holiday season. Scotland has no STTRs at all, the STTR I booked last week often travels from London to Scotland for a ten minute meeting. Why are there so few STTRs?

  • The course is expensive and difficult
  • There is no college in the UK – but there is one in Dublin (fancy commuting?)
  • It takes about 5 years to become proficient
  • The equipment is very expensive – keyboard and laptop
  • The keyboard has to be imported from the USA. It is not made in the UK anymore and the US supplier has a monopoly
  • Humph! Maybe the answer to all this is to learn BSL!



    12 responses

    19 08 2007

    “”One of them waded in and fired off a very firm email explaining what was required. The very next day, my support was approved.””


    This does not really surprise me,also the underspend as many of us find it hard to get any support or equipment.

    ATW never used them as they confuse me on what entitlement I can get.
    Funny enough my work has told me they are happy to pay for any equipments needed.

    Never heard of captioned phone and believe me I can see how usefull these equipments are so thank you for blogging about this.

    19 08 2007

    Very typical of Access to Work in this country, and most of us have had frustrations with them one way or another.

    This person is incompetent, and quite frankly should not be doing their job. You should issue a formal complaint to the regional manager, however, it might cause you more problems longer term. Blogging about it is one way, but sometimes I wonder if enough.

    I complained about AtW person a few years ago (in Wales), and got the reply they can’t be expected to know about every disability. In that job they should be pretty clued up, and use their common sense a bit more. The fact that many of them are abled body people, with no experience of disability is telling … no commitment from their human resource department to recruit with a high emphasis on understanding disability.

    Congrats, and good luck with your new job.

    19 08 2007

    I’m assuming your ATW Business Centre is the one in Harrow (following a recent move from Alpterton). My ATW is from there too.

    I would encourage you to make a formal complaint about Clueless. You could also ask to change advisers. Perhaps you could ask for Mark Conway, who is my ATW adviser – he’s always been pretty co-operative and responds to my emails within a day or so.

    You say you lipread – have you ever used lipspeakers? I have used a number of them during my uni years, and they’re a lot easier to use than STTR (I’ve used speedtext and palantype in the past). They’re also more readily available than I imagine STTR is, and quite a few work in London, so you’re well placed to receive this type of support.

    May I suggest you try and book lipspeakers for your meetings next week? Give them a try, see how you get on? If you want notes aftwards, get a notetaker in as well or ask a colleague if they could take notes for you. You can find a list of lipspeakers at http://www.lipspeaking.co.uk.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with your new job! Sounds like you’ve got colleagues with a good attitude (makes a change!), so that’s half the battle over with!

    19 08 2007

    Hi Rob

    Thanks for the info. I have used lipspeakers in the past but found using them is very hard work and very tiring as I use my residual hearing and really need to hear the vowels to make sense of speech. I know, and I’m a lip reading teacher … lol. I find STTR easier. I’ll give lipspeakers a try if I can’t get STTR.

    Yes my ATW is from Harrow. I’ve complained before and got nowhere.

    Yep, my colleagues are fantastic 🙂

    19 08 2007

    I had a useless ATW when I was in Luton, was very much against the use of web software to take my calls. I ended up telling him that it is not about what *he* wants, but what *I* need to do my job competantly as any other person can.

    He rambled on about how organisations do not like having software added to their computers. I asked him if he ever dealt with my employer before and he admitted he did not. I told him that he has no basis for making such a generalised statement and that if there’s any difficulties internally, then they will face my wrath.

    By the time anything got going, anyone who need to deal with me would just text me or send me an email; rendering any phone use to zero. As a result, I never got round to chasing ATW up for the software. It was only £30.

    At the same time, I convinced someone to purchase a £3,000 mapping software for my job and it wasn’t the sort of place they’d spend cash willy nilly.

    What a faff over so little, and these incompetant fools should be damned ashamed for what nearly amounts to torture.

    20 08 2007

    Hi there…

    I was just wondering if you’ve heard of Electronic Notetaking? It’s like STTR a bit, but done on a normal QWERTY keyboard. The client reads the screen, usually a screen on a 2nd laptop, or it can be projected with a data projector. It’s not verbatim like STTR, but the Electronic Notetakers (ENTs) are trained to get down all the essential meaning.

    It’s much less expensive than STTR. ENTs charge roughly £20 per hour. Also, there are many more of us ENTs than there are STTRs! The equipment does not cost as much and the training is much shorter – it takes about a year altogether.

    We have a professional association now at http://www.anpnotetaking.co.uk/. Also there is a wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Notetaking.

    Sorry if you were already aware of any of this!

    20 08 2007

    Oh hon, make sure you complain to the highest person possible,and write to your MP as well. This is absolutely disgusting and I am shocked at the ignorance prevalent in a government subsidised agency run on money paid from taxation on YOUR wages. Would they rather we all sat at home and claimed the dole?

    Saying that they can’t be expected to know about all types of disability is like an accountant saying that they can’t be expected to keep up with the treasury’s latest taxation regulations. GRRRRRRRRRRR!

    20 08 2007

    Actually, I found out recently that the Government makes £1.70 out of every £1 they spend through ATW through income tax, NI contributions etc. A “disabled” person working and using ATW has more economic value than someone on the dole.

    Not sure where these stats are from; got them from a colleague, but it’s in the public domain somewhere.

    26 08 2007

    hello there, wow how amazing that clueless can be so dense!!

    You know all deaf people use BSL (sign) and all disabled people are confined to wheelchairs you know!! Not. I wish people would, wake up to the fact that Deaf,or disabled, are the same as non disabled, that is we are all individuals. So its foolish to assume what support is right for one is okay for another. Surely we have some expertise, to know what we need. Your request is not beyond “resonable ajustments” and have they not read the DDA. Common sense seems to be lacking in this case too!! I have found the use of ATW. access issues,etc a minefield to make ones requests understood and appropriate support to be put into place.
    Dont give up, hope you get it sorted soon.

    7 09 2007

    Go for the best ‘digis’ it’s possible to get, if nothing else out of sheer bloodymindedness. These people
    are just beyond belief, how do they get their jobs? Rhetorical question really. The ‘careers’ master at my school asked ME how I managed to join the Navy. Sadly things don’t seem to improve. Just invoke the DDA as much and as often as possible. If employers have to be carried kicking and screaming into the real world, so be it.

    19 09 2007
    Finance Blog » Blog Archives » What’s a ‘reasonable’ adjustment?

    […] post by I look so I can hear…. Posted in Finance Blog | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of […]

    19 09 2007
    Finance Blog » Blog Archives » What is a ‘reasonable’ adjustment?

    […] post by I look so I can hear…. Posted in Finance Blog | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of […]

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