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?
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?
Humph! Maybe the answer to all this is to learn BSL!