See the ability, not the disability

22 10 2008

Employment Opportunities invited me to the Changing Lives Awards at the House of Lords. I was so excited. My invitation said ‘Evening wear only’ so I threw on my bright yellow jacket and off I went, feeling like a traffic light. Cute doggy in tow, of course. The venue was next to the Thames, there was a beautiful view of the London Eye and surrounding parliament buildings, all lit up. There were sparkly chandliers hanging from the ceiling and plenty of trays coming around with wine and canapés. Yum.

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Employment Opportunities have helped lots of deaf people get jobs across numerous sectors and at different levels. They aim to change lives through employment. Their vision is of a society where the full potential of people with disabilities is recognised in every workplace. This is the second year they have held the Changing Lives Awards, which recognise employers and individuals who share their vision, and celebrate individuals with disabilities who have overcome barriers into employment. They want organisations to work with them to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

The event was hosted by Lord Archie Kirkwood. Two hundred people attended and I spoke to some of the nominees as well as Employment Opportunities staff. My lipreading skills were well tested by Bryn Roberts who hailed from Australia. He’s the EOpps Employer Development Officer. His dog sounded almost as naughty as Smudge, playing with squeaky toys at 3am! Of course, Smudge got lots of attention.

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I had a personal interest as they helped me to secure my first senior finance position after I graduated from university, preparing me for interview, advising me on CV preparation and interview techniques, mentoring me and overall (and most importantly) giving me the confidence in my abilities which came across in the interview.

It’s so demoralising when you meet a potential employer and they haven’t adjusted the recruitment process for you. Or they don’t make the effort to make adjustments in the interview. Isn’t the non-disabled person nervous enough at interviews? Interviews are like pulling teeth. No-one enjoys them. Preparation is the key to a good interview and Employment Opportunities helps people to do that well. They not only work with interviewees, they also work with employers and attend careers fairs across the country. They deliver training on reasonable adjustments, disability awareness, and offer mentoring support as well as pre- and post-employment support. They offer a graduate programme in conjunction with employers such as Barclays, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and the Civil Service.

I think Employment Opportunities should be given an award themselves, for the super work they are doing. Making employers see the ability, not the disability. Helping disabled people to lead fulfilling lives.

Making a difference – a REAL one.

Clap clap clap.





Deaf Awareness Week 2008 : Look at Me

1 05 2008

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May 5th – 11th is Deaf Awareness Week. The theme is LOOK AT ME which happens to tie in nicely with my blog 🙂 The aim is to raise awareness of the different methods of communication which deaf people use to communicate and therefore highlight the different types of deafness. ‘Deafness’ doesn’t just mean sign language users – it also means deafened people, hard of hearing people, deaf-blind people, and those who have tinnitus.

UKCoD have listed some events that are taking place nationwide to raise awareness of hearing loss and give people opportunities such as lip reading class taster sessions, and seeing the inside of your ear using video otoscopy.

A couple of events caught my eye….

* a pair of new Phonak Audeo hearing aids (which are the business) suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss are being given away by The Hearing Care Centre in Colchester, Essex. These are worth £3,500. You’ll need to grab a copy of the Colchester Gazette during Deaf Awareness Week.

* a text messaging service will be launched by Northamptonshire Police Force Communications Centre (FCC) for deaf people in the county. Way to go!

Hopefully this event will get bigger and better each year – that’s up to all of us to make it happen. (Text and logo courtesy of UKCoD)

Did you know, nearly 15% of the population have some degree of deafness. If your organisation has not made adjustments to help deaf and hard of hearing people access your products and services, then you may be excluding a considerable number of people.

For every 10,000 of the population:

TEN will be born profoundly deaf. They probably get little or no benefit from hearing aids and mainly use sign language to communicate.

TWENTY will have become profoundly deaf. They may use sign language and probably also lipread.

ONE HUNDRED will be partially deaf. They may have difficulty following what is being said, even with hearing aids. Mostly they will lipread and some use sign language as well.

SIX HUNDRED will be hard of hearing. They will be able to follow what is being said with a hearing aid and will be able to use a telephone if it has an adjustable volume or has been designed to be used with a hearing aid.

EIGHT HUNDRED will be mildly hard of hearing. They may have difficulty following conversations particularly in large groups or in noisy situations. Some will wear hearing aids and many find lipreading helpful.

• British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of around 70,000 people in the UK
• About 2 million people in Britain wear hearing aids, maybe another million would benefit from doing so
• Almost all deaf and hard of hearing people rely on lipreading to some extent
• Many combine signs from BSL with English in order to communicate

Here are a few examples of ways to be more accessible to deaf people:-

• Develop the skills of your staff so that they have the knowledge and understanding to communicate effectively
• Overcome the communications barrier by providing deaf awareness training, human aids to communication or the use of appropriate technology
• Make sure your building is deaf-friendly by providing appropriate systems, such as an induction loop
• Plan public areas carefully with deaf visitors in mind and try out your plans with local deaf people to make sure they work
• Use plain English in your literature making it easy to read and understand
• Improve telecommunications by making available textphones, fax, Typetalk, emails, SMS and videophones.

Remember – if a hearing person and a deaf person have trouble communicating, the problem is shared: communication is everybody’s responsibility.