White elephants

17 02 2011

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Today I had an interesting conversation with someone who is as passionate and annoyed as I am about discrimination against hearing impaired people and limited access to employment.

This is an issue close to my heart. Years ago, I was fresh out of university and looking for a job. I didn’t know about Access to Work as no one had thought to tell me, not even the university disability officer. I had no textphone – I didn’t know about those either. When you’re deaf, access to information is much tougher – a deaf person needs to be signposted to it rather than be expected to hear it from someone else. I clearly remember the frustration of applying for jobs and not getting anywhere.

After a few weeks of this, I had a brainwave. I applied for six jobs and straightforwardly stated I am deaf and unable to use the phone. I applied for another six jobs and omitted any reference to deafness in those applications – I even included my home phone number.

The first batch of applications resulted in a deafening silence. As I had come to expect 😦 The second batch, to my complete astonishment, had every single employer calling my home, extremely keen to interview me. The problem was, this meant my mother had to pick up the phone and take a message, and explain they had to email me as I couldn’t hear on the phone. Result? They all dropped me like hot cakes. Yeah …. that’s a great one for confidence building, isn’t it.

It pays to be very careful what you tell employers and how you say it – you need to offer solutions to your deafness as well as your skillset. For far too many hearing people, hearing loss is simply something they don’t know how to deal with. It’s best left until the interview stage where they can meet you in person and you can explain the situation, and help swing the interview your way with your brilliance.

But hey, we have Access to Work. Unfortunately, ATW keep restricting and cutting access, which seems to me to be an oxymoronic state of affairs. “No You Cannot Have 40 Hours a Week of Communication Support – It’s Far Too Expensive” – even though I work 40 hours a week. Where is *my* access to communication? How would an ATW adviser like to be told “Your Phone is Too Expensive, You Can Only Have it for 4 Hours a Week, and You Have to Re-Apply for it Every Two Years”?!

Arrggghhh.

Some employers don’t really understand that people with less than fully functioning ears are just as able as people with fully functioning ears – just a few adjustments are needed. Yes, this *still* happens in the UK today! The biggest barriers seem to be attitudes and cost. The biggest solution seems to be raising awareness and enabling a decent, varied, and flexible provision of communication support.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect other people to understand hearing loss and all the attendant issues, problems, and solutions ….. but I *do* expect people to be open minded enough to listen and take information on board. If they provide a service to the general public, then they have a responsibility to be reasonably accessible to the public and to find out about accessibility – and implement it. I have seen too many examples where this has not happened. You can’t just say “It’s not my problem”. A responsibility is a huge, huge thing. But sometimes it is the white elephant in the room. When you’re at a disadvantage in society, this white elephant is really, really, really, big.

So how about this one …. the government, in all its wisdom, laid down regulations on 10 February for a new work capability assessment for employment and support allowance (ESA). This will become effective on 28 March 2011. This means deaf people who can read and write will not be eligible for ESA and will have to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Just because a deaf person can read and write, doesn’t mean the barriers to employment have disappeared. I suspect, as blind people who can get around safely with their guide dogs are no longer eligible for ESA, deaf people with hearing dogs will no longer be eligible either. It’s not logical to simply make cuts in support and then not provide a replacement for that support. In any case, the current support is inadequate – it’s not the right kind of support. There should be mentors, role models, information hubs etc. Not just a bit of money thrown at you and a DEA (government Disability Employment Adviser) who just doesn’t ‘get it’. That’s before you  even secure an interview in the first place. It’s all kind of a mess, isn’t it?

Whoops.  Can someone poke our lovely new government and make them think again?

Or better still – put some deaf and disabled people into senior positions so that they can use their knowledge and experience for the benefit of the rest of us.

More information on the new ESA is at Benefits and Work





Deaf employment research project

14 11 2008

Message from Simeon Klein – if you can assist, please email him at simeonklein87@ yahoo.co. uk

Hi my name is Simeon Klein I am a current 3rd year student at Portsmouth University. Both my parents are deaf, you may know my Dad, Herbert Klein? He recommended this group for my research into the quality of working life and quality of communication for deaf people in employment. I’d like to discuss with the group admin if this is possible. My research consists of questionnaires which will be translated into BSL friendly English by my Dads work in the NHS, the questionnaire will be in a email sent to people.

My research is new because, it is the first to question how conditions are of deaf people in terms of their emotions and feelings, using this information a full data analysis will be conducted to view any trends or patterns developing. As this is done through my University participants details are highly confidential, and there are very strict guidelines on ethics. I hope you feel my questionnaire would not be using deaf people for scientific benefit but it is more a research into the wellbeing of deaf employees. I would be more than happy to send you a detailed analysis for the group to read and I would be more than happy to include discussion that the research brings up into my report. Finally you would be fully acknowledged in my report of your involvement.

Thank you very much for your time
Regards
Simeon Klein





Dering Employment crunches the opposition

27 10 2008

Are you unemployed or looking for a new job? Do you realise it can take a minimum of 6 weeks to book a sign language interpreter or palantypist? Factor that into your job hunt … you won’t get very far.

We all know that being deaf means life is not as easy as it should be. We have to fight harder for a job and harder still for a fulfilling one. Being deaf and looking for work is basically a bowl of toenail clippings. It’s just unnnhhhhhhhhhh. Especially when it comes to employment agencies. *spits*

Dering is an employment agency with a difference. They actually care whether you can communicate and benefit appropriately from its services. Dering Employment Services was established in May 2006 and has gone from strength to strength. They help people to return to work by providing training and employment opportunities.

Dering are different in that they train deaf people to become employment advisors, job coaches and tutors. In turn, these deaf people become a positive role model for other deaf people. The director, Stephen Dering, has been deaf since birth and Dering is deaf-accessible, with services and training provided in British Sign Language. 86% of the staff are deaf so YEAH ! they totally GET the issues and barriers that we face in accessing work. Yay. Rock on!

Their programme includes the following (click on the links for further information);
Coachability in Northern Ireland and South East England
Deaf Active
Deaf Employment Service
Deaf Stepping Stones
Sports Apprenticeships
Train to Gain

Their latest news –

Last week, they hosted an official visit by Jonathan Shaw MP, the new Disability Minister, to their Croydon offices so that he could see for himself how they work with deaf people to get jobs. He was very impressed with the set up – photographs are on the Facebook group ‘Dering‘.

They are delivering Access to Work assessments for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind people who live in the North West, West Midlands or East of England regions. Assessments are to enable people to identify what support they need in their job such as Interpreter Online or doorbell systems. From November 2008, they will cover Manchester, Salford and Trafford areas.

If you are interested in developing your skills and live in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark or Wandsworth, Dering have an ASDAN employment training course coming up.

Their Coachability programmes in South East England and Northern Ireland are filling up quickly – ideal for anyone who wants to become a qualified sports coach.

Drop them an email at info @ dering. biz if you are interested in any of the above.

Go, Dering, go!





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.