Fresh impetus on disability issues

Organisations face strict penalties and public censure if they fail to
accommodate a diverse workforce and customer base. Margaret Kubicek assesses
the challenges for training professionals

Ignorance, fear and prejudice are still the main reasons why more disabled
people are not in work, according to research by national disability charity
Scope.

Even in this era of diversity awareness, it seems, disability is too often
overlooked. But employers will soon have to do more than just talk the talk
when it comes to addressing disability in the workplace. The final tranche of
the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) comes into effect from October 2004,
requiring all service providers to make their premises accessible to disabled
people. Meanwhile, the Disability Rights Commission is launching an
investigation into whether websites are accessible by those with disabilities.

To highlight the impending Act and to mark the European Year for People with
Disabilities, we ask what employers are doing to train their people to work
more effectively with disabled colleagues and customers.

Susan Scott-Parker
Chief exec, Employers Forum on Disability

Too often disability is an add-on. If you do any training across the
business, there should be a disability dimension. When organisations commission
external trainers, they fail to compel those trainers to be disability aware.
Trainers need to know how to adapt training techniques and technologies so
disabled delegates are not disadvantaged. The best trainers are always disabled
people themselves.

Margie Woodward
Campaigns officer, Scope

Where disability training used to be a kind of luxury if people felt they
wanted to do it, they’re now going to have to take it seriously on the same
basis as race and sexual orientation, because if you don’t get it right, you
can be hit by the DDA.

David Grayson
Director, Business in the Community

Thriving on diversity makes good business sense and is an integral part of
good business – what some call ‘responsible business’ or corporate social
responsibility (CSR), As more and more businesses – large and small – adopt
responsible business practice, we have to ensure disability is not the
Cinderella of CSR.

Andrew Wakelin
Senior manager, diversity, Lloyds TSB

Lloyds TSB was the first private-sector organisation to put in place a
bespoke career development programme for disabled staff to enable them to feel
confident about applying for more senior roles. The trainers are disabled
people, giving staff the opportunity to really discuss fears and barriers to
their progression. There’s a lot involved in helping staff to manage their
disability and the impact it may have on others.

David Hart
Head of external affairs and research, UNUM Provident

Together with RADAR – an umbrella charity for disabled people – we are
running a mentoring programme aimed at disabled people aged 15 to 30. We want
to get them before they are too far down their career path. We are providing
mentors – and not just from UNUM Provident. The disabled person benefits from
the knowledge and work skills of their mentor. In turn, the mentor gets a
better understanding of disability.

Joan Stuart
UK Employer relations manager, Scottish Power

We have developed training programmes for our people at the sharp end of the
customer interface. We’ve developed an interactive programme with RNIB on the
interface with blind customers and we’re planning something similar with deaf
people. There are so many kinds of customers and we’re in a market where
there’s a lot of competition. Anything we can do to keep the edge on customers
will help.

Sue O’Neill
Social responsibility manager/diversity, B&Q

You must consult – every disabled person has different requirements. In 1998,
B&Q ran a series of focus groups with people with disabilities. Every store
we’ve built since has been designed to be fully accessible. But, we knew that
without any training they wouldn’t be used properly, so we held disability
training around customer service.

Terry Day
Equality champion, London Underground

Our training is focusing on the core concept of the DDA, ensuring managers
understand the duty to make reasonable adjustments and remove barriers to allow
disabled people to do their job. This could mean physical access, but is more
likely to be other practical measures such as employing a sign language
interpreter, or allowing disabled staff to arrive a bit later to avoid the rush
hour.

Key contacts for best practice

The Employers Forum on Disability –
the authoritative voice on disability as it affects employers – has a training
needs analysis tool available for organisations in the form of a booklet
entitled Promoting Change. The forum also maintains a list of training
providers recommended by its members (www.employers-forum.co.uk). Other useful
information for employers can be found at:

Government Disability Unit’s site www.disability.gov.uk

European Year of People with Disabilities www.eypd2003.org  

Disability Rights Commission www.drc-gb.org  

Department for Work and Pensions www.dwp.gov.uk  

RADAR The Disability Network www.radar.org.uk  

Scope www.scope.org.uk
 

Business in the Community www.bitc.org.uk  

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