Fear and ignorance are preventing companies from employing disabled people, even when they have useful skills, a major disability charity has claimed.
The comments were made by charity Leonard Cheshire after it emerged that fewer than one in six disabled people who joined a computer skills training course have found paid employment.
The nationwide scheme which trains people on-line in their own homes, was launched by Leonard Cheshire in February 1998.
Two years on, only 87 people of the 576 who have been provided with computers and the necessary software have found jobs.
Andrew Anderson, manager of the Workability scheme, said progress had been much slower that expected. He said employer ignorance was a factor, although not the only cause. Employers do not know about grants for customising work stations and are frightened about taking on disabled people, believing they will not be up to the job, he said.
"When you talk to senior people in big companies the policies are in place and they know what they should be doing. But it is not always filtering down to middle management, who still have reservations," he said.
Mike Evans, manager of the Employment Disability Unit at Dundee council, which helps disabled people in Tayside find jobs, says the best way to overcome ignorance is to get people into companies on work experience.
"Work placements do not always lead to jobs but they introduce disability to the workplace and it helps people get comfortable with it," he said.
Gary Hillyer, information officer at AbilityNet, said there was a marked difference between companies in their awareness of the abilities of disabled computer-literate people.
Leonard Cheshire plans to use more work placements. It is also running roadshows for HR directors to raise awareness of the scheme and disability issues.
By Dominique Hammond