Monthly Archives

June 2016

Any advice for my brother?

By | Emily Yates, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge | One Comment

Hello!

I have an older brother who is pretty far in the disability spectrum and have been hoping for some advice. He has Hypoplasia of the cerebellum which has rendered him mute and unable to walk with I guess you can call autistic traits… that’s the best way I can describe it, it’s a pretty rare disorder.

Being the second child I’ve always acted as secondary caretaker next to my mom for my brother’s care, and having watched him grow up from an emotional teenage boy and mature to adulthood I’ve wondered about whether he’s missing out on those things that which carers shouldn’t speak of. I know because you guys have been covering this topic speaking out for this growingly public community of disabled individuals taking control over their lives on your website that this topic is at least coming to the forefront which is awesome given the stigmas.

But for those individuals that have a more difficult time communicating or are just farther up in the disability spectrum, do you have any advice? This is an extremely complicated topic I know.

He loves magazines and used to have a big crush on certain actresses, would it be weird getting him x-rated mags? I just recently started broaching this subject with my mother, who’s had a hard time in the past with doctors giving poor or entirely wrong diagnoses on my brother’s symptoms i.e. proclaiming he’s def despite loving music so for such a grey area it seems like a far fetched topic to broach with them. (more often than not doctors will answer inquiries from my mother with “really you know just about better than we do”) So we’re pretty much in the dark, there’s not much input out in the media yet and really it’s sort of a pioneering topic so I figured I’d send a shout out to you guys since you seem to have had some experience with this. I just don’t want to do something that might inadvertently freak him out or get him misguided since I don’t know how I can teach him whats inappropriate or not.

Any input helps, and good job to you guys for what your doing.

Hi there,

Thank you so much for your message and kind words. Firstly, it’s amazing that you are looking out for your brother and all of his needs, rather than just the ones that society deems appropriate! You couldn’t be more ‘spot on’ with what you say, and the way that disability and sex is portrayed needs to change… and quickly!!

In terms of how you can help your brother and what may be deemed appropriate, my response would be that that is entirely up to you as you also need to feel comfortable with what you are assisting with, too. Some relations and friends of people with disabilities do help them to explore their sexuality with x-rated mags or sensual videos, we’ve also had questions regarding masturbation and seeing sex workers. The answer is that there’s no right or wrong way to deal with your brother’s sexual needs, as long as both him and you are comfortable with whatever you decide.

In my opinion though, these magazines sound like they’d be the perfect ‘ice breaker’ for you, your brother and your family. If nothing else, you’re showing your brother that you are there for him and recognise him as a man with desires, and this is quite something when others can just see disability.

Have you seen our ‘Undressing Disability’ video? It can be found here and documents a really powerful story in a lovely way and I think you and your family may benefit from watching it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwSsPiCEI-0

Anything else I can help with, just shout. I’m always on hand to discuss these things further and in more detail if you’d like to do that. Fingers crossed for a great experience for all of you!

Interviewing a Deaf person for a job?

By | Accessibility, Business, Disability, How to guide, Workplace | No Comments

INTERVIEWING A DEAF PERSON FOR A JOB? HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL TIPS

• Don’t spend half the allocated time showing your fingerspelling skills that you learnt from a deaf girl at school when you were seven…. Yes this really does happen and the fake smile we have to put on hurts!

• Please avoid talking too slowly and over enunciating your words … it doesn’t help us understand you and you look just like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit!

• Please look at us when you speak to us. If you’re using a BSL interpreter don’t look at them… Errr hello! We’re over here!! Please look at us when you speak to us, you are interviewing us after all!

• Don’t tell us how amazing we are that we have managed to overcome so many challenges. Ok we know we’re fab, you know we’re fab, so give us the Job! Seriously though it sounds like you pity us and no one wants that.

For more information about our disability awareness training please visit enhancetheuk.org, follow us on twitter @enhancetheuk and find us on all social media channels – just search for Enhance the UK!

Five things I’ve learnt about my disability

By | Emily Yates, Lifestyle, My story | No Comments

1. Focus on your Assets…. Be that a winning smile, a cracking sense of humour or the gift of the gab – there are many things that define you aside from your impairment.

2. Patience is a Virtue … Slow and steady often wins the race. Things make take more time and effort with a disability, but man, the reward is sweet (and maybe even sweeter, but I’ll never know!)

3. There are many perks to the job …. To balance out some of the shitty, painful days, there’s nothing quite like getting around Disneyland in a day, or getting to your car in 30 seconds in a thunderstorm.

4. It’s a great ‘tosser filter’ … Disability isn’t seen as very sexy to many people, but it’s great to know that anyone who is interested has enough about them to not care what anyone else thinks.

5. If you’ve got it, flaunt it… Actually, disability can be flipping sexy! And it’s up to you to show that. Go get ‘em, tiger.

For more information about our disability awareness training please visit enhancetheuk.org, follow us on twitter @enhancetheuk and find us on all social media channels – just search for Enhance the UK!

Meetings and Wheelchair Users… Five Things You Should Know

By | Accessibility, Business, Disability, How to guide, Workplace | One Comment

1. The correct venue is vital…. Inviting a wheelchair user to a business meeting? Think about where might suit them. It’ll need to be step-free, and if your office is on the 4th floor without a lift, the meeting will be a flop before it’s begun!

2. Parking and Public transport … are also very important. Regardless of where you meet, make sure that there’s accessible parking and/or an accessible tube station or bus stop nearby. If all else fails, offer the person an accessible taxi.

3. Accessible Bathrooms …. Everyone gets nervous before a meeting or interview, and there’s NOTHING worse than being unable to relieve yourself because you can’t even swing a cat in the tiny toilet cubicle.

4. Allow time … We live in a very fast world, where deals are made and meetings are over within minutes. Try and leave a bit more time in your diary for a disabled person. It’s nothing to do with sympathy; it will just allow them time to get a coffee, freshen up and settle without feeling it’s a race!

5. Just ask!… Anything you’re unsure of, just ask! Chances are, the wheelchair user will be able to tell you everything you need to know, so you can prepare for the perfect meeting. Good luck!

For more information about our disability awareness training please visit enhancetheuk.org, follow us on twitter @enhancetheuk and find us on all social media channels – just search for Enhance the UK!

How can we bridge the disability employment gap in the UK?

By | Business, Disability, How to guide, News, Workplace | No Comments

By Gary Mazin

There has been a lot of press coverage recently about how the Government is falling behind its own targets to have more than 60% of disabled people in work by the end of the decade.

The number of people with disabilities in work is low. Less than half of working age people with disabilities in the UK are in employment, compared to 76% of non-disabled adults. This gap equates to two million disabled people, currently excluded from employment. Why does this gap exist, and how can it be closed?

This is no surprise to me unfortunately, as from my own personal experience I have found that many people and organisations have no intention or wish to employ disabled people. Obviously they will never openly admit this, but from someone who has had their ear to many senior managers in organisations large and small the truth is often more brutal.

Why am I not surprised you might ask? Well I spent more than 10 years working in the recruitment industry, supplying people into the media and creative sector from all ages and levels of experience.

And I have a disability.

So with the combination of the two, I’ve seen how when you look at the recruitment process, disabled people are still being excluded from the system in many ways.

My disability is degenerative and I spent most of my 20s and early 30s hiding my disability from as many people as possible. I did tell my managers and close colleagues, and kept it hidden as much as possible. My reasons were quite simple. As soon as I told someone that I was partially sighted with hearing loss, I could see the immediate reaction and it was rarely positive.

Most of the time people just looked like a rabbit in the headlights and didn’t know what to say apart from “I’m sorry”. You can see their inner monologue shouting at them to ‘act naturally’ or ‘don’t say anything stupid’. By this point I’ve realised that our work relationship has changed, and unfortunately I was never confident or experienced enough to know how to handle these situations myself at the time. There is no training manual given to people with a disability on how to deal with embarrassing or awkward conversations.

I was one of the fortunate people that have a disability and have been mostly in employment for the past 20 years of my life. But the reality is that less than 50% of people who have a disability in the UK are employed. So what can we do? The government seem to think they have a solution, but at the moment it’s not working quickly or effectively enough, as the recent statistics show.
In my opinion a lot of the failings start with poor communication and a lack of understanding. Sure there are more and more organisations that are fulfilling the two tick kite marking system (where they guarantee that an applicant with a disability will get an interview, as long as they meet the standard criteria). This system works for larger organisations usually within the public sector, but there are many many private companies who do not employ this strategy or have any reason to.
When I was working in recruitment I spent a lot of my time helping candidates improve their chances of getting the job they wanted. This was through guidance with their CV, giving them interview tips and techniques as well as general information and help. Having a disability myself I noticed that I was always more astute and aware if someone had a disability or impairment. I found that in most cases people with a disability didn’t know how to broach the subject when applying for a job.
Do they put something on their CV? This is generally seen as the human shop window and people find it very hard to write about themselves, let alone know how they would broach the subject of a disability.

Then there’s the question of whether they tell the company before they have an interview so that the organisation can make reasonable adjustments if needed. The whole area is a minefield and often makes the person with a disability feel more isolated and highlighting their difference even more. I’m sure there were a lot of candidates who had some impairment but was keeping it secret, like I did for so long.

Unfortunately many organisations do not do themselves credit when it comes to the point of encouraging people with a disability to apply for a job. It’s normal for an employer not to have met someone in a wheelchair or a guide dog owner within their work day to day life. They see plenty of information if they’ve watched the Paralympics or seen a cute guide dog programme on the TV. Although one in five people do have a disability, the reality is that you just don’t see enough disabled people in the workplace.

One particular example springs to mind where I was helping a media organisation hire a typesetter to help design their newsletters. I had a very strong candidate apply who met all the criteria of the job and had all the experience required, it helped that she had a warm and friendly personality. She had a visual impairment and needed a screen magnifier.
After speaking to the client they made the reasonable adjustments and she had the interview and took the test on the magnified screen. I was hopeful that she was a strong candidate as in my mind she did everything required. The feedback I received about her really shook me to the core:
“Lovely girl, but I really can’t be doing with all the hassle of employing someone like that. They’re just too much trouble.”

This came from a manager of an organisation with over 1.000 employees in one office alone. How could I respond to that? I was completely flabbergasted and somewhat aghast, especially as they were my client and I had built up an excellent relationship with them. I just didn’t know how to reply. I received an official email half an hour later which explained that the reason they didn’t want to take her application any further was because they didn’t feel she was “a good team fit” and that she didn’t have quite enough experience of working on one piece of software (she did).

When it came to passing my feedback onto the candidate, I decided to try and be honest without intentionally upsetting her. Once I explained about how they just didn’t think she’d be a fit within the team she sighed and said “It’s because of my eyesight isn’t it?” I was crestfallen for her, having had my own knockbacks and rejections due to having a disability I totally understood her resignation of it being about her disability and not her ability to do the job.

The fact remains that the company officially didn’t hire her because of fair reasons, but I know the truth which was quite simply discrimination. During my tenure as a recruitment consultant it became clear to me that discrimination in many forms was still very apparent, and often not subtly hidden. Particularly with regards to disability. I don’t want to generalise but Scope conducted a survey where they discovered that 67% of people actively avoid approaching someone with a disability as they’re afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. It’s not difficult to transfer that to the workplace and discover that many people quite simply are scared of disability, or the unknown.

Since I’ve started as a Disability Awareness Trainer it’s made me even more aware how far we have to go with regards to breaking down these barriers of communication. Until disabled people are fully welcomed socially and with open and honest communication there will still be a real problem bridging this disability employment gap. I’d like to hope that organisations will start to look at their internal teams and think about whether they’re doing enough to be inclusive. A good start is making sure that all Managers and HR staff know the best way to communicate with someone with a disability. Making the organisations self-aware and looking at how they can improve accessibility, whether it be socially, or physically. Once these barriers start to come down, then we can look at how companies can encourage more disabled people to apply. Until we start being more honest and open about our inexperience and lack of communication skills, this gap will never disappear.

Enhance the UK run disability awareness training workshops that can help your organisation become more accessible and equip your staff with knowledge and skills that will help them communicate better with deaf and disabled people. For more information visit www.enhancetheuk.org

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