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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Employment for the disabled – a fresh look at one aspect

I’m all for integration within the workplace but it is not always practical and the issues go far further than a few ramps and PIR operated doors.
The one thing most employers want is reliability.  There is an amount of work to get through in the day and they need to know that the requisite number of people will be available to complete it on time.  The trouble is that many disabilities are unpredictable – the intensity varies and there is no way of knowing when it will start and when it will subside.  It’s not that some form of work is not possible; it just has to be arranged around the disability – maybe totally.
The solution requires a much more open-minded approach that considers not just the design of the workplace, but the design of the work itself.    Modern technology offers all sorts of imaginative and flexible solutions, working at home (WAH) being an obvious example.
Our local council has decided its offices are largely uninhabitable and something new is needed.  There is an unavoidable gap when there is simply not enough office accommodation available and they have been surprised at how easy WAH has been to organise and their fears over control & productivity have turned out to be ill-founded.
Although it rather contravened the “integration” objective, Remploy had a place within all of this, but sadly the Government seems to have decided it will not continue.  Organisations like this are not an admission of defeat, but a recognition of reality – that with the best will in the world, some disabilities are impossible to integrate – I for one would find it hard to work alongside someone with extreme Tourette’s .
Ignoring the fact that there are currently no jobs available for anyone, the Government’s attitude is narrow-minded and unrealistic to say the least.  It ignores the flexibility needed and relies exclusively on the assumption that anti-discrimination legislation is both comprehensive in addressing all of the issues (which it is not) and has been universally adopted by employers regardless of industry and size (which it has not).
We will undoubtedly soon be faced with another failed initiative, a huge amount of wasted expenditure and much head-scratching before another initiative is conceived, which unless it defines the issues correctly, will also be doomed to follow the same path.

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