October: Disability Employment Awareness Month
This past October was Disability Employment Awareness Month. The annual celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of lack of employment opportunities for disabled people, while also recognizing the contributions that disabled people to both the workplace and our society. PACE are proud to have contributed to this goal by helping some of our members gain employment.
There are still many barriers preventing disabled people gaining employment. A paper published by Papworth trust in 2016 highlights some key issues facing young disabled people looking for work in the UK. For example, did you know there are “11.9 million disabled people in the UK” and “one in five of us are living with a disability and in January 2016”? The UK employment rate among working age disabled people was “46.5% (4.1 million), compared to 84% of nondisabled people”. The study claims the two most common things stopping disabled people from gaining employment are lack of job opportunities (43%) and difficulty with transport (29%).
Speaking from experience, PACE member Alex Dukes who has spent this year working for PACE said:
“Transport has been a big issue for me. Finding a carer that can drive is harder to find than I thought it would be, some carers don’t feel confident enough with the responsibility of driving me, whether it be down to lack of experience or the pressure of driving in a place like London. Luckily, I have the support network to help me do my job, but it is something I need to address in the future.
It’s not all bad news though; Theresa May recently announced in September this year that one million more disabled people have gained employment since 2013, increasing from 2.5 to 3.5 million.
Scope and Virgin Media have partnered together since July 2015 to tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work, inviting members of the public, employers and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly.
To celebrate Disability Awareness month, we would like to share some inspirational stories, welcome Dan Hefferland who would like to discuss what it means having a job and traveling to and from the workplace.
“Hi my name is Dan; I’m 26 years old and have Cerebral Palsy and a full time wheelchair user. I worked as an apprentice for a company called IBM for a year. I secured the job while I was still at college studying my A Levels, I had to go for an interview which was quite nerve racking as it was my first one ever. Long story short, I got the job and I started when I left college in 2011. I live in Chertsey, Surrey and my place of work is in Central London. The closest assessable train station is to the offices where I worked required an extra forty minute travelling time. The job was nine to five so that meant I had to leave the house at six in the morning and I wouldn’t get home till 8 in the evening, Monday to Friday. I know too many of you that sounds crazy, but I loved it, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat, I value my independence very highly, I live on my own in an adapted house and I lived independently in a flat at college for a year. Having a job gave me a sense of purpose and responsibility that I’ve never had before”.
Thanks to Dan for sharing his story. It just goes to show that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t earn a living. With schemes such as Access to Work which offer specialist equipment and support in the work place for disabled people – the future is bright.
Click here for more information about Disability Employment Awareness Month.