By Marianne Rawlins, Limbless Association
The following piece features in the Spring 2018 edition of Step Forward, the quarterly newsletter publication of the Limbless Association.
We decided to featured this piece to mark Limb Loss Awareness Month this year (April 2018) and in it Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager, discusses her views on what accessibility means for an amputee.
Organisations are missing out on a vast pool of talent by failing to recruit employees with disabilities. Often, it’s not the case that organisations intentionally design their processes and practices to be inaccessible, but rather that they fail to consider how to make them open and inclusive. “One of the key areas of our work is to get disability onto organisations’ radars,” explains Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager at Business Disability Forum.
Disabled people can face many challenges when looking for work. Physical barriers, such as access to buildings, are obvious, but less overt issues can be harder to tackle. Sometimes, problems arise around unclear recruitment processes. “For example, we often come across websites that are inaccessible, meaning disabled applicants can’t even apply for jobs. Or it may be that a disabled candidate has an interview, but the organisation doesn’t know how to make adjustments for them during the selection process,” says Lucy.
The fear factor can also put off some organisations. They may be scared of asking the wrong questions in interviews or unsure about the legislation on employing disabled people. “Because of the stigma around disability, sometimes organisations decide it’s easier to employ someone else, and this is where Business Disability Forum can step in and support them. We help them with specific issues, and we can also review their processes.”
Business Disability Forum has over 300 members, including large corporations, such as Sainsbury’s, Barclays, Shell and Microsoft, as well as government departments like HM Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions. “They come to us for help. We are very much about supporting business – whether that’s in the private, public or voluntary sector – and act as a trusted ally.” The aim is to help organisations implement changes that will make it easier for them to attract disabled talent. “However, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all, and that adjustments will always need to be made,” adds Lucy.
Lucy is an amputee and a long-standing member of the Limbless Association. “I became an amputee in October 1993 aged 17. I was on my way to college, where I was studying hairdressing, and I got off the train at my usual station. What I didn’t see was that a fast train was coming through the station. It hit me at 65mph. They found my leg half a mile up the track.”
The accident set Lucy’s career along a different trajectory. “Standing up all day as a hairdresser wasn’t the best option, so I went back to college to do my A-levels. After this, I decided to get an office job, as this would provide me with a good mix of sitting and standing. My previous jobs have ranged from admin, to tech and customer service and then onto my current role at Business Disability Forum.” The job is the perfect marriage of Lucy’s skills and experience, and allows her to pursue her dedication to promoting accessibility. “When I saw the role advertised I thought, ‘What a great fit!’ Finally, I could bring together tech, customer relations and disability – it was the dream job!”
Making tech accessible to all
Lucy runs Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, a group of individuals from leading UK and global organisations who are working together to improve the use of inclusive design and accessible technology. The Taskforce provides tools, best practice, networking opportunities and technology industry influence to help organisations to create and deploy more accessible technology. “Working with these passionate people to make technology more accessible is a real pleasure,” she says.
Lucy’s tips for employers
- Look past the disability and see the person and their skills.
- Don’t be afraid of disability – organisations such as the BDF are there to guide and support you.
- Think of the advantages. Having a range of diverse talent is a benefit to your organisation. These employees will often be great problem-solvers and will provide you with a different perspective.