Changing perceptions one project at a time

camden

Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

Costain-Skanska Joint Venture is working with CamdenAbility and Business Disability Forum to improve dialogue between employees with disabilities and managers

CamdenAbility is a collaborative project funded by Camden Council and co-delivered by Cross River Partnership and Business Disability Forum. The project works with businesses throughout the London borough of Camden with a view to improving how organisations attract, recruit and retain people with disabilities. The ultimate aim of the project is to identify employment opportunities for Camden residents with disabilities, impairments and long term conditions.

Costain-Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV) has been working with CamdenAbility for 18 months. CSJV is delivering the High Speed 2 enabling works in and around Euston station through to West Ruislip. It has teamed up with CamdenAbility, jointly headed up by Adrian Ward, Senior Disability Consultant in the Specialist Solutions team at Business Disability Forum and Cross River Partnership’s Specialist Workplace Coordinator Parma Sira, to help find ways to ensure employees were comfortable sharing personal information about their disabilities.

Alice Jennison, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at CSJV shares how working with Business Disability Forum increased participants sharing their information:

“Using the consultancy support available via the project we approached Adrian at Business Disability Forum for some help to increase the number of staff who provide details of their protected characteristics. At the time, 52% of staff had not communicated whether they did or did not have a disability. This made it really difficult for us to understand the needs of our staff, and also know what positive interventions and support should be put in place.

“Adrian offered insight into why staff might not feel comfortable to share their personal information, and produced a communications plan to relaunch our survey. He also provided advice on the best ways to discuss disability, and rephrase the question to be more positive.

“We changed the wording of the questions in line with the Equality Act but also to broaden the scope of what we mean by the term ‘disability’. The rate of preferring not to say went from 52% to 14% in less than a year. The result is that the information we hold about our staff is more accurate now – 9% have told us that they have a disability (it was 1% before the survey).

“Since being involved with the CamdenAbility project people’s perception of being disabled in our organisation has changed. It might have been the visible disabilities people thought about, but at 9%, nearly 1 in 10 people have disabilities in our organisation – and line managers now realise there are people who would benefit from conversations about this.

“This means that we can have a pinpointed dialogue with managers now – to talk about what these disabilities are, how to lead conversations and how we can support our staff.

“The impact of working with Business Disability Forum has been organisation wide – we recently gained Disability Confident Employer status to enable us to tailor support to existing staff, and ensure our recruitment is open to all.

“We look forward to Adrian and Business Disability Forum hosting more events such as the Construction Roundtable hosted in February. It’s vital we work as an industry together to attract the best and brightest talent. Health and safety is obviously an essential element in this – we would love to work further to understand how disabled employees can contribute to our projects as employees.”

To find out more about how CamdenAbility could work for you, go to: https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/our-services/consultancy-services/camdenability/

 

The Click Away Pound survey is officially launched

By Rick Williams


“Here’s a question: does the Equality Act place obligations on business about making their websites accessible and usable for disabled people? Well… err…yes.

OK, so the second question: why is it so many websites aren’t readily accessible or usable for disabled people? I don’t know the answer but it puzzles me.

I’m a blind guy and use a screen reader – you know, that bit of software that reads out what’s on the screen with a voice like Micky Mouse on helium. I would say I was quite an experienced user but it amazes me the number of websites that I find hard to use or can’t use at all! This is so frequent now I got to the point of not even noticing. I just tried one and if it didn’t work I tried another wherever possible. Last year I started keeping stats just for my own curiosity. When doing a search for something new, especially if I wanted to buy something, it was surprising to find that I would typically look at three or four sites before I found one I could use easily.

Business Disability Forum. Marketing photos

Do I contact the sites I can’t access and take up the issues? Actually, I’ve given up. I have done it but… well they usually don’t understand or even reply.

On the other hand if I find a site I can use then I use it as much as possible; often even if I know I might be able to get things cheaper elsewhere. For example, I find it easier to have my supermarket shopping delivered and the best site I found to use is Ocado, so I use it. I know some things would be cheaper elsewhere but, well, the accessibility of the site and the app make it so easy why would I bother to look elsewhere when my experience tells me I’m likely to find problems.

The other thing that I find odd is that my company has been running Business Disability Forum’s e-check service http://www.e-check-it.com since 2008. In that time 70% of the sites we’ve reviewed were given a ‘red’ assessment – in other words ‘significant potential commercial, PR or legal risk’. Even more surprising is the low number of organisations who have got such assessments who’ve done anything about it!

So, putting this together: there is a law but it isn’t that successful and many businesses don’t seem to think this is an issue. OK, so what we need to do is find out what this costs businesses and maybe the bottom line will persuade them that website accessibility and usability is important as a business issue.

Working with Business Disability Forum and supported by the RNIB and Enterprise Rent-a-Car we’ve just launched the Click-Away Pound survey, which aims to find out what disabled people’s experiences are when shopping online, what they do about problematic sites and the potential costs to business of not thinking about the issue.

If you have a disability give it a go – only takes 10 minutes and will help improve the Internet experience for disabled people.”

For more information and to take the survey visit: http://www.clickawaypound.com

Rick Williams
Managing Director
Freeney Williams Ltd
http://www.freeneywilliams.com

A step too far?- A comment on the recent Court of Appeal decision handed down in the matter of Paulley v First Group plc.

By Bela Gor


So the Court of Appeal has decided that bus companies are not required to expect that passengers move out of a wheelchair space on a bus to enable a wheelchair user to travel. The Court decided that it was “a step too far” to compel other passengers to vacate a wheelchair user’s space on a bus. One Judge said that he would “hope and expect” that drivers would do more than simply ask passengers to move but that the law did not require them to do so.

Man in wheelchair getting into a bus

The Court of Appeal’s decision seems inconsistent with the duty to make reasonable adjustments enshrined in law. Mr Paulley has the right under the Equality Act to travel on a bus and the duty to make reasonable adjustments enables that right. Is this not akin to the right that Rosa Parks should have had, as a black woman to sit at the front of the bus? To say that Mr Paulley’s ability to travel on a bus is dependent on the courtesy, unselfishness and moral niceness of other passengers is the same, surely, as saying that Rosa Parks could have sat at the front of the bus if nice white folk didn’t mind – no need for a right protected by law. The woman with the buggy didn’t have a legal right to occupy that space. She just chose to do so and chose not to move when asked and the driver and First Bus Co chose not to compel her to move.

If bus companies don’t have to have a policy to allow wheelchair users to travel then many disabled people won’t be able to guarantee that they can get to work on time or to meetings, hospital appointments or as in this case, a family lunch.

If the final decision of the Court is that the choice of non-disabled people supersedes the rights of disabled people protected by the Equality Act then where does this leave disabled people in this country? Expect to see more on this case.


Join Bela for a discussion on recent key developments in employment and disability at our Legal Workshop on 14 January. Click here to book online or call 020 7403 3020.

Stat of the month: Pre-employment health questionnaires

By Angela Matthews

A recent report published in the Occupational Health at Work journal showed research conducted on the use of pre-employment health questionnaires. Some of the findings suggest that the implementation of section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 – which says that it is unlawful to ask candidates about their disability or health before offering them a job (with some exceptions) – has had a significant impact. The research compares the differences in practices between 2006 and the present.

In 2006, 36 per cent of organisations were using pre-employment health questionnaires to ask extensive questions that make enquiries into, for example, candidates’ history of mental health, long-term conditions such as epilepsy and, for women, gynaecological issues. Only 8 per cent of organisations now continue to use these questionnaires. The research found that questionnaires now tend to be used as part of a conditional offer of employment rather than before an offer is made.

30 per cent of organisations now ask for a ‘declaration of health’ rather than asking questions in a ‘questionnaire’ format. The average number of questions in 2006 was 28, and this has now fallen to 15. It therefore appears that the Equality Act 2010 has helped to improve things.

There is, however, some not-so-good news. Two thirds of organisations ask questions about disability for monitoring purposes, but one in five organisations allow the recruiting panel to see this information. In addition to this, 93 per cent of organisations ask if adjustments are needed for an interview, but 61 per cent ask this on the application form.

If you are unsure whether or not your organisation’s practices are compliant with section 60 of the Equality Act 2010, please contact our Advice Service on 020 7403 3020 or advice@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk.

Stat of the day: Health questionnaires and recruitment

By Angela Matthews

Who’s up for some good news?

Today we’re on the use of health questionnaires during recruitment, and it looks like things have improved since the introduction of the Equality Act (which says that questions about disability and health should not be asked before offering a job to someone). This research has come via an At Work Partnership press release and has been published in a recent edition of the Occupational Health at Work journal.

  • In 2006, 36 per cent of organisations were using pre-employment health questionnaires. This figure has now fallen to 8 per cent. The research found that questionnaires now tend to be used as part of a conditional offer rather than before an offer of employment is made. In 2006, many organisations were asking extensive pre-employment questions about conditions such as epilepsy, mental health and – for women – gynaecological issues.
  • 30 per cent of organisations now ask for a ‘declaration of health’ rather than asking questions in a ‘questionnaire’ format. The average number of questions in 2006 was 28, and this has now fallen to 15.

It therefore appears that the Equality Act has helped to improve things. But our work is not yet done:

  • Two thirds of organisations ask questions about disability for monitoring purposes but, unfortunately, 1 in 5 are allowing the recruiting panel to see this information;
  • 93 per cent of organisations ask if adjustments are needed for an interview, but 61 per cent ask this on the application form.

The ‘good fight’ continues…