How to be Disability Confident
The session run by Remploy and the Institute of Employment Professionals at the IntoWork Convention, titled ‘Ambassadors for Inclusion’ was a chance for Remploy and the IEP to showcase the exciting work we are doing together. We think the Ambassadors programme that we are building will make a real difference, by promoting positive messages about disability and work, and giving a powerful voice to disabled people.
Two disability Ambassadors, Tony Collins and Anna Wharfe, presented on the subject of their own experience in managing a disability or health condition at work, and the adjustments that have worked for them. They also spoke about the support they can provide to employers wanting to improve their disability confidence, as part of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme.
Anna Wharfe is a Mental Health Ambassador. She told the session that she lives with anxiety, and that she developed this mental health condition in work, shortly after she started in her role at Remploy. Her line manager has been very supportive, and one of the adjustments which has helped is her ‘invisible panic button’ where she lets her manager know that she is unable to work on a particular day, and will make up the time on her non-working day. This means Anna knows she’s not letting her employer down if she ever feels unable to work.
Anna also talked about imposter syndrome, something which she feels is a more serious condition than many people recognise. She spoke about feeling like a ‘council house kid from Oldham’ who couldn’t possibly be good enough for the job she was in, or the challenges that her job required her to step up to. This feeling was so intense that it heightened her anxiety. She thinks it might help if we were encouraged to be more open about our feelings of inadequacy, instead of always putting on a brave face at work.
Tony Collins is a Learning Disability Ambassador. Tony spoke about how important work is to him, and how determined he is never to live on benefits. He has been in work all of his adult life, but his first two jobs – before the introduction of the Minimum Wage – were not paid monetarily. Tony’s first job was for a leisure centre where he was ‘paid’ in tokens from the lockers. In his next role, at a clothes shop, he was ‘paid’ in coat hangers. Tony asked the session why they thought he had been paid in that way.
Tony told us that he thought the most important adjustment he had received was a working interview, on applying for his job with Remploy. He was given the chance to show what he could do, over the course of a few weeks, rather than having a formal interview, which would have played to his weaknesses. He also spoke about the importance of a trained job coach, who supports him with the parts of his job that he finds harder to manage.
Tony concluded, “working makes me feel included, a true citizen, like other people.”
Scott Parkin, IEP Chair said: “Anna and Tony did a fantastic job. Opening up about their own experiences gave us a true picture of what is actually happening in the real world and an invaluable insight into ways employers can make a difference.
This is a great initiative and one that IEP are proud to support with training, development and opportunities to gain experience presenting and networking. What could be better than employers hearing what they need to do, often much less than they initially think, to make their recruitment processes and operational environment truly available and accessible for people with disabilities; learning from people who really know.
We expect that this will become, under the Disability Confident banner, the blueprint for the future and encourage all employers in our industry to take a look at what this can deliver for you and achieve for your entire workforce.”