- By Ben Price & Rowenna Hoskin
- BBC News
A charity for the blind says it’s harder to find paid work today than it was 15 years ago.
Nick Lancaster, 45, from Brecon, Powys, who is blind, said he struggled for 20 years to find work.
Holly Greader, 25, from Cardiff, suffers from chronic pain and Hyperactivity Syndrome and said she had to give up her dream career for her health.
The UK government has announced a plan to make it easier for people with disabilities to find work.
After applying for hundreds of jobs, Mr. Lancaster was finally offered a paid job in March, managing for RNIB Cymru.
Recalling his years of job hunting, Mr. Lancaster said he thinks many potential employers find it difficult to understand how they can support him.
“They were too scared to offer support,” he said.
“A lot of employers don’t understand what equipment and supports I might need and maybe they think the extra support will be too difficult to give me at home, despite the fact that my home is already being adjusted. adapted to my disability and is an ideal location to work from.”
Mr Lancaster will be able to work from home, but said the need to go to work has been an issue in the past, particularly in rural Wales, where public transport is limited.
He said other challenges include application forms with print that is too small for people with visual impairments.
Confidently disclosing his disability to a potential employer, he said, is also a concern, as he still fears being prejudiced.
According to RNIB Cymru, about a quarter of working-age people with vision loss are employed, compared with one-third 15 years ago.
Ansley Workman, director of RNIB Cymru, said: “It’s getting lower and lower and it’s clear that we’re really concerned about that. If you look at the cost of living today and the ongoing problems in the country, it’s clear that we’re really concerned about that. That is, people need to work and need income.”
Ms Workman said the charity is working with employers to give them the skills and knowledge they need to make the workplace accessible to people with visual impairments.
“I think it’s usually a matter of understanding [that] it can be the little tweaks that make the difference,” she said.
“Some people may need something as simple as not having bright lights in the area they are working in or having a larger font size on their computer.”
Emily Roberts, 25, has Cerebral Palsy and has worked as an administrative assistant at Samantha K’s Wedding & Occasion wear for six years.
“It is important for people with disabilities to feel they are human and to feel we can live our lives as equals,” she said.
“If the only thing stopping you from working is the work environment, then we need to change.
“My friend actually applied for the job but when she was invited for an interview, she went to the place where the interview was held and there were steps to get in and they didn’t have ramps.
“She told me, ‘I can do the work that I can’t do’.”
Ms. Roberts said creating an accessible workplace for employees also makes it accessible to the public.
“Visibility is very important for people with disabilities, we should go out and live in society, we should live normal lives but we should also feel like there are people out there that we have related and possibly related to us.”
Ms Greader, 25, from Llanrumney, Cardiff, also has Postural Tachycardia Syndromes (PoTs).
She said: “I’ve had quite a few layoffs over the course of my career, including one sizable break when I had to give up my dream career I worked so hard for.”
“I also had to give up the idea of working full-time again and I’m not sure if I would ever work part-time,” she said.
“Personally as an unreliable employee, I wouldn’t really manage a part-time job if I didn’t have the flexibility in my current job.”
Miss Greader works for her fiancé’s company.
“He knows when to tell me to go home or not to come in because I’m pushing myself when I shouldn’t. I can change the date, time, come home late, take a nap during the workday, work from home, go to work, go home, and go home. do in more comfortable clothes.
“The government needs to make it possible for more people to be able to work without sacrificing most of their benefits. What a person can get from being able to work is very rare,” she said. when they make up for what they lose through welfare.”
According to the latest Office for National Statistics data, the employment gap between people with disabilities and people without disabilities in Wales is 32.3%, around 6% higher than the UK average.
Wrexham, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen have the largest disability employment gap of all Wales local government areas.
During the release of the UK government’s Budget in March, Prime Minister Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to attract more people with disabilities into jobs by making it easier for them to find work.
Mr Hunt said the work capacity assessment (WCA), which determines how much a person’s disability or illness limits their ability to work, would be scrapped.
A new support program has also been announced to assist people with disabilities or those with chronic illnesses. The UK government says the Global Aid scheme will fund up to 50,000 job positions each year.
Megan Thomas from Disability Wales said scrapping the WCA was a “positive step” but suggested the changes should go further.
“One of the things we see is that there are a lot of barriers not only to access to work but to better paying jobs,” she said.
“That barrier often arises for a multitude of reasons, whether it’s access to education or access to the workplace.”
Ben Francis from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) said he would like to see more support for people with disabilities to become freelancers.
“We would like to see government and employers come together to form some kind of ‘start-up’ program that will eventually encourage people with disabilities to come to work and one of those elements will favor employment.” self-employment as a viable path,” said Mr. Francis.
“A report by the FSB found that 25% of small business owners have a disability or some medical condition, so a lot can be learned from them about the benefits of self-employment.”