Fara Muneer, Head of CAE reports on barriers to employment for disabled people and how CAE are supporting disabled people into inclusive careers.
Finding work as a disabled person can be a challenge even with equality legislation and government policy initiatives, such as getting one million more disabled people into work by 2027 or the new National Disability Strategy which aims to get more disabled people into work or to start their own business.
The reality is stark, there are seven million disabled people in UK who want to work, but only over half (53%) are working – that compares to 81% of non-disabled people in work.
The UK Disability Survey concluded that over half of disabled people seeking work said they need more support to get into work and stay in work. Add to this the overlay of the COVID-19 impact and the disability employment gap has widened.
The pandemic has also impacted income with 70% of disabled people reporting they have seen a reduction in income due to COVID-19.
The motto “nothing about us without us” is a widely used term. It advocates participation by disabled people in the development of policy, and social and economic opportunities for a more inclusive society – this includes involvement in initiatives to support more disabled people into work.
Pathways Academy, launched by the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) is one such example, which supports the belief that disabled people should be part of the voice shaping inclusion in the built environment.
Pathways addresses one of the many barriers to work, which is skills and confidence. It launched in October 2020 with funding from City Bridge Trust, training 13 young disabled people in inclusive design, technical skills, mentoring and support.
One of Pathways’ first-year trainees was Sana Khan. She saw the programme as a chance to start a new career.
Sana had been made redundant in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was finding it tough to secure a new job.
“I had experience in everything from retail and hospitality work to charity work, but I just couldn’t find an appropriate job – I started to think, maybe, it’s because I’m disabled,” she says.
After months of searching, Sana was at a low point, until she came across information about the Pathways Academy and realised a career in access and inclusive design was a good fit.
She says of her experience: “A year ago I didn’t know anything about inclusive design, but the training I’ve received has helped me repair my self-confidence and believe that, yes, I can do this.
“Now, I’m part of a new community and I feel like this career was destined for me”.
Sana is now working as an access consultant specialising in Neurodiversity.
Another past trainee, Agne, also took part in Pathways and said the programme has prepared her for a wider career option.
“I’d like to think that I can use the skills I’ve learnt in Pathways in any future role I work in, even if it’s not related to disability. I should be able to join any organisation and hopefully make it more accessible for staff and customers,” she says.
“I’d really be keen to use what I’ve learnt to make an impact in the mental health sector. There is not enough attention being given to invisible disabilities. I hope my new skills will allow me to bring more of what is missing for disabled people in these services.”
Fara Muneer, Centre for Accessible Environments’ Head of Business, said “For us, making the built environment more accessible for disabled people isn’t just about adding ramps or accessible toilets, it’s also removing barriers to employment and encouraging more employers to recruit and welcome diversity of staff and customers.
“Pathway’s will help develop the next generation of inclusion and disability professionals supporting the vision of a more inclusive society.”
Actress and disability campaigner, Sam Renke, adds: “For young disabled Londoners like me, it can be an anxiety fuelled journey trying to find a job. This is why we need more programmes that support disabled people into work.
“I think it’s great that CAE are not only providing disabled people with employment support, but are encouraging them into careers in inclusive design, which is a subject that effects all disabled people.”
Pathways has an impressive start with over half of past trainees now in work, self-employed, and many are working in disability sector supporting inclusion.
If you are interested in being part of Pathways Academy, contact https://cae.org.uk/pathways-academy/ to find out more.
Ref: Blundell, R., Joyce, R., Costa Dias, M. and Xu, X. (2020), COVID-19: the impacts of the pandemic on inequality, Institute for Fiscal Studies. Social Metrics Commission (2020), Poverty and COVID-19. And Leonard Cheshire Survey Oct 2020