Pathways Academy has proved instrumental in supporting young disabled Londoners into work, with 67% of Pathways graduates now working in inclusion-related roles.
Three years on from its 2020 launch, Pathways has trained 40 young disabled people from 14 London boroughs, giving them the confidence, skills and support to kick start a career in inclusion or access roles. It has also just been nominated for Inside Housing’s Women in Housing Awards and Housing Heroes Awards.
Technical & interpersonal skills
City Bridge Trust’s Bridge to Work programme funded the Academy to support and empower disabled people into sustainable inclusive design-related careers. Training is designed to develop knowledge and skills on access and disability awareness in the built environment.
Students learn technical inclusive design skills such as audits, website accessibility, housing standards and wayfinding. They also pick up broader skills such as writing reports, presentation skills and how to work as an access and inclusion expert.
An interim evaluation report of Pathways has found that on completion of the programme, 100% had gained a good understanding of inclusive design with 56% reporting they had a strong knowledge of inclusive design.
Past student Aisling Gallagher was offered a role as an Agent for Change at a theatre company in East London. The role centred on inclusion for disabled people and ensures that access and inclusion is front and centre at all theatre management meetings.
“Even though access consultancy has been something I’ve been interested in for a long time, it wasn’t until I joined Pathways Academy that I understood the steps I needed to take to do the job well and become an accredited consultant,” Aisling said.
Route into access roles
CAE’s Head of Business Development, Fara Muneer, said: “With the Department for Work and Pensions’ Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper (2023) aiming to support more disabled people into work, Pathways can be part of the solution for a route into inclusion and access jobs.”
According to a Social Market Foundation report, almost 400,000 disabled Londoners are unemployed and, in some boroughs, only one in four disabled people are working.
“Although employment rates have risen steadily in the capital over the last 10 years, only half of working age disabled people in London are in paid work. This compares to nearly 80 per cent of non-disabled people in employment,” said Fara.
“Young disabled people who are not in education, employment or training tend to stay stuck in that group for longer and their aspirations dwindle. By age 26 disabled people are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed and, research indicates, by this point they are much more likely to feel frustrated, disillusioned and believe nothing they do will make a difference.”
New careers & programme expansion
This is a story that past trainee Sana Khan can relate to: “I worried about the fact that I only had informal, personal experiences with disability and inclusive design. Not to mention that it’s so different from anything I’ve done before.”
Before joining Pathways, Sana had been made redundant 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
Past Pathways Academy trainee, Sana Khan appropriate job – I started to think, maybe, it’s because I’m disabled,” she said.
Sana was at a low point, until she came across information about Pathways Academy, and realised a career in access and inclusive design was a good fit.
“I pushed myself and took a chance on applying and it’s been the best decision of my life. Not only has Pathways Academy given me the confidence to pursue a new career, it’s also introduced me to a group of like-minded peers.”
CAE aims to build on the success of the first three years of Pathways Academy with future plans including opening the programme to all age groups and seeking funding to expand the programme into a national initiative.