As L&D specialists we must also ask ourselves, how confident are we when it comes to our own awareness of disability? Do we know the appropriate terms to use when delivering training to a group which has participants with disabilities? Are we confident of our knowledge of employment and equality legislation and its relevance to disability? Do we know the barriers that people with disabilities face? Do training programmes ensure access for all or are we inadvertently excluding some?
Unfortunately, because of a lack of awareness when it comes to disability engagement there are still many companies in Ireland who are reluctant to fully engage people with disabilities as employees. The recruitment of people with disabilities is often viewed as 'risky' and 'too much hassle' for some. Employers worry about legal issues if the job doesn't work out, or insurance issues if the employee with a disability has an accident in the workplace. Management express concerns around absenteeism and disability related illness, while some accounts departments fear the financial cost of accommodations. These apprehensions are linked to a lack of awareness of what disability is, as well as what it is not.
The Irish government has recently moved to address these apprehensions with implementation of Action 20 of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 - 2021. Under this strategic plan all government departments and public bodies have an obligation to train every employee in disability awareness by 2021.
As we edge towards the final year of this strategy, it is important that government organisations and public bodies who have an obligation to train staff in disability awareness act soon. This will ensure delivery of a training programme which is viewed as a genuinely impactful part of departmental strategy, rather than a 'box ticking' exercise in the latter part of next year.
While government disability inclusion strategies do not apply to the private sector, there are other initiatives which aim to address apprehensions and encourage companies to create greater awareness of disability within their business. The Disability Awareness Support Scheme (DASS) is a grant scheme funded under the government's Reasonable Accommodation Fund. Companies who provide disability awareness training for their staff may be eligible to apply for grant aid which can cover up to 90% of the cost of training. This grant applies to both in house and web-based training.
With a strategic disability inclusion initiative for the public sector, and a grant funded scheme for the private sector, L&D specialists who are developing training plans for next year have ample supports to commit to disability awareness training.
Ability Focus is a Disability Awareness consultancy which delivers contemporary disability awareness training programmes as our primary service offering. With the onset of the pandemic last March, programmes were immediately adapted to remote delivery. What was originally a half day on site disability awareness training programme is now delivered at 4 x 1-hour live sessions, delivered at times agreed in advance with each client organisation. Due to remote working becoming the norm for the foreseeable future, training which is delivered in 1-hour time slots offers a break from participants daily work schedule while also ensuring delivery in a time effective and highly cost-effective manner. Training of this type is also completely unaffected by localised lockdowns and 'work from home' requests by government.
We passionately believe that in order to ensure increased uptake of disability awareness training as well as an effective programme delivery, training should have a confident, positive and proactive approach. When delivering training we focus heavily on a number of core areas:
• Effective communication
• Diversity within disability
• Legislation & reasonable accommodation
• Non-visual disabilities
• Disability Awareness
• Disability etiquette
• Barriers to employment and inclusion.
At Ability Focus, we believe the primary barrier and main disabling factor in the lives of many willing job seekers, service users and customers is the lack of awareness of disability within Irish organisations. Companywide awareness of disability is the key component in ensuring longevity of inclusive best practice for organisations in both the public and private sector when it comes to employment, service provision and social engagement.
Recent worldwide events have led to a significant rise in mental health issues, an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions and an increasing number of enduring conditions relating to 'long-covid'. With greater numbers of people now living with a disability, never before has disability awareness training been so relevant. The Learning & Development profession have the ability to raise awareness of this important training to be put on company agendas.
Increasing companywide awareness of disability and reducing the disability knowledge gap will lead to greater understanding of Ireland's most diverse group while also creating social and economic opportunities for people with disabilities. This in turn leads to greater opportunity for everyone, because we can all benefit from diversity in the workplace.
If you are considering Disability Awareness Training for yourself, your colleagues or your organisation as a whole, please get in touch on (01) 699 1150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (01) 699 1150.