WECIL Joins Deaf Unity’s Deaf and Disabilities Careers Fair 2016

Published: Aug 9th, 2016

WECIL charity logoDeaf Unity is delighted to that the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL) will be joining us at our Deaf and Disabilities Careers Fair in September 2016. Based in Bristol, they are a great source of support and services to people with disabilities in the local area. We interview Alex Johnston at WECIL to find out more about the organisation and why you should make a beeline for their stall at the Deaf Careers Fair.

Hi Alex, it’s great that WECIL showed their support at the Deaf and Disabilities Careers Fair 2016. As a charity dedicated to improving the lives of disabled people, your team are very much aware of the barriers and challenges deaf and HoH people face in everyday life. Can you tell us a bit more about these, and what particular themes do you notice time and time again when working with people with deafness?

As for all disabled people, deaf and hard of hearing people face environmental/physical barriers, organisational barriers and attitudinal barriers. For deaf and hard of hearing people, the most difficult barriers to challenge are the attitudinal ones. Many people do not understand the implications of a hearing loss for independent living. Deaf and hard of hearing people face discrimination, often because of ignorance, in their daily lives. In particular, we notice that:

  • Many people do not understand the principles of clear communication and are reluctant to change their behaviour e.g. in meetings, to include deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • People do not understand the implications that early deafness may have for literacy in English.
  • People are reluctant to learn and use British Sign Language.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing people, particularly BSL users, can face discrimination in the workplace, particularly in promotion and career opportunities.

How does WECIL aim to help people with deafness to overcome these difficulties? What services/support do you provide to those who struggle to communicate and lead normal lives because of a hearing loss.

WECIL provides Advocacy, Information, Youth Groups, Social Groups, Employment Support and Direct Payment Services.  We are committed to making all of our services for disabled people inclusive for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Is WECIL’s helpline accessible to the deaf and HoH? How do you recommend people with deafness getting in touch and reaching out to WECIL for support.

Deaf and hard of hearing people can contact our helplines (Disability Helpline and the Employment Advice Service) through Skype or email or in person if they live locally. One of our Work Club Assistants is himself deaf and a native BSL user. We also have a member of staff at our main office at Link House who uses British Sign Language.  Several of our staff understand the importance of clear communication and have received deaf equality training and sessions in basic BSL.

Can you explain the Social Model of Disability and how this influences the work you do as an organisation? What does it mean and how does it apply to people with deafness?

A volunteer giving employment support to a deaf personPeople often think about disability in terms of “What’s wrong with you and how can we fix you?” or “If you can’t be fixed then you may not be able to take part in activities until a solution can be found to your ‘problem”. This is called the Medical Model of Disability.

Disabled people’s organisations think about disability in a different way. A person has an impairment or long-term health condition that affects how they carry out tasks in daily life. They have the right to take part fully in activities along with everyone else but the way that society is organised means that things that can get in the way and prevent them from doing so (what we call barriers). Society can be designed so that it does not dis-able people. This is called the Social Model of Disability.

This Social Model underpins everything we do at WECIL. We work towards creating an inclusive society where everyone’s access requirements will be met, including those of deaf and hard of hearing people.

What kinds of employment support does WECIL offer people with disabilities – particularly those who have hearing difficulties? How do you work with them to give them the confidence and resources to get into employment?

Our Work Club offers employment support and advice to disabled people. It’s open from 10am until 3pm on Mondays to Thursdays, and is fully accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. We have a range of assistive technology and staff and volunteers who can provide one-to-one support and on Thursdays we employ a deaf Work Club Assistant who is a BSL user. Funding permitted, we offer courses designed to improve employability and, in the past, we have run courses delivered in BSL.

We have a peer-support ethos, which means that we aim to create an atmosphere where Work Club users can support each other and solve problems together. We also run a national employment advice service, through which we can support disabled people into employment and with job retention and career progression. Our staff can support Access to Work claims and provide customised training for employers.

We have just been selected by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to run a series of Journey 2 Employment courses for disabled people in Bristol and we hope to see deaf people joining these.

Please tell us a bit more about your involvement in our Deaf and Disabilities Careers Fair and what you’re looking forward to sharing with visitors about your organisation and the support you provide.

We are very pleased to be taking part in Deaf Unity’s Deaf and Disabilities Careers Fair and we are looking forward to sharing insights about the employment of disabled people from our unique perspective as a disabled-led organisation.

For unemployed disabled people visiting the fair this will be an opportunity to discuss their situation, talk through their CV and get advice about issues such as Access to Work and reasonable adjustments with members of our employment support team. Attendees will also be able to find out more about our services, including our local Work Club, and learn more about the ongoing support available to them.

For employers at the fair, it will be an opportunity to talk to our business relationship team about the specialist advice and training services we offer around recruiting and retaining disabled staff. We could also discuss with them the possibility of offering work placements or work trials to disabled people.

 

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