Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, accessibility regulations are getting more airtime than ever, and we are more conscious of our obligations to create an inclusive work environment. For the UK it’s still a work in progress, given that systemic exclusion and attitudes often take generations to diminish, and training courses are too often theoretical. But there have been great strides in tangible, effective assistance to help those who are disabled or neuro-atypical to work with more freedom and independence.
Here we take a quick look at just a few of those available options, for you or your employees.
- Brain In Hand is an app which can help those who are autistic, have anxiety, or have difficulty with various social or personal situations. It offers a couple of different features, including a traffic light checking-in system which will call a preferred contact if you hit ‘red’, and a list of your own personal coping strategies if you’re in a situation in which you are anxious or unable to manage – for example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed in a busy place, you can bring up a reminder to put your headphones on and play the music that usually helps. It’s not cheap if you have to buy it outright, but if you have a diagnosis, there are schemes for education providers and workplaces to offer it for free.
- Smartpens are ideal for meetings or lectures if you are d/Deaf, have difficulty in focus or attention, aren’t able to handwrite or read copious notes, or have auditory processing disorders. As an example, Livescribe offer a series of pens which can transfer handwritten notes into shareable documents; convert those handwritten notes into digital text; record audio for playback later; and even (with an extra app) convert that audio into text for you.
- Screen-readers and screen-magnifiers are an incredibly basic thing for an employer to install for you – there are lots of options, both free and paid-for, depending on what kind of hardware and software you use in your workplace. If you need to offer suggestions to your company, you can find a list here.
Flexibility in conditions
- Sometimes the simplest things can make the most difference. Asking for flexible working hours can allow you to start later – for example, if you take medication first thing in the morning that means you have to take a while to ease into the day – or work just a few hours every day over more days per week.
- Remote working can be a huge help if you have difficulty with public transport or driving, or prefer a particular lighting or noise level. Whether this counts as a reasonable adjustment (i.e. your employer can’t refuse) depends on the type of role and industry you’re in.
- Some aspects of what you need in order to work efficiently might be expensive. Your employer isn’t allowed to ask you to pay for reasonable adjustments (the definition of ‘reasonable’ is arguable), but if there’s something that can help you that costs a lot, you can look into applying for an Access To Work grant, which is available for work and traineeships, whether full- or part-time, and covers things like building adjustments and support workers. Currently this is only available in England, Wales and Scotland.
Stay Nimble is committed to helping everyone take part in better work. Your profile helps you focus on your abilities, skills and motivations to help match you to new work in your local area. And when you start that work, we are here for you with guidance on ensuring your work environment is modified if needed and support for you to keep building confidence and resilience.
Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.