Welcome to the Workplace Blog

There’s advice about disability relating to the workplace, legal requirements & accessibility in this section.

How can we bridge the disability employment gap in the UK?

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By Gary Mazin

There has been a lot of press coverage recently about how the Government is falling behind its own targets to have more than 60% of disabled people in work by the end of the decade.

The number of people with disabilities in work is low. Less than half of working age people with disabilities in the UK are in employment, compared to 76% of non-disabled adults. This gap equates to two million disabled people, currently excluded from employment. Why does this gap exist, and how can it be closed?

This is no surprise to me unfortunately, as from my own personal experience I have found that many people and organisations have no intention or wish to employ disabled people. Obviously they will never openly admit this, but from someone who has had their ear to many senior managers in organisations large and small the truth is often more brutal.

Why am I not surprised you might ask? Well I spent more than 10 years working in the recruitment industry, supplying people into the media and creative sector from all ages and levels of experience.

And I have a disability.

So with the combination of the two, I’ve seen how when you look at the recruitment process, disabled people are still being excluded from the system in many ways.

My disability is degenerative and I spent most of my 20s and early 30s hiding my disability from as many people as possible. I did tell my managers and close colleagues, and kept it hidden as much as possible. My reasons were quite simple. As soon as I told someone that I was partially sighted with hearing loss, I could see the immediate reaction and it was rarely positive.

Most of the time people just looked like a rabbit in the headlights and didn’t know what to say apart from “I’m sorry”. You can see their inner monologue shouting at them to ‘act naturally’ or ‘don’t say anything stupid’. By this point I’ve realised that our work relationship has changed, and unfortunately I was never confident or experienced enough to know how to handle these situations myself at the time. There is no training manual given to people with a disability on how to deal with embarrassing or awkward conversations.

I was one of the fortunate people that have a disability and have been mostly in employment for the past 20 years of my life. But the reality is that less than 50% of people who have a disability in the UK are employed. So what can we do? The government seem to think they have a solution, but at the moment it’s not working quickly or effectively enough, as the recent statistics show.
In my opinion a lot of the failings start with poor communication and a lack of understanding. Sure there are more and more organisations that are fulfilling the two tick kite marking system (where they guarantee that an applicant with a disability will get an interview, as long as they meet the standard criteria). This system works for larger organisations usually within the public sector, but there are many many private companies who do not employ this strategy or have any reason to.
When I was working in recruitment I spent a lot of my time helping candidates improve their chances of getting the job they wanted. This was through guidance with their CV, giving them interview tips and techniques as well as general information and help. Having a disability myself I noticed that I was always more astute and aware if someone had a disability or impairment. I found that in most cases people with a disability didn’t know how to broach the subject when applying for a job.
Do they put something on their CV? This is generally seen as the human shop window and people find it very hard to write about themselves, let alone know how they would broach the subject of a disability.

Then there’s the question of whether they tell the company before they have an interview so that the organisation can make reasonable adjustments if needed. The whole area is a minefield and often makes the person with a disability feel more isolated and highlighting their difference even more. I’m sure there were a lot of candidates who had some impairment but was keeping it secret, like I did for so long.

Unfortunately many organisations do not do themselves credit when it comes to the point of encouraging people with a disability to apply for a job. It’s normal for an employer not to have met someone in a wheelchair or a guide dog owner within their work day to day life. They see plenty of information if they’ve watched the Paralympics or seen a cute guide dog programme on the TV. Although one in five people do have a disability, the reality is that you just don’t see enough disabled people in the workplace.

One particular example springs to mind where I was helping a media organisation hire a typesetter to help design their newsletters. I had a very strong candidate apply who met all the criteria of the job and had all the experience required, it helped that she had a warm and friendly personality. She had a visual impairment and needed a screen magnifier.
After speaking to the client they made the reasonable adjustments and she had the interview and took the test on the magnified screen. I was hopeful that she was a strong candidate as in my mind she did everything required. The feedback I received about her really shook me to the core:
“Lovely girl, but I really can’t be doing with all the hassle of employing someone like that. They’re just too much trouble.”

This came from a manager of an organisation with over 1.000 employees in one office alone. How could I respond to that? I was completely flabbergasted and somewhat aghast, especially as they were my client and I had built up an excellent relationship with them. I just didn’t know how to reply. I received an official email half an hour later which explained that the reason they didn’t want to take her application any further was because they didn’t feel she was “a good team fit” and that she didn’t have quite enough experience of working on one piece of software (she did).

When it came to passing my feedback onto the candidate, I decided to try and be honest without intentionally upsetting her. Once I explained about how they just didn’t think she’d be a fit within the team she sighed and said “It’s because of my eyesight isn’t it?” I was crestfallen for her, having had my own knockbacks and rejections due to having a disability I totally understood her resignation of it being about her disability and not her ability to do the job.

The fact remains that the company officially didn’t hire her because of fair reasons, but I know the truth which was quite simply discrimination. During my tenure as a recruitment consultant it became clear to me that discrimination in many forms was still very apparent, and often not subtly hidden. Particularly with regards to disability. I don’t want to generalise but Scope conducted a survey where they discovered that 67% of people actively avoid approaching someone with a disability as they’re afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. It’s not difficult to transfer that to the workplace and discover that many people quite simply are scared of disability, or the unknown.

Since I’ve started as a Disability Awareness Trainer it’s made me even more aware how far we have to go with regards to breaking down these barriers of communication. Until disabled people are fully welcomed socially and with open and honest communication there will still be a real problem bridging this disability employment gap. I’d like to hope that organisations will start to look at their internal teams and think about whether they’re doing enough to be inclusive. A good start is making sure that all Managers and HR staff know the best way to communicate with someone with a disability. Making the organisations self-aware and looking at how they can improve accessibility, whether it be socially, or physically. Once these barriers start to come down, then we can look at how companies can encourage more disabled people to apply. Until we start being more honest and open about our inexperience and lack of communication skills, this gap will never disappear.

Enhance the UK run disability awareness training workshops that can help your organisation become more accessible and equip your staff with knowledge and skills that will help them communicate better with deaf and disabled people. For more information visit www.enhancetheuk.org

Interviewing a deaf person for a job?

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Do you work in HR? Are you interviewing a deaf person for a job? Read our tips

• Don’t spend half the allocated time showing your fingerspelling skills that you learnt from a deaf girl at school when you were seven…. Yes this really does happen and the fake smile we have to put on hurts!

• Please avoid talking too slowly and over enunciating your words … it doesn’t help us understand you and you look just like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit!

• Please look at us when you speak to us. If you’re using a BSL interpreter don’t look at them… Errr hello! We’re over here!! Please look at us when you speak to us, you are interviewing us after all!

• Don’t tell us how amazing we are that we have managed to overcome so many challenges. Ok we know we’re fab, you know we’re fab, so give us the Job! Seriously though it sounds like you pity us and no one wants that.

For more information about our disability awareness training please visit enhancetheuk.org, follow us on twitter @enhancetheuk and find us on all social media channels – just search for Enhance the UK!

Planning a trip in your wheelchair? Read our top tips for a wheelie good time

By | Accessibility, Disability, Emily Yates, How to guide, Lifestyle | No Comments

Five Tips for Wheelie Great Travel

1. Never underestimate the power of planning…. Not all hotels on the Internet really are as wheelchair friendly as they say they are. Do your research and pick up the phone if necessary.

2.Knowing the local lingo always helps … even if it’s the odd ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, or being able to direct a taxi driver ‘left’ or ‘right’, this will make you friends, save you time and money!

3.Checking out transport is a priority …. There are many places that have accessible attraction and accommodations but appalling transport systems. Budget for private drivers or cabs if necessary!

4.Help is more available that you may think … When alone, trying to navigate strange roads, signs and attractions in my wheelchair, I’ve often been inundated with people offering to help me and show me around. Less accessible places can definitely create lasting friendships.

5.Make sure you’re aware of any perks that may come your way… Whether you’re going to a cinema or theme park, alone or with company, it’s very rare that concessions are not available wherever you are in the world. Make sure you use them!!

What to do when you’ve been refused access into a place providing a service for having an assistance or Guide dog

By | Accessibility, Business, Disability, Guide Dogs, How to guide | No Comments

What to do when you’ve been refused access into a place providing a service (e.g. hotel, restaurant, bar or supermarket) for having an assistance or Guide dog

The Equality Act 2010 is quite clear with regards to a service provider providing
‘Reasonable adjustment’ for anyone with a disability to access their premises and have the same experience as any other consumer. In our experience at Enhance the UK we find that people with assistance dogs unfortunately do often get access refusals. The company are breaking the law and this guide is an outline for the steps you could take.

So what do you do if you feel you’ve been discriminated against by a service provider not making these reasonable adjustments and allowing you and your assistance dog the same access rights as any consumer?

  • In the first instance it’s important to get the name of the manager and any members of staff involved in this access refusal, so either call up and get the details afterwards or get someone else to go help getting the information for you.
  • Once you have these details you then have two choices on how to take this further, and it depends on the severity of the discrimination and also your own feelings on what recourse you want from the service provider.
  • Firstly you can try to contact the manager directly either by phone, email or a personal visit. You should prepare to explain how you felt discriminated and what you think the organisation should have done. In most cases the manager will take this seriously and give you a satisfactory conclusion.
  • If you feel that you want to take this further, or having contacted them first they have shown no interest in taking steps to improve their access and services for you then you need to write a letter directly to the company. A handy template can be found on the Equality Advisory Service website: Template letter
  • In this letter you should make it very clear how you were discriminated and refused access, and how you felt. You should also suggest steps they could take to ensure this doesn’t happen again e.g. staff training on assistance dogs, ensuring an assistance dogs sticker is prominently displayed etc.
  • It is important to print out and post the letter (you can send an email as well) as you can send this via the post office to ensure it is signed for and received.
  • You give the company 28 days to reply to your letter. If it is a large organisation and you know they have a social media presence, then you can also spread the word via their facebook or twitter profiles. It’s important not to be seen to slander the company, but you should feel comfortable contacting them through these channels. Social media is very powerful and you may find that you get a quicker response this way.
  • Hopefully you will receive a positive response from the organisation after this time and you feel that they have taken your complaint seriously and taken steps to address this personally, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • If you feel that your case is serious enough and you have not had any positive response from the organisation, then you should think about seeking legal advice. You can get free advice on what steps to take from the Equality Advisory Service. You could also seek advice from your local Citizen Advice Bureau or the Equality and Human Rights Commission who could take direct steps on your behalf. Finally you could look to contact a private law firm who specialise in discrimination cases, there are many that work on a no fee no pay basis. The important thing to remember is that you’re not on your own, and there is plenty of free help and advice around to support you.
  • Hopefully having taken these steps you have now given yourself the confidence to ensure that if you are ever refused access in the future, or receive discrimination from a service provider you now have the steps to take to ensure your complaint is taken seriously.

Further information can be found here:
Equality Advisory Service

Citizens Advice Bureau:

Equality and Human Rights Commission:

An essential guide for businesses on assistance dogs:

houses of paliament

Update on our Campaign for better access and improved disability training for door and security staff qualified through the SIA

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UPDATE 09th March 2016

We’re delighted to announce that through our campaigning we have arranged a meeting with Justin Tomlinson MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People) and Norman Lamb MP (Shadow LD Spokesperson on Health) to meet with Jennie Williams (CEO, Enhance the UK) and Gary Mazin (Head of PR & Marketing, Enhance the UK) to discuss the EDM motion 1103 about giving disability awareness training for security staff. This meeting will be held on Thursday 24th March at 10:15am, Department for Work & Pensions, Caxton House.

We can also confirm a meeting has been arranged for Jennie and Gary to meet with Tony Holyland (Development and Technical Manager, SIA) and Karimah Pedro (Competency Officer, SIA) at 12pm on Thursday 10th March.


It feels like we have come a long way with our campaign which started back in January after I’d been refused entry into the Fire Station Bar by the doorman. At the time I had no idea that what was an extremely traumatic experience, could turn out to be a real positive for the disabled community.

It became clear that the Security Industry Authority (SIA) needs to improve its clarity and ensure disability awareness training is given to all people who receive the qualification as a door supervisor or security guard.

We then spent a lot of our time and energy lobbying MPs and trying to bring this important discussion as much publicity as possible.

After a lot of campaigning and discussions Norman Lamb MP agreed to table an early day motion to discuss this in the House of Commons. Over the course of 3 weeks, this motion has received 29 signatures (and counting!). We also managed to gain support from Lord Holmes and Baroness Campbell. As the MP for Lambeth where the original refusal took place Kate Hoey MP also helped by writing directly to the Home Secretary and Justin Tomlinson.

Full details of how this campaign came about can be read here:



The current EDM:


The Disability Discrimination Act – 20 Years On A Long Way to Go?

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It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that 2015 marks twenty years since the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 came into place. Old footage unearthed by the BBC shows inspiring and vigilant scenes of disabled people at the 1995 lobby of Parliament standing their ground and fighting for what they believe in. Not unlike what we have seen from the suffragettes or the black civil rights movement.

The DDA has since been replaced by The Equality Act 2010, but this marked the first time full civil rights for disabled people were formally acknowledged by law. Thirty years after the Race Relations Act 1965 and twenty since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Yet another reminder that the needs of disabled people are firmly at the bottom of the list in terms of civil rights and how change comes just that extra bit slowly.

Core concepts in the DDA include “less favourable treatment” related to a person’s disability and failure to make a “reasonable adjustment” (in the workplace or with a service provider) to accommodate a person’s disability, and the two go hand in hand. These “reasonable adjustments” would naturally include things like installing ramps in shops or ensuring hearing loop systems are in place at universities.

These are basic rights, documented in a discrimination act twenty years ago no less, to enable disabled people to contribute and participate in society. It is maddening to walk into big businesses and institutions, in this century, who have not given accessibility a second thought. Or in some instances, even a first thought.

Where “reasonable adjustments” haven’t been made, be that due to funding issues or otherwise, accessibility for a disabled person has not been catered for and that then falls under “less favourable treatment” of a disabled person. It is a never ending cycle of discrimination where somebody is left unable to do their job, access education or even buy themselves some clothes.

Here at Enhance the UK we don’t like to scare people with the repercussions of the law or beat you over the head with policies. We do however want to raise awareness of the fact that prejudice of this magnitude would not be tolerated against any other minority group.

We are fortunate enough to live in a society where multiculturalism is celebrated and

we are now in our fourth wave of feminism. Our society balks at police brutality against racial minorities and sexist ‘lad mags’ are now off our shelves after ruthless campaigns.


Let’s show that same passion for disabled people and their rights.


BBC See Hear

Systematic Sexual Abuse Against Deaf Children – The Importance of Appropriate SRE

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BBC Newsnight and BBC SeeHear recently produced a piece about the shocking abuse in Woodford School for the Deaf in East London, which spanned over three decades, and was finally closed in 1991.

The school was run by husband and wife Beatrice and Eric Ingall. She taught the young children, while he was responsible for other general jobs such as driving the bus or ensuring the grounds were in order.

He was also accused of horrifically assaulting the children.

Former pupils heartbreakingly reveal in the film how the abuse “took place every day, at any time” and how Mrs. Ingall was aware and indifferent to the abuse. They also recount how he would enjoy seeing them suffering and even say “thank you” after his ghastly encounters.

The children were aged just 3-11 years of age so most would have been unable to recognise what was happening to them.

Ex-pupil David reveals how he “didn’t know anything. I thought [the abuse] was supposed to be fun and acceptable. I just went along with it, I didn’t realise.”

He says that it wasn’t until later in his life when he was training to become a social worker and was learning about sexual abuse, did he realise what it was that had happened to him.

While we are in no way insinuating that the onus is on the child to be educated about sexual abuse for it to not happen (of course the responsibility always lies with the adult), but David’s story is a reminder of why we desperately need safeguarding measures in place.

However, sadly, in these cases the ability to recognise the abuse would have not been enough for the children to seek help. At Woodford School they were unable to  use BSL and had limited written English vocabulary. This enabled this particular abuse to slip through the net for so long.

There was no true justice for the children at Woodford. Ingall was put on probation and fined £50 in the Seventies but the abuse continued. In 2004 the full case finally came to trial but fell through. The judge stated that too much time had passed and the fact that Ingall was now 80 and senile rendered him unfit to stand trial.

This unfair and disrespectful verdict did not take into account the years of confusion felt by the former pupils and the fact that they didn’t communicate to anyone what had happened to them until they were much older. This proves how dangerous it can be to deny a child the right to their Deaf identity and access to a proper inclusive education.

The NSPCC states that “with hearing children it takes them seven or eight years to disclose [abuse], so you can imagine with a Deaf child it’s much longer.” They also stated that Deaf children “are three times more vulnerable to being abused than hearing children” and that this abuse is still continuing despite many residential Deaf schools are closing down.

Abusers will always seek out the most vulnerable to inflict pain onto, thinking they can get away with it. If we equip Deaf, disabled and other sensory impaired young people with the tools they need to protect themselves we can stop future incidents like Woodward from ever happening.

Here at Enhance the UK we want to create our own online Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) resources which are fully accessible in BSL, highlighting the specific dangers and risks that are prevalent to Deaf and disabled young people and are dedicated to raising funds to do so.

Please sign our petition here and help us campaign for widespread inclusive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools across the country.


 Sources: BBC See Hear ‘Child Abuse, the BSL Bill and Doctor Who.’


Claire Holland Head of Training

Claire’s Enhance the UK Update

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I apologise that it may seem like I have fallen off the face of the earth as it’s been quite some time since I have written my last blog and you may be forgiven for thinking that I have been slacking but the truth is it has been an extremely busy time for Enhance the UK and I simply haven’t had time.

As it stands I am taking a well deserved rest from cleaning on my Sunday morning to share with you all the exciting things that are going on. Funnily enough writing a blog will win hands down over cleaning the bathroom any day of the week!

Well, where to start? We have delivered some great disability and communication training sessions recently at various venues. I am extremely proud of these sessions as I know they are already making such a difference. Staff at Queen Mary’s University reported an increased confidence in communicating with and awareness of barriers that students who have disabilities may face. This can only improve the experience that students have at the university. A newly opened hotel in Colchester are committed to being fully accessible and have realised that this will not happen with physical adjustments alone (although we were able to pick up on a few issues that their architect hadn’t been aware of and help them to put these right) but also with the attitude of staff.

We have helped an organisation to think about ways in which they can make literacy festivals accessible to disabled children and also how they can recruit disabled artists to take part. Being a book worm I am especially excited about this. We have also worked with volunteers and staff of the Big Lunch Extra Eden project to think about ways in which they can make their activities more accessible and am pleased to hear that they are already acting upon all the feedback we have offered. These are just a few of the organisations we have supported recently. Whilst I would like to wave a magic wand and change everyone’s perception of disability I am aware that this simply isn’t going to happen. I take comfort from the fact that we at Enhance the UK are changing perceptions one organisation at a time.

I have had the opportunity to return to a school that we have trained in before and deliver more disability awareness sessions to children between the ages of five and 11. I love these days, although to say they are hard work is an understatement. One little girl made me smile. When asked how I woke up in the morning , she responded sad – bless her. We had a long chat about the fact that I am not sad that I am deaf at all. These kind of conversations with children are essential to change their attitudes towards disabilities.

We launched our new one day introduction to BSL and Communication tactics course at the National Gallery a few weeks ago. All of the staff who attended were keen to practise their new found skills and I am sure will make Deaf members of the public feel very welcome and will be able to communicate with them much easier. The fantastic feedback we received from this can be seen here. This course is something that we are keen to encourage other organisations to send staff on if they are unable to commit to more intense training.

We have also been talking to companies about making their websites accessible to Deaf BSL users and are pleased to say that we have worked with one company to make their website accessible (details will follow once they have launched it) and are talking to several more. This is an area we feel very passionate about and are constantly working on.

We have filmed the first part of our Undressing Disability film to raise awareness of the importance of disabled people not being desexualised and having access to appropriate sexual health advice and sex education. We have more to do before it can be launched but I have every faith that the film is going to be fantastic! The day itself was really special. I have never had the pleasure to spend the day with such a lovely group of people. Many involved had not met each other before and yet the support they gave each other was amazing. Everyone managed to make me feel comfortable stripping off to my underwear and anyone who knows me will know that that is no mean feat. We also have some very exciting projects lined up that will be launched at the same time as the film as part of our Undressing Disability campaign. I literally can’t wait!

We have also been working closely with Scope on their End the Awkward Campaign and looking into developing partnerships with other organisations. All of this work has been conducted at the same time as the day to day running of the charity as well as spending lots of time looking for funding for some exciting projects that we have in the pipeline. All I can say on that matter at the moment is watch this space.

Wow, simply writing this blog has made me realise just how much we have managed to accomplish over the last few months. I have every faith that we will continue to change the perception of disability over the upcoming months as we at Enhance the UK are not the type of people to sit on our laurels. Now I really must get back to cleaning that bathroom, but I promise I won’t leave it as long for the next update!