Q&A with Dave Williams, Inclusive Design Ambassador, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Q. What is your role and background?
A. I work for RNIB's Inclusive Design team. We test technology products and services, facilitate training for businesses, and create community media content to enable blind and partially sighted people to work, learn and travel independently.
My background is in assistive technology product management, where I designed, tested, and marketed screen reading software, braille display hardware and other tools required by blind people to access education and employment.
Q. What does access to employment mean to you?
A. Enabling everyone to reach their potential irrespective of disability.
Blind and partially sighted employees bring creativity and problem-solving skills to your workforce. We have held high political office, worked in finance, healthcare, tourism, and many other sectors. We are also very loyal and enable your organisation to gain deep insights into the needs of your diverse customer base.
Most disability is acquired. Anyone can become disabled at any time. How would your organisation adapt if a valued colleague with specific expertise were suddenly disabled? How would your organisation continue to benefit from their skills, experience, and talent? The answer is to make your physical and digital working environments accessible and inclusive.
You can start your journey toward becoming an accessible employer by making sure job adverts and application forms work well with assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. You can train recruiters to confidently communicate with disabled candidates, recognise the significant benefits, and value that come from employing disabled people. Onboarding and CPD training systems and processes must also work well for all colleagues. This is just the start. But often the most important change is mindset and developing an inclusive team culture.
Q. What is your experience of inclusive workplaces?
A. I feel very lucky to have been in work for most of my adult life, especially as three quarters of working age blind and partially sighted people are unemployed. I have been office based, worked overseas, while travelling and worked from home. Each has pros and cons.
For the most part, my line managers and colleagues have been willing to make information accessible in a format that I can use. I have also been made to feel included and valued at face to face and remote team meetings, while working together on projects, and at staff social occasions. My employers have trusted me to represent their organisations at international industry conferences and in print and broadcast media.
The government's Access to Work fund helped pay for the specialist tools I need to do my job. For example: I have a braille display which means I can read with my fingers instead of my eyes. Access to Work can also help with transport to work and human support costs.
Some inaccessible systems and outdated attitudes have presented barriers along the way, and we must not underestimate those challenges. But solutions or workarounds are usually available.
Q. What developments have you been most pleased with since working in this area?
A. Technology has played a huge part in enabling me to stay in work. As a blind person, I can use standard desktop packages for accessing information and communicate with clients and colleagues. Every smartphone, tablet and laptop have a powerful set of accessibility tools built-in that can help with getting the job done. And when systems are not accessible out of the box, screen reader scripting and human support can overcome some of those barriers.
Q. Why should someone attend this webinar?
A. You will gain access to lived experience, skills, and knowledge you need to confidently maximise the potential of all employees, including those with disabilities.
Accessible and inclusive organisations are more likely to succeed. You benefit from the purple pound, the combined spend of disabled customers plus business from our friends and families. Brand loyalty, referrals, positive reviews all increase when customers have inclusive experiences. You cannot afford to miss this one.
Access to Employment: A Dialogue on Inclusive Workplaces, is a free online event taking place on the 21st September from 4pm. To register click the following link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/access-to-employment-a-dialogue-on-inclusive-workplaces-tickets-689865344817?aff=oddtdtcreator