In the same way educational providers have responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, employers are also required to make reasonable adjustments when employing people with disabilities. It is unlawful to discriminate in the recruitment and selection process based on disability.
The Employment Assistance Fund
The Employment Assistance Fund provides support and assistance to people with a disability to find employment and help in the preparation for commencing work. Funding for modifications in the workplace and other services can be applied for people who are already in employment or about to start work.
Modifications could be in relation to the physical environment and/or adaptive equipment, assistive technology and devices to enable the person to do their job. Access to Auslan interpreting services (or appropriate deafblind interpreters) for people who are deafblind or have dual sensory loss is available through access to the Employment Assistance Fund. An annual fund is also available for employers through application to these funds if there is a necessity for Auslan interpreters to support a Deaf or deaflind person in their role.
The Funding can also be accessed to arrange awareness training in disability, and/or deafness.
The Employment Assistance Fund can also be accessed by Recruitment Agencies to reimburse the costs of Auslan interpreters when supporting people through the application and interview process.
For employers supporting people with disabilities in work experience opportunities in their organisation costs such as insurance may also be met.
Further information can be found via JobAccess and their websitewww.jobaccess.gov.au.
Australian Disability Enterprise
Another initiative of the Australian Government funded through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to support employment of people with moderate to severe disability.
The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services (Australian Government, Department of Human Services) provides Disability Employment Services supporting people with disabilities in accessing and keeping their job.
For eligible people who acquire a disability and may be at risk of losing their job as a result CRS will work with the employer and employee under their Job in Jeopardy programme. The programme will work with individuals and their employers assessing to break down barriers enabling the person to continue in their job or return to work following a break related to the disability or health condition by supporting to access to funding for modifications, equipment or other services as appropriate.
The CRS Australia website will provide further details www.crsaustralia.gov.au.
Employing a person who is deafblind or has dual sensory loss
Prior to an employee who is deafblind or has dual sensory loss starting their job in an organisation consider their needs in relation to communication and whether colleagues will require awareness training to gain an understanding specific communication strategies eg if the employee relies on lip-reading, sign language or methods specifically related to using these methods with limited vision.
Another area where specific training may be required is in sighted guide skills
Consider also whether the employee will be bringing a guide dog into the workplace and what facilities will be required for the guide dog. Does the person require orientation and mobility training to familiarise themselves with their working environment and/or local facilities such as the shops or a café prior to starting their job?
Modifications to the workplace environment for consideration:
- External entrances accessible with tactile indicators on paths.
- Contrasting strips on steps/stairs (external and internal).
- Visual indicators on glass doors.
- Adapting lighting conditions ensuring minimal glare.
- Clear paths through building.
- Contrasting décor eg door frames contrast against door/walls.
- Visual and/or tactile indicators on toilet doors and signage.
- Visual, tactile and/or auditory environmental cues eg in a lift.
- Contrasting handrails on stairs
Accessing the Employment Assistant Fund for workplace equipment and adaptations to support an employee who is Deafblind to function in their role, such as:
- Magnifiers, task lighting, reading/writing stands.
- Assistive technology – electronic video magnifiers (CCTV’s), accessible computer software, braille technology.
- Loop systems, communication devices.
- Telephone adaptations, TTY, large button telephones, amplified telephones, flashing alert systems for telephones.
- Access to National Relay service.
- Vibrating pager system for smoke alarm.
- Auslan Interpreting Services.
Consider whether plans need to be in place in relation to emergency evacuation, however, discuss the employee’s needs with them and avoid making assumptions. (Refer to guidance in Accessing Education).
With the right support people who are deafblind or have dual sensory loss can make valuable contributions in employment.