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Living with Deafblindness

Accessing Employment

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 (EAF) provides employment support and assistance to people with a disability. This could be to find employment and help in the preparation for commencing work. People who are already working or about to begin employment can also apply.
Support may include modifications, which could be in relation to the work environment and/or adaptive equipment. Modifications could also be assistive technologies, and other devices to enable the person to do their job. The EAF also includes access to Auslan and deafblind interpreting services.
An annual fund is also available for employers in certain circumstances. They may apply to access these funds if there is a need for Auslan interpreters to support a Deaf or deafblind person in their role.
The Funding can also be accessed to arrange awareness training in disability, and/or deafness.
Recruitment Agencies can also access the EAF. This could be to reimburse the costs of Auslan interpreters used through the application and interview process.
Employers supporting people with disabilities in work experience opportunities are also eligible. Funding for organisation costs such as insurance may be available.

Further information can be found via JobAccess and their website

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.

CRS Australia

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

Employing a person who is deafblind or has dual sensory loss

Before an employee who is deafblind starts their job in an organisation, consider their needs. For example, in relation to communication and colleague awareness. Consider whether colleagues will need awareness training to understand specific communication strategies. As examples: lip-reading, sign language or methods of communication with limited vision.

Another area where specific training may be required is in sighted guide skills

Consider whether the employee will be bringing a guide dog into the workplace. What facilities will be required for the guide dog? Before starting, does the person need orientation and mobility training to familiarise themselves with their working environment and daily surrounds?

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 for emergency evacuation. In saying this, 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.