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How to support staff with disabilities during coronavirus lock-down

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Q & A

Q: If a worker has Parkinson's disease, what challenges would they likely experience when working from home?

A: Difficult to answer this specifically as the nature of the condition means it will impact on people in different ways and to different degrees. Parkinson's disease is one of the conditions listed as a vulnerable group in the current pandemic – it should be noted so it is important for people with the condition to follow stringently the social distance measures. Where people are able to work at home there will need to be considerations as to whether working at home presents any particular barriers and if so, how these barriers can be addressed perhaps through putting in place adjustments. It is very difficult to make specific comments or recommendations on this.

Q: Regular virtual meetings are being recorded more and more often, how can we put captioning easily on them?

A: Things are improving in this area, as mentioned in the presentation Microsoft Teams added captioning on Android and IOS platforms just this week. Zoom has a closed captioning option which, whilst is not ideal, can help make a meeting more inclusive. There are also other organisations that can help make meetings more inclusive – MyClearText can provide live captioning solutions. SignVideo also provide remote solutions for BSL users.

Q: Are employers required or obliged to make provision for disabled parking where there is a workplace car park, and where do employees stand if there aren't sufficient spaces?

A: If your business occupies premises which have car parking facilities for visitors or customers, then you will be subject to specific duties under the Equality Act 2010 ("the Act") as an employer, a tenant or a service provider. There are no specific requirements under the Act to make provision for a certain number of disabled car parking spaces. Still, consideration should be given to ensuring that there is an appropriate number of spaces that are in a sensible proximity to the relevant building and that their use is policed in some way. Where there are no car parking facilities available, an employee might be able to get support for the cost of taxis to work via the government's Access to Work scheme. This can be helpful in overcoming specific car parking challenges where there is limited or no space.

Q: Our building has a listed status as we are attached to a former mansion house. We do have offices in the old building but access is very limited – there is a short flight of steps leading to the offices and narrow corridors so it isn't user friendly for people with mobility needs. Due to the listed building status, where do we stand in terms of making it accessible? We have evacuation chairs but due to the structural limitations these do not work in the old building and the steps lead onto a very small landing and a card access door so a stair climber wouldn't be practical.

A: Whilst the duty on employers (and service providers) still exists in relation to historic or listed buildings, there are specific considerations that come into play. Approved Document M, issued under the Building Regulations 2010 gives guidance and sets out minimum standards. It should be noted that the need to conserve historic buildings is recognised. The aim is to improve accessibility where practically possible, but not so as to damage a building or prejudice its character. Where it is not possible to meet the guidance, an Access Statement can be produced to clarify why deviation is necessary. The duty exists alongside the planning system and historic buildings still possess protection granted through the listed building regime.

Q: You mentioned that Dragon software are being flexible on licenses so people can install at home – I can’t I find this on their website, do you have any more specific information about this?

A: My comment on this related to specific providers rather than the manufacturers themselves. We have heard, anecdotally, that some of the companies that arrange licensing agreements have been supportive and helped employers and individuals overcome licensing concerns caused by remote working. Best to speak to a provider if you currently work with one.

Q: Can you clarify whether there is an obligation on employers about adjustments for mental health and cognitive issues?

A: Yes, the Equality Act and the duties this places on employers applies to both physical and mental health. Equally this extends to neuro diverse conditions, learning disabilities and difference.

Q: Any news on when or if Zoom will provide live captioning? For a major provider they seem really behind.

A: Nothing specific unfortunately – they have the closed captioning option but that is not ideal. There are companies that can provide speech to text captioning for meetings remotely, MyClearText may be able to provide solutions for you in the interim.

Q: What was the name of the government support mentioned?

A: It was Remploy.

Q: Stocks are already very low. As a business we have been told to use MS Teams over Skype as its more stable and doesn’t have as many capacity issues as Skype?

A: Agreed - Experience and feedback tends to support that Microsoft Teams is both more stable and versatile than Skype.

Q: Do you think moving forward employers are going to look at a more flexible approach to working post Covid-19?

A: I believe so. The extent of remote working and the increasing ability to perform significant elements of a role support even greater flexible working in the future. I hope that this transfers to enabling more disabled people to access employment, including those that have historically found it difficult to access the labour market.

Date & time

Friday 27 March 2020, 12.30pm

Presenter

Adrian Ward, Head of Disability Partnerships, Business Disability Forum

Overview

In this webinar, Adrian Ward, Head of Disability Partnerships at Business Disability Forum, will provide an overview of the key components required to create a fully inclusive and ‘disability-smart’ organisation, including how to make sure disabled employees are supported during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The session will focus on the importance of ensuring that employees can obtain adjustment to enable them to work effectively, particularly in the current climate.

About the speaker

Adrian Ward

Adrian is Head of Disability Partnerships, leading the teams responsible for all relationships with Business Disability Forum’s Members and Partners as well as overseeing our consultancy and learning and development services. Adrian is an experienced disability consultant and has an extensive background in human resources within the public sector, specialising in diversity and inclusion.