Avatar
Hello
Guest
Log In or Sign Up
International ViewPoint: Strategies for Working Effectively with Clients Who Have Disabilities
September 20, 2019
0

The following article by Malou Twyna – a Career Counsellor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, was first published by CareerWise who helps people working in career development across Canada stay up to date on the top news and trends.

As an Employment Specialist working with people with disabilities, I will always remember my first client who had schizophrenia.

Before we started our work together, I was excited and anxious as well. I had worked with clients with a variety of mental-health concerns before, but schizophrenia sounded serious, challenging and, honestly, a bit scary. The many stereotypes and stigma surrounding the illness made me wonder if this would be a good experience for either of us or if I would even be able to help him find a direction and implement a plan.

Malou Twyna

Despite my lack of experience and nerves, and his differences from my other clients, we concluded our work together when he was hired by his preferred employer and transitioned well to his job. I credit most of our success to his drive to succeed, passion for his chosen area of employment and ability to take advice and implement action steps. In the intervening 15 years of experience working with people with disabilities around career and employment, I realize how much I have learned about being human and helping others professionally.

In my current role as a Career Counsellor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, I join my colleagues in Accessibility Services one day a week as an Integrated Counsellor. Working with students receiving academic accommodations due to a wide array of disability concerns continues to be stimulating and eye-opening. As we move through the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliance process and embrace a more inclusive and equitable world of work, I hope some of my insights on ways to help people with disabilities around career and employment will be useful to you.

The elephant in the room?

Disability in the counselling space can hover around the edges of a conversation as an awkward, taboo subject that neither party feels comfortable broaching. As was the case with my client with schizophrenia, social stigma can reside in both the counsellor and client. Knowing if a student has a disability and how it affects them can inform all aspects of career work such as:

  • Helping to set job goals based on strengths
  • Co-developing workable strategies to build skills and experience
  • Teaching job search skills and customizing approaches to attaining opportunities
  • Supporting clients in adjusting to new work situations

Open discussions around these issues can be key to seeing a client with a disability achieve career success. Despite this, it’s hard to know whether to and when to signal our openness and comfort talking about it, and (more importantly) gauge if and when the client is. Here are some strategies to navigate the sometimes-tricky waters of conversations around career and disability.

If possible, have a frame

Sending an overt signal through marketing your service that you are open to these discussions is very useful. My frame of “Career Counselling for students receiving Accessibility Services” sends the message that I am comfortable and that this area of discussion is welcomed. Signals can be less overt than this such as: creating positive marketing messages to clients with disabilities and their allies, displaying a disability-positive poster in your space (here are some posters focused on post-secondary students), and making your space accessible and welcoming to those with disabilities. Make sure your program registration info and your email signature invite requests for accommodations. These small signals can set the tone for more direct and comfortable conversations around disability issues.

Accommodate your client’s needs

Making people with disabilities comfortable and helping them to get the most out of your services starts with asking them if they need any accommodations. I have found many have been reluctant to get what they need as they don’t want to make waves or get special treatment. Considering they may not have disclosed a disability yet and that moving to this topic immediately is not the best way to build a solid rapport; asking in a more friendly and informal tone can work better. For example: “Before we begin, is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable here or meet your needs better?” As you get to know the client, observe what seems to be working for them and what might be a problem. Examples include: “I noticed you seem to squint a bit when we are using the computer together. Can I move the monitor closer or magnify the text?” or “I noticed you seem less comfortable as our appointments progress and are holding your back. Do you need to take a break to stand up or move around?”

Once a client knows what you mean by accommodations and are serious about providing them, they may be more likely to ask for what they need. If they have disclosed a disability impact but they are unsure of what accommodations might be useful in session or in their community-based activities, check JAN’s SOAR (Searchable Online Accommodation Resource) to learn more.

The relationship is everything

Meaningful conversations around disability, and any barriers and concerns it might present, depend on developing a positive and trusting connection with the client. The best way to do this is to go back to counselling basics: unconditional positive high regard; non-expert stance; transparency about the steps and actions that could be taken; affirming the client’s strengths; and promoting client agency and control over the process. From this solid foundation, a wider variety of topics can be opened and more direct questions can be asked with little risk of damage to the counselling relationship.

Always ask

What are the best questions to ask someone with a disability? The kinds of questions you’d ask of anyone trying to find their career path! You know: questions about the kind of life they envision for themselves, what they value in a career, and what is meaningful and interesting to them. Ask lots of questions about their strengths and achievements – identifying and affirming strengths is especially important for clients with disabilities to counter any stigma on both sides.  Celebrating strengths can be part of establishing trust and for them to know that “you get them” and appreciate them as people first and foremost. I

In most cases, exploring whether discussions around the client’s disability are relevant would come later. If you want to probe if disability concerns are present for the client, I’d recommend asking: “Do you have any concerns about the impact of your disability on your career success (job search, interview etc.)?” and/or “Would it be helpful for me to know more about this / how your disability impacts you?”

Forget what you know

No two people with the same disability have the same experience. Your previous experience with a client with a particular disability may not be very helpful to the next client with the same diagnosis and could be counterproductive. Using previous client situations as a template may result in incorrect assumptions that can limit rapport and shut down dialogue. When taking a referral from another counsellor or organization, try going in with fresh eyes and do not review the client’s case notes substantially (if your organization’s process permits this). Being curious about their lived experiences and being direct can be respectful – if you are confident and ask good questions.

Talk about disclosure

If your clients seems uncomfortable with questions around disability barriers, affirm their right to non-disclosure. This is a great opportunity to explain more about disclosure and accommodations and their right to not disclose in your work with them and beyond.  Becoming knowledgeable about this topic can signal to the client that you can support them to make disclosure and accommodations decisions as a jobseeker, student or employee. A great resource for this is in the UTM Career Centre’s Accessibility Pages.

Get their feedback

Periodically, inquire if the help they are getting is in line with their goals and expectations for coming to see you. Ask them to give some honest feedback on how the sessions could be more helpful to them. Encourage their agency and efficacy by asking them to set the focus each session on what they want to accomplish. For those who have issues with executive functioning, organization or memory, spend some time together before the start of the session brainstorming what they want to accomplish. Providing a copy of your session notes with steps agreed on can enhance client agency and demonstrate your commitment to transparency.

Reflect and debrief

Working with people with disabilities adds levels of diversity and intersectionality that can present great potential for skills growth and profound sense of accomplishment for both the counsellor and client. That being said, sometimes it can be very straightforward, too! That is the beauty of it – it keeps you on your toes and open to whatever the client brings. Returning to the theme of ‘counselling skills 101’, self-reflection on successes and less than successes and learning from them (either alone, with a supervisor or mentor, or in a staff debrief situation) is the key to working well and helping your clients reach their next level of wellness in their careers and life journeys.

Malou Twynam, Career Counsellor. Twynam earned her Master of Education in Counselling Psychology in addition to a previous Master’s Degree in Sociology. Prior to joining the team at the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Career Centre, she worked for 10 years in career services in the not-for-profit sector assisting persons with disabilities to achieve their career goals. She has also worked as a vocational rehabilitation consultant and has provided psychotherapy to post-secondary students and adults in community and private practice setting. Twynam enjoys helping people discover their unique gifts and strengths, explore career possibilities to make confident career decisions. Her greatest satisfaction comes from seeing someone surpass their own expectations and achieve what they assumed was not possible for them.

Businesses Urged to Employ More Older Workers
July 3, 2019
0

Council of advisers set up to help UK seize economic opportunities of ageing society, and Business Champion for the Ageing Society Grand Challenge announced.

A new council of specialists from across society, the UK Longevity Council, will advise how best to use innovations in technology, products and services to improve the lives of our ageing population.

With the number of people aged over 65 set to nearly double to more than 20 million in under 50 years, the government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge – a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy – is designed to harness the power of innovation to meet the changing needs of an older society.

It also aims to ensure that people across the UK enjoy an extra 5 years of healthy and independent living by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and the poorest.

The UK Longevity Council is a vital part of this. It will bring together business leaders, health experts and others from society to advise government on the steps we can take to help everyone lead healthier lives, while exploring how the UK can position itself to lead the world in the growing market for age-related products and services.

The council will act as a forum for interactions and discussions between policy makers, industry, researchers and the public in the area of ageing, and will advise on:

  • how we can think differently about work, finances, housing, communities and health, and explore new technologies, products and services that will benefit and enrich our older population
  • what the government’s high-level priorities should be in relation to demographic change
  • supporting both local and international work to ensure the UK is a global leader and UK businesses can capitalise on global opportunities

Andy Briggs, business leader and insurance industry expert, has been appointed as the government’s new Business Champion for the Ageing Society Grand Challenge and will co-chair the UK Longevity Council with Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock.

To support the Grand Challenge, the government will shortly open the competitions for the £98 million Healthy Ageing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to develop attractive products and services that help people of all ages to live better and more independent lives as they grow older.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said:

Keeping people healthy and independent is absolutely central to our vision for our healthcare system. Living longer should be celebrated but we need to think seriously about how we can adapt society more widely to meet older people’s needs. We must use our industry’s incredible abilities in technology, design and innovation in new, thoughtful ways to support everyone to age well.

Business has a vital role to play in providing inclusive products and services that are attractive to our older population and can enable everyone to stay living at home for longer and keep active. I look forward to working with Andy Briggs and the rest of the Longevity Council to help the UK lead the way in thinking creatively and originally about ageing.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

More than 10 million people in the UK today can expect to see their 100th birthday, compared to 15,000 current centenarians.

As more people live longer, we must ensure people can live independently, with dignity and a good quality of life for longer by harnessing the best technological innovation and advances to help.

Having a dedicated Business Champion in Andy Briggs, working with the new Longevity Council, will ensure that UK companies remain at the forefront of these developments. This is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of these new and emerging industries.

Andy Briggs, Ageing Society Business Champion, said:

Britain has an ageing society, along with many other developed countries, and this provides challenges as well as opportunities.

I encourage all businesses to embrace this excellent opportunity, both by developing world-leading products and services, and by employing more older workers.

Career Breaks Are the New Norm – So Why Are They Still Stigmatised?

When we think of career breaks, motherhood tends to spring to mind. But there are many other reasons why people take timeImage result for career breaks off work, and getting back in isn’t always easy.

Geoff was 44 when he found himself faced with a difficult decision: to leave his 30-year coal mining career behind him and retrain, or to continue doing what he knew best. He was at this crossroads because his 11-year-old daughter was concerned that he was putting himself in danger each day; she was scared of losing her dad. She didn’t know it, but her fear was very much grounded in reality. Mining has the third highest fatality rate of any industry. It now claims the lives of nine workers on average each year, and that number was even higher when Geoff was working in the industry.

With his daughter’s concerns front of mind, he decided to take a leap of faith and retrain as a teacher. Following two years of accelerated study, he found himself in a position where he was entering a new industry for the first time in over three decades. Read more

Only 5% of UK Train Drivers are Women
April 17, 2019
0

Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, has launched the UK’s biggest rail recruitment campaign to attract more women and young people to consider a rewarding career in rail.Image result for Govia Thameslink Railway

In the UK, just five percent of Britain’s 19,000 train drivers are women, but GTR is committed to changing this and has already taken steps to address the imbalance. Last year, 30 percent of Southern’s trainee driver roles were taken up by women, up from 18 percent in 2017. In addition, a class of new trainee drivers on both Great Northern and Southern had a 50:50 gender split in 2018. 

GTR now has over 2,000 qualified drivers across the Southern, Great Northern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express network, the first train operating company (TOC) ever to reach this milestone. 

Read more

The A to Z of Google Accessibility
March 11, 2019
0

Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful to all. In a guest blog on our websiteGoogle sign on the top of a building Google’s Senior Programme Manager for Accessibility, Christopher Patnoe, shares how they make their products accessible and highlights a number of the accessibility features across their portfolio.

Google is able to conduct in-depth product research and gather valuable user feedback through a community that includes advocacy organisations, training centres, schools, companies and governments, to ultimately help shape the future of their products. Read more

100 Years Strong
February 19, 2019
0

It’s been 100 years since Superintendent Sofia Stanley led the first all-female Met Women Patrols on the streets of London

Read more

ESFA First Annual Report and Accounts Published

The following is a press release published by the ESFA.

The ESFA has a sound system of governance and internal control, in its first annual report, which the Comptroller and Auditor General has certified, receiving an unqualified audit opinion.

Since 1 April 2017, we have managed and distributed timely and accurately, just over £61 billion to fund all education and training for all 5 to 16 year-olds, and post-16 apprenticeships and skills in England.

Read more

Equality, Diversity and Faith Events and Celebrations Calendars 2018
January 25, 2018
0

Numerous organisations have created their own versions of equality, diversity and faith calendars for 2018 and three of them can be accessed below.

cipd diversity calendar 2018

UCL calendar 201717-18

Warwick Calendar2017 18

Seeking Disability Sector Champions for 2018
January 9, 2018
0

The Office for Disability Issues is seeking business people to champion accessibility of products and services for disabled people.

The Office for Disability Issues is seeking disability sector champions in 6 new sectors.

In February 2017, 11 sector champions were announced who are using their influential status as leaders in their sectors to drive improvements to the accessibility, and quality, of services and facilities in their sector.

However, while these champions have all made great progress on this agenda in their respective sectors, there is much more to do to provide equal opportunities and choice for disabled people across the whole of society.

So, they are issuing a call for business people to become sector champions initially for a year, in each of the following sectors:

  • trains
  • technology
  • insurance
  • fashion
  • leisure – pubs, restaurants and so on
  • arts and culture – for example, theatre, cinema, museums

Read more

Iceland Becomes First Country To Legalise Equal Pay
January 4, 2018
0

A new law making it illegal to pay men more than women has taken effect in Iceland. The legislation, which came into force on Monday, the first day of 2018, makes Iceland the first country in the world to legalise equal pay between men and women.

Under the new rules, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies. Those that fail to prove pay parity will face fines.

“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” said Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.

“It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally,” she said. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap.”

Iceland, home to approximately 323,000 people, has a strong economy, based on tourism and fisheries.

Read more