02 October 2008

Breaking barriers for disabled

by Gloria McShane,

A NEW agency is aiming to make the North-east the best place in the UK for employing disabled people.
Newcastle-based Xceed is a community interest company offering advice and recruitment services to both employers and people with disabilities.
Director Colin Murphy Waters said: “While eight out of 10 people of working age in our region have jobs, only four out of 10 disabled people work.”
In a telephone survey of small to medium-sized Tees Valley companies, there were differing views on how to increase the number of disabled people in work.
Geoff Siggens, director of NEMS market research in Billingham, which employs around 100 people, said his premises were accessible and he had job vacancies, but he did not know how to encourage people with disabilities to apply.
He said: “It would easy for someone with a mobility problem to work here.” But he said the Government could do more to link up employers and disabled people.
Dean Benson, joint director of Stockton-based Visualsoft UK, a web development firm with 18 staff, said he had already employed people with disabilities, and believes the Government is doing enough to advise and encourage companies.
He added: “With the internet, the opportunity for homeworking is much greater.”
Jo Hand, of Jo Hand Recruitment in Middlesbrough, thought the Government should engage more with employers.
“There are all the disability advisers in the Jobcentres, but they should be more visible,” she said, suggesting a regional forum for employers.
Jonathan Gouder, self-employment adviser at the Middlesbrough office of national charity Action for Blind People, said people with disabilities could also consider setting up their own ventures, as there was government funding to help with specialist technology.
He said on Teesside there were already a number of blind and visually-impaired entrepreneurs including martial artists, shop owners and masseurs.
“Blind and visually-impaired people can do anything other business people do - they just do it differently,” he said.

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