The Employment Assistance Fund provides funding for eligible people with disabilities to cover the cost of a whole range of supports and services that can ensure a safe and productive working environment.

The Employment Assistance Fund, or EAF, has helped thousands of people with disabilities to get the supports they need at work. Deborah Fairbairn is one of those people.

“I was born blind in my left eye. It wasn’t picked up by doctors until I was seven. I had a little incident where I ran into a brick wall and was taken to hospital because I was knocked out. And they then realised that there was a problem with my vision,” Deborah told Inform.

Deborah’s condition affects her depth perception and visual field and a stigmatism in her right eye impacts how she views written material. She also has glare sensitivity which can make using computers in high light areas challenging. Deborah’s vision impairment didn’t impact her working life until about fifteen years ago.

“I was doing data entry and I was having a very difficult time seeing the information that I had to use to put onto the screen. And my job was in jeopardy, because I wasn’t able to see the data that I was required to data enter,” Deborah explained. “If I couldn’t do the job, I wouldn’t be able to remain in the job.”

It was at this point that Deborah learned about the Employment Assistance Fund through the  Disability Officer at the organisation she worked for. The Employment Assistance Fund provided Deborah with a range of assistive technology that ensured she could continue working. 

“I then became the fastest data entry person in our team thanks to that assistance,” Deborah said.

More than just workplace modifications

Camille Greenwell, the Client Support manager for the advisory and workplace modification teams at JobAccess says that people are often surprised at the wide range of modifications and services that are available through the Employment Assistance Fund as well as the significant impacts they can have on their productivity.

Some of those modifications and supports include:

  • the cost of making adjustments to your physical workplace
  • modifications to work vehicles
  • special equipment for the workplace
  • information and communication devices
  • Auslan interpreting services
  • specialist services for employees with specific learning disorders and mental health conditions
  • disability awareness training for the workplace (including deafness awareness)
  • mental health awareness and first aid training.

“A few of the examples in relation to that is that a person with limited vision might find using a software program such as ZoomText to enlarge the font, very useful. And that would mean they would be able to access information on the computer. If a person has no vision, a program such as Jaws will actually read out text and again, that makes the information on a computer accessible to somebody,” Camille explains.

”We might also do something like building modifications for people not able to fully access a workplace. For example, somebody who uses a wheelchair might need a ramp to navigate a change of ground level.”

“We’re here to help people with disability to get work, keep work and progress their careers and workplace adjustments can help create a level playing field. And with small solutions, we can make big differences.”

Tailored solutions

There are some eligibility criteria for accessing the EAF and you can find those on the JobAccess website. Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, you can make your application online. And that’s something that JobAccess can assist you with if you need some extra support.

Application are assessed by the team at JobAccess. From there, what happens next depends on your situation. But in most cases there’ll be a free workplace assessment where an assessor will come to your workplace and prepare a report about what might be the most suitable solutions. Camille says that these reports are just the starting point when it comes to figuring out what the best supports might be.

“Once everyone’s received [the report] we’ll call them and discuss the content of the report. So that might be the opportunity for the person to say, you know, yes, I agree. Or perhaps we could also look at this. So it’s not that we are doing the assessment and then saying this is what you have.”

“We’re very much wanting to understand what somebody is experiencing, so that we can then tailor that solution.”

“You don’t have to know the solution when you put on the application. We will very much help with this. And that’s why we’re asking the questions that we ask so that together we can come up with the best solutions.”

How the Employment Assistance Fund makes a difference

The Employment Assistance Fund provided Deborah with a ZoomText upgrade as well as training. They also helped with additional items to support her in the workplace.

“I had never used any assistive technology prior to working in that role. I had never heard of ZoomText, had no idea what it was, or even how to use it. They provided training and everything. But they discussed that with me and told me that there’s a program out there that can make things larger for you… and it made me capable of doing my job. And I had no idea that that device existed.”

Deborah says the support provided by the Employment Assistance Fund made a huge difference to her working life. The first step was just knowing what help was available. 

“Most people with a disability have manageable conditions that do not prevent them from being capable of doing their work. They may just require some small adjustment to assist them to perform certain tasks. Unfortunately, some potential employers make an assumption that there will be a lot of difficulty with workplace modification. And that can create problems where there would not have been any.”

”Just knowing that there is someone who can assist both your employer and you to look at the role, look at the difficulties you may have in a particular area, and know that there’s potentially an option to assist you to be able to stay in that job and work at your best. Just getting access to that information is the first step.”

Tips and advice

  • Remember that you don’t have to know what the solutions are before you contact the EAF team. They are there to help you find the right solutions for you.
  • You can find lots of useful information on the EAF website, from eligibility requirements to the EAF guidelines. It’s a good idea to read through them before submitting your application so you can be sure that you have all the necessary paperwork ready. This helps make the process run smoothly.
  • Remember that you don’t have to do this on your own. The EAF team can support you throughout the process and they’re always happy to answer any questions you might have.

JobAccess Advisers are available across Australia on 1800 464 800, Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) and Eastern Daylight Saving Time, except on Australian national public holidays.

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