For the 2.1 million Australians of working age who live with disability, the process of finding work or progressing their careers can be challenging. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, with workplace adjustments able to remove barriers to employment success.
But you might be wondering what types of adjustments and supports are available? How can they be arranged, and is there any financial assistance provided? JobAccess is the national hub for disability employment information and its General Manager, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, fills us in.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is a workplace adjustment?
Workplace adjustments are a crucial element in an inclusive workplace. These are any changes that enable people with disability to have an equitable employment opportunity, and work effectively and comfortably.
These changes can be small or large, involve new assistive technologies or simple changes to work routines, like flexible working hours. It even includes disability and mental health awareness training to help employers and colleagues best support their workmate. However, all these changes and supports share the same goal – removing barriers to disability employment.
Do all people with disability require workplace adjustments?
While not all people with disability require workplace adjustments, at JobAccess we believe it’s important for everyone to be aware and understand the options available to them. We also like to reassure people that it’s a much easier process than they might think.
Our workplace modifications team comprises qualified health professionals, including occupational therapists and psychologists, who advise on managing disability at work and provide tailored suggestions for the situation at hand. This includes organising free workplace assessments and advising on workplace changes and support that may be reimbursed through the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF).
Workplace adjustments are a crucial part of creating an inclusive workplace.
What types of workplace modifications and support are available?
A great starting point to learn more is the Disability and Adjustment tool on the JobAccess website. It provides a detailed list of common types of disability, associated symptoms and possible workplace adjustments. For example, one of the symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis is fatigue or weakness. Possible workplace solutions include scheduling periodic rest breaks away from the workstation, and an ergonomic workstation design
Another example is employees with low vision helped at work through simple changes to the environment, like using tactile markers or signs, adjusting lighting and orientation training to become familiar with their surroundings.
The wide range of supports available and the positive impact they can have on a person’s working life is really quite incredible!
These types of modifications sound expensive. Is there financial assistance available to people with disability?
A free workplace assessment through the EAF is available to help work out what modifications or equipment will help you do your job. The Assessor will look at your workplace and any barriers that may exist; and talk with you and your employer to find solutions to make your workplace more flexible and accessible. Many modifications may be no or low cost, and for some, financial assistance may be available through the EAF.
Who is eligible for funding through the EAF and how can they apply?
The EAF is available to eligible people with disability who are about to start a job, are self-employed or who are currently working. It is also available to people with disability who need Auslan assistance or special work equipment to look for and prepare for a job.
Applications for workplace adjustments can be made online. If eligible people with disability need help with making an application, they can ask a friend or relative, work with their employer or service provider, or call JobAccess on 1800 464 800 and get a JobAccess Adviser to help submit an application.
They can also review the EAF Guidelines which provide more detail about the application process, eligibility, and the type of modifications and equipment that may be reimbursed through the fund.
Matt* lives with both Cerebral Palsy and an intellectual disability, which made finding a job a challenge. Keen to be part of the working world, he was delighted when, with the help of a Disability Employment Service (DES), he landed a job at a small cafe as a kitchen hand.
Happy in his new role, Matt enjoyed the sense of purpose it gave him as well as being part of a team who respected and liked him. His employer was pleased with Matt’s enthusiasm for his role but had concerns with how Matt became easily distracted and had difficulty progressing from one task to the next (a symptom associated with Matt’s intellectual disability).
The DES case manager tried to solve the problem by setting reminders on Matt’s mobile phone to move him on to the next task in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the phone alerts ended up being an additional distraction, and the only way to solve this issue was to think about it differently.
JobAccess’ workplace modifications team includes qualified health professionals.
Thinking differently to find solutions
The case manager had worked with JobAccess before and knew the team there had expertise and experience in finding the right workplace supports, and could help her find the solution for Matt. In this case, the innovative idea came in the form of a vibrating watch.
This type of watch is commonly used as a medication reminder, but with five programmable messages, it could also be used to help Matt manage his daily workload, prompting him to move from one task to the next.
The watch was a success and this small but clever piece of technology is helping Matt to self-manage his work day. He now successfully completes his varied daily tasks, be it washing dishes, clearing plates, taking out the rubbish or cleaning the floor, without being distracted. The cafe owner is happy Matt can manage the job he was employed to do, and most importantly Matt is thriving and enjoying work.
*Name changed for privacy
Funded by the Australian Government, JobAccess is the national hub for disability employment, and brings together a wide range of resources to support jobseekers, employers and service providers. For more information visit JobAccess or call 1800 464 800 to speak with a JobAccess Advisor.