“Able is Often Unable; Where Unable is Often Able” – Krista Brown
When I was given this topic this month, I wanted to really think about it. On first glance I thought “disability? What on earth can I write about?” It’s not something that I deal with daily I thought. My mind ran over staff we have with various disabilities of the physical kind, visual, people like my steward who is wheelchair bound; maybe Terry who was injured in the army and uses a stick now. I was thinking “well my industry is not really an industry where it is encompassed really. I mean who would employ a deaf security guard, or a blind one etc. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to employ them but our industry requires sight, hearing etc as vital skills to do your job properly. So a bit perplexed, I thought “hmmm, I want to think about this. I need to open my mind up a bit and really look around me”.
Driving along the other day my personal assistant rang me. “Krisssssssss” she said, “how do I spell ‘confusion’ please?” I spelt it out for her and thought not a lot of it. She’s always asking me how to spell things. When I got back to the office I checked over some paperwork for one of my staff, proofed it, amended errors etc. Again, normal procedure for me on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel like the SpellCheck facility on a PC!! In fact, I often remind them there is one!!
Then one of our trainers came along to see a candidate we have learning on a course. He was at examination stage and our trainer had come armed with her dictaphone and sheets of questions. Dan is dyslexic so we offer him the facility of a verbal examination instead of the usual 10 million questions they have to read and answer on the paper forms.
Then, moment of clarity and the light-bulb started going ‘ding’!! Disability. I deal with it every day – just not the physical kind so often. Disability does indeed come in many guises.
“It is a lonely existence to be a child with a disability which no-one can see or understand, you exasperate your teachers, you disappoint your parents, and worst of all you know that you are not just stupid” – Susan Hampshire
Dyslexia. Three of my branch team suffer with it. One has mathematical dyslexia, the other two the written kind. Every letter they write, every text they send, every form they complete – not just at work but in life too, has added pressure. For example, someone going for a new job here is always nervous when we give them our 10 page application form. It probably feels like an administrative gauntlet to them. Do we say “no you can’t work for us?” No, we don’t. We ask every candidate if they need any help with reading or writing when they come in; we also offer the space of another room away from reception if they feel they need the extra privacy. Letters we send, texts we send, all of that – we have pre-saved ones that we just overtype and print as required. Again, easing the actual written pressure for the staff. Yes, we have to spell check things on occasion but for the sake of 5 minutes, any good boss would/should do that for their staff. Training. We offer various methods of learning: Visual, Auditory & Kinaesthetic, enabling every learner to have the same level of teaching. Everyone passes. In more recent times a man who applied with us actually sent us a thank you letter for making him feel so at ease on his welcome. He suffered from learning and behavioural disabilities, in that he had a “twitch” of sorts as well. Lovely bloke. He may not secure much but he will be able to deal with customers very well with his lovely personable nature. So yet again, yes, he can get a job.
ADHD – My son, only 12, is currently undergoing tests for this disability. He is bright, energetic, funny, charming and actually very academic, but on the flip side he can be defiant, angry, violent of sorts, very aggressive and will not/ cannot sit through any hour long curriculum lessons. He’s now been excluded and is in a pupil referral unit undergoing assessment. His school feels he is unmanageable because is not “compliant” enough for them. There is no contingency plan. It’s curtains. To anyone looking in you would never think my son had any kind of disability but apparently he does.
Saed – Saed was my first member of staff who was wheelchair bound. He had been a volunteer at the Olympics so had experience and was keen to progress in the industry. So you may think, how on earth does someone in a wheelchair work in security? I wondered the same thing. After all, I had to think of his safety first, my clients interpretation of our using him on their jobs; how would he feel being the only non-able bodied member of staff etc. One thing I noticed immediately about Saed was his infectious smile and the fact that although, yes, his legs don’t work, his mouth and brain were fine!! He was funny and won me over instantly so I already knew how good he would be with the public. So yes, we gave Saed a try. New Year’s Eve. Busiest night of the year on the biggest job of the year post Olympics – London Fireworks. I had 60 odd positions to cover with 150 staff. After a good risk assessment Saed started work with Persona. He worked in a two man team covering his safety; he worked in a relatively quiet position, not giving him too much pressure, and he worked in a very visible spot, just in case. I felt so proud when I saw the team welcome him, and to be honest I don’t think anyone even noticed he was in a wheelchair. He was offered so much help but didn’t actually even need it! The client really embraced the whole thing which was great. Saed loved it; he was wheelying himself back to base at 2am when I collected them all in and I felt really proud to have broken the “mould” yet again!
Medical things like heart conditions. Well, I have more senior members of staff who suffer from these. I’ve got staff with so many metal body parts it must take them four hours to get through customs! They work in various roles. Yes as security, but in quiet roles such as theatres, car parks and corporate environments. They have no time off due to their disabilities and it does not affect any one of them most of the time. I would say my staff having something like diabetes, another medical disability, well that’s more dangerous. I have to not only risk assess them as normal, but have to ensure they have regular breaks for insulin and food to keep their sugar levels right.
This month’s blog has taught me a lot. It really opened my mind to just how much I do deal with disability in various shapes, ways and forms. And I deal with it all on a daily basis without even really realising! I think bosses would do well to see past what’s presented and instead of saying no to employing because of the negatives, say yes to the skills instead. Everybody can do something and if you’re a good boss you will see that and develop it, instead of following the norm and just saying no thanks. Dare yourselves to think outside that box. Like me, you might learn something!
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” – Scott Hamilton
By Krista Brown