Case Study – Computing and Mobility Difficulties
Source: Quality and Performance Improvement Dissemination and Department for Education and Employment. October 1999. Modern Apprenticeships and People with Disabilities http://quality.wwt.co.uk/quality/qual_map/gpsrp1.pdf
Sector: Information Technology
Region: South East
Employer: Secondary School
Disability: Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus (abnormality of the spine and water on the brain)
Adjustment: Improving access to buildings, providing assistance with physical aspects of job.
Education Prior to MA
After successfully completing his GCSEs, Jason decided to stay on at school to gain further qualifications. Choosing a vocational route, he first completed a GNVQ Intermediate in Business over a period of one year. For the next two years, Jason remained in school, in order to complete an Advanced GNVQ.
Towards the end of his GNVQ studies, Jason decided to begin applying for jobs, determined to find paid employment. Also at that time, the school that Jason attended began advertising for a part-time IT technician to maintain and improve the school’s computer network. Both Jason and his careers adviser, with whom he has a close relationship, felt it would be a good idea to apply for the position.
The post was advertised internally and externally, and an external specialist consultancy was hired to perform the initial sift of applications. Jason was delighted to be offered an interview on the basis of his CV.
The interview process took place on a single day, with unsuccessful candidates asked to leave at various stages. Jason was selected from six interviewees based on his technical skills and knowledge of both networks and stand alone PCs. His employer is clear that the interview process did not favour Jason in any way as an internal candidate.
Whilst his disability was discussed at interview, Jason feels this was only where it was directly relevant to the job. When asked how he would perform the physical aspects of the job such as the maintenance of the computer hardware, Jason’s current employer was impressed with his answer that he would “continue to ask the pupils for help”, in much the same was as during his GNVQ studies. Neither employer nor prospective employee felt that the disability presented any barriers that couldn’t be overcome, and Jason was offered the position.
Potentially one of the most difficult aspects of the transition to employment was gaining the respect of other staff and students who had previously seen Jason as a student. His employer feels strongly that Jason was very successful at making this transition and his interpersonal skills enabled him to make the transition appear entirely natural.
The MA and Adjustments
Jason admits he was initially not convinced by the idea of an MA and would have been happy to undertake training in an informal way. His careers adviser, however, felt it represented the right combination of vocational training and work experience. She was very keen, therefore, to present the benefits to Jason. The last few months of his GNVQ were extremely challenging, and it was only after completing this qualification that Jason felt ready to register for his MA.
The job itself has continued to expand since Jason first started work. In addition to maintaining the school’s computers, installing software and controlling the stocks of computer equipment, Jason has now taken on some teaching and training responsibilities. The school is also expanding its IT department with the result that Jason’s job will soon become a full-time role.
During his time at work, Jason has become less mobile. When he was first employed, Jason was able to walk using sticks, now he uses a wheelchair. It has, therefore, been necessary to make some adjustments to the premises to allow Jason full access.
Currently, the school has made some minor adjustments through their CDT department. Ramps have been constructed to allow Jason to access most of the buildings, although the upstairs areas are still out of bounds.
In conjunction with the local Employment Service, and funding from Access to Work, the school has plans to install lifts, ramps and trip switches on all internal and external doors. The plans are based on a thorough assessment carried out by consultants. The work will cost a substantial amount, but with the support of the local Disability Services Team, the school hopes that they will only be asked to provide a portion of the funding.
As his condition has worsened, Jason has been forced to reconsider his original career plans. He initially wanted to specialise in the maintenance of hardware systems, but this requires lifting and manipulation of heavy equipment. The training plan has therefore been redesigned to allow Jason to specialise in computer software, in order that his professional abilities are less dependent on his mobility.
One major achievement has been the planning and execution of an IT course for the locally run ‘Children’s University’ which takes place three or four times a year. Jason produced a detailed course plan which has now been picked up by the NFER who plan to use it as part of a national scheme.
Jason’s skills and abilities have also enabled him to develop a role for himself as a classroom IT assistant, providing support to non-technical teachers in IT. he also runs a lunchtime computer club for students.
Those close to him have nothing but praise for his commitment, enthusiasm and personality, which shine through despite difficult and often painful periods.
Jason plans to complete his MA in September 1999 and is working towards his NVQ Level 3 in IT, having already completed an NVQ Level 2.
Ideally, Jason would like to develop his skills as an IT tutor, and is keen to maintain his awareness of technological developments. He has been involved in a range of training courses in addition to his NVQ, and has steadily developed confidence in his own abilities. His employer believes that Jason will be able to take on tutoring responsibilities under a new contract whereby the school will act as a training provider to employers during the afternoons.
Points of Interest
It was apparent that Jason’s careers adviser has been a particularly useful source of support. She has maintained a close relationship with both Jason and his employer. It was her recommendation that brought about the initial contact with the Employment Service. Jason also states that teachers at school have been helpful throughout his school life, particularly in encouraging him to continue his education.
The key points to emerge from this case study are:
rom the perspective of the employer:
- Keep abreast of any changes to the individual’s condition and be pro-active about making adjustments as a result.
- Adopt a multi-agency approach in order to access as much support as possible, the careers service can act as facilitator.
From the perspective of the careers adviser:
- Establish a high profile in schools.
- Develop close links with clients from year 9 as the ‘key’ person to support transition from school to the appropriate next steps.
- Maintain ongoing involvement until the young person is settled in their chosen career.
Jason believes the MA has been an extremely useful learning experience. From the perspective of the employee, he suggests that:
- People with disabilities should not be grateful just to be employed. Employers will only take you on if you have something to offer them.
- Individuals shouldn’t hide behind their disability and allow it to affect their confidence in their own abilities.
- Having a disability should not prevent individuals from developing realistic expectations about their learning potential.