Real-life stories

Bianca Raven – Team Administrator

Employee Bianca Raven
Job Team Administrator
Sector Education and training
Company Equal Ability, Wakefield
Working has made me more independent, more confident about myself.

Bianca Raven had thirteen unsuccessful job interviews after leaving Wakefield College and despite a very thorough job search, she was unemployed for nine months. Bianca, who has cerebral palsy, feels that her disability put her at a disadvantage with employers: “You could see in their faces; as soon as I mentioned the possibility of needing to use a wheelchair or a pair of crutches, they sort of lost interest.”

As a result of these setbacks Bianca says that she began to lose confidence: “It’s always at the back of your mind: did they not employ me because I’ve got a disability? You start to get disheartened – no matter how hard you try to put it out of your mind, it’s always there.”

However, in April 2006, Bianca started work at Equal Ability, based in Wakefield that provides training and consultancy on disability issues. Bianca was initially on a year’s contract, and when that came to an end she became a permanent employee.

Employer's story

Equal Ability’s Managing Director, Sue Maynard-Campbell MBE, was impressed when she interviewed Bianca: “She was a good communicator and she’s obviously got a good education.” Bianca didn’t get the job she’d applied for, but joined the company as Team Administrator. “We used the Job Introduction Scheme (JIS) through Jobcentre Plus to assist for the first thirteen weeks.

Best person for the job

Equal Ability has only four members of staff, but draws on a wide network of freelancers for particular projects. Everyone who works there has a disability, which Sue says is not deliberate – they select the best person for the job, regardless of any impairment. However, having disabled employees has definite benefits in their line of business. “It brings to it the personal experience of disabled people, and also the perspective of disabled people in problem solving and things of that nature.”

The company uses Jobcentre Plus to fill vacancies. “We’re a small enterprise and we can’t afford huge advertising costs, so that’s a pragmatic decision.”

As a wheelchair user and someone who knows a lot about disability issues, Sue has absolutely no concerns about employing disabled people. However, she emphasises the need for honest and frank discussion: “If people are open about the issues then you can work round them – unless they’re a central element of the job.”

Message to other employers

“You do have to put some effort into [employing disabled people], and you have to be open to thinking of different ways of doing things. If you engage with disabled people they are perhaps more likely to stay.”

Sue Maynard-Campbell, Managing Director, Equal Ability CIC.

Employee's story

When she took up her job at Equal Ability, Bianca didn’t know what equipment would help her, or that funding might be available to help to pay for it. But the Access to Work scheme through Jobcentre Plus has been a big help, paying for a taxi to and from work each day, and for some computer equipment – a cushioned mousepad and keyboard, and a speech-to-text converter attached to her computer and to the phones.

Flexible working

Bianca also needed some changes to her hours to allow her to attend physiotherapy, and after a risk assessment they concluded that she should not be alone in the office for long, and should not open or close the blinds. These adjustments didn’t cause a problem: Bianca reduced the hours she works and another employee is happy to work for longer.

Bianca enjoys her job – she likes being busy and working has given her increased confidence and independence.

She advises other disabled people to keep trying and not lose confidence. “There will be someone out there eventually that will employ you.”

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Bianca (left) with employer Sue outside Equal Ability

Bianca Raven

Employer - Sue Maynard-Campbell MBE

Bianca working on her computer using her telephone headset