- Written by Ben Price and Rowena Hoskin
- BBC News
A charity says it is more difficult to find paid work now than it was 15 years ago.
Nick Lancaster, 45, of Brecon, Powys, is blind and said he struggled for 20 years to find a job.
Holly Greider, 25, from Cardiff, suffers from chronic pain and hypermobility syndrome and said she had to give up her dream career because of her health.
The UK government has announced plans to make it easier for people with disabilities to find jobs.
After applying for hundreds of positions, Lancaster was finally offered a paying position in March, managing at RNIB Cymru.
Reflecting on his years spent searching for work, Lancaster said he believed many potential employers had difficulty understanding how they could support him.
“They were too afraid, so they didn’t provide support,” he said.
“A lot of employers don’t understand what equipment and support I might need and may think it would be very difficult to provide me with additional support at home, despite the fact that my home has already been adapted to my disability and is an ideal location to work from.
Lancaster will be able to do his new job from home, but said the need to travel to work has been an issue in the past, especially in rural areas of Wales where public transport is limited.
He said other challenges include application forms where the printout was too small for visually impaired people.
He said having the confidence to disclose his disability to a potential employer was also a concern, as he remained afraid of prejudice.
According to the RNIB Cymru, about one in four working-age people have vision loss, compared to 15 years ago when it was one in three.
Ansley Workman, director of RNIB Cymru, said: “It’s going down and down and obviously we’re really worried about that. If you look at the cost of living these days and the issues going on there, people have to work and they need an income.”
Ms Workman said the charity had been working with employers to give them the skills and knowledge needed to make workplaces accessible to people with sight loss.
“I think it’s mostly a matter of understanding [that] Small adjustments can make all the difference.”
“Some people may need something as simple as not having bright lights in the areas they work in or having larger font sizes on their computers.”
Emily Roberts, 25, has cerebral palsy and has worked as an administrative assistant at Samantha K’s Bridal & Occasion Dressing for six years.
“It’s also important for people with disabilities to feel like they’re human and to feel that we can live equal lives,” she said.
“If the only thing holding you back is the ergonomics, there are changes we need to make.
“My friend actually applied for a job, but when she was offered the interview, she went to where the interview was taking place and there were steps to get in and they didn’t have a ramp.
“She told me, ‘I can do the job that I can’t do.'”
Making the workplace available to employees, Roberts said, makes it accessible to the general public as well.
“Vision is very important for people with disabilities, we have to be out in the community, we have to live a normal life but we also have to feel that there are people we can relate to and we can relate to.”
Ms Greeder, 25, from Llanromney, Cardiff, also suffers from postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTs).
She said, “I’ve had quite a few breaks in my employment history including a very big break when I had to give up my dream career that I worked so hard for.”
“I also had to give up the idea of working full time again and wasn’t sure if I would work part time,” she said.
“Personally, I am an unreliable employee, and I wouldn’t realistically manage a part-time job if I didn’t have the flexibility that I do at my current job.”
Mrs. Greider works for her fiancé’s company.
“He knows when to tell me to come home or not to come because I’m pushing myself when I don’t. I can change my days, my hours, come late, take naps during my work day, work from home, go to work in my most comfortable clothes.”
“The government needs to allow more capacity to work without people with disabilities losing large proportions of their benefits,” she said. “What a person gains in ability to work rarely makes up for what they lose through benefits.”
According to the latest Office for National Statistics data, the employment gap between people with and without disabilities in Wales is 32.3%, which is around 6% higher than the UK average.
Wrexham, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen have the largest disability employment gap out of all the Welsh Local Authority areas.
During the UK government’s budget announcement in March, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to put more people with disabilities into jobs by making it easier for them to find work.
Mr Hunt said the Work Ability Assessment (WCA), which decides the extent to which a person’s disability or illness limits their ability to work, would be scrapped.
A new support program has also been announced to support the disabled or those with a long-term health condition. The UK government said the global support scheme would fund up to 50,000 jobs each year.
Megan Thomas of Disability Wales said the abolition of the WCA was a “positive step” but argued that the changes needed to go further.
“One of the things we see is that there are a lot of barriers to not only accessing work but higher paying work,” she said.
“This barrier often exists due to a myriad of reasons, whether it be access to education or access to the workplace itself.”
Ben Francis of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said he would like to see more support for people with disabilities to become private employers.
“We would have preferred to see government and employers come together to form some sort of ‘kick-start’ plan that will eventually encourage people with disabilities into the workplace, and one of these areas will advocate self-employment as a viable avenue,” said Mr Francis.
“The FSB report found that 25% of small business owners either suffer from a disability or some form of illness, so much can be learned from them about the benefits of self-employment.”