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Charities "fail" Disabled Workers

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from BBC News Online, July 16, 2004. *Images: Logos of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which features its acronym, RNIB, and a cartoon/outline of a person walking with a cane, and the Royal National Institute for Deaf people (simply white text on a navy blood background).

Many charities which represent disabled people are failing to employ a significant number of disabled workers, a BBC Scotland investigation learned. It discovered that many have fewer employees with a disability than some major private-sector companies.

The RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) recently said that three-quarters of visually impaired people of working age are not in work.

However, less than 8% of its own staff are disabled.

The charities aim to end discrimination in the workplace and encourage employers to look beyond a person's disability.

But in the BBC survey the extent to which the charities themselves employ disabled people was discovered to be patchy.

Below the mark

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) came out top of the list with 40% of its workforce in Scotland being disabled.

Momentum, a charity which assists physically and mentally disabled people move towards independence and employment, came second with 11%.

Capability Scotland and Sense Scotland employ between 5% and 6% disabled staff.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association fall below even that mark.

Gwen McCreath, assistant director of RNIB Scotland, said the charity does not operate a policy of positive discrimination.

She said: "Inevitably some other charities might have higher employment rates of disabled people because they positively discriminate, and perhaps in certain aspects of their work only employ disabled people.

"RNIB encourages disabled and non-disabled people to apply for jobs and gives them an equal chance. But at the end of the day we are an organization that provides services, we are a campaigning organization and we need to be sure that the people we are recruiting can do the job."

Nick Lewis, editor of Ready Willing Able, a recruitment journal aimed at disabled people, believes that the explanations given by charities are poor.

He said: "The disabled need role models of other disabled people who are in important jobs and so the charities who are representing us are the key people who could create these role models."

Making it happen

The Glasgow Centre for Independent Living provides disability equality training to other organizations and 70% of its staff are disabled.

Training coordinator John Dever said: "They tend to see disability as a problem that needs to be fixed rather than a barrier that has to be removed.

"You must admit there is a credibility issue.

"Obviously as a small organization we make it happen because we are committed to making it happen.

"They might be talking about it but we are actually doing it in reality."