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More help for disabled as charity and former job-seeker join forces

A CHARITY has joined forces with a man who applied for almost 2,000 jobs to promote the rights of disabled people.

Sight Support Derbyshire has set up Sight Ed to work in partnership with Richard Shakespeare, who applied for 1,923 jobs after being made redundant from internet bank Egg in September 2009.

Mr Shakespeare, who has cerebral palsy, finally abandoned the job search after a year to become an independent consultant advising businesses on disability issues.

As a result, he was approached by the Derby-based charity following a decision by its staff to work in a similar field. Now they are operating two separate organisations but working in partnership.

They train employers in supporting disabled staff and clients, create large-print and Braille copies of documents and give advice on dealing with specific issues. They also offer an accreditation called "Committed to Equality" to those they have worked with.

Their clients have already included Balfour Beatty, Derby's hospitals and Derbyshire police and fire service. Alan McConville, founder of Sight Ed, hopes to make £32,000 gross profit in the first year, not including Mr Shakespeare's earnings.

Ultimately, Sight Ed aims to generate 25% of the charity's yearly costs – currently around £1 million.

Mr McConville said: "The aim is two-fold. Firstly, 43% of Sight Support Derbyshire's income comes from local councils and, although we haven't lost any funding yet, we don't know what cuts could be made, so we're being as proactive as possible.

"Secondly, we want to improve people's knowledge about how to support visually-impaired people and those with other types of disabilities."

He said disabled people needed help with a wide-range of activities, from creating legal documents, such as a will, to visiting their GP. And he said organisations were keen to pay for the service because they were under increasing pressure to meet the needs of disabled people.

Mr Shakespeare, 28, of Swallowdale Road, Sinfin, said his personal experiences suggested that some firms needed to do more for their disabled employees.

He said: "Sometimes, not all the time, bigger companies tend to see you as a number rather than a person."

Among those who have benefited from the training are staff at solicitors firm Nelsons. Associate solicitor Andrew Birchall said: "The training was very comprehensive, consisting of effective communication techniques, different types of sight loss and how they affect people, and use of safe guiding techniques to support visually-impaired people."

Businesses with 10 or fewer members of staff can attend a training event at the University of Derby's ID Centre, in the RTC Business Park, London Road, on Friday, October 21, from 10am to 2pm, priced £49 per person. To book, call Derby 287007.

This article was taken from the Derby Telegraph website.