Cornwall is facing a skills shortage with 77% of local businesses reporting a difficulty in filling vacancies. But there is a much wider pool of talent to choose from if you are willing to open your eyes, explains iSightCornwall chief executive, Terri Rosnau-Ward

When was the last time you employed someone with a disability? How about the last time you interviewed a disabled jobseeker? If the answer is never then you are missing out on a pool of talented, loyal and hardworking potential employees with plenty to offer.

As the chief executive of iSightCornwall, I’m proud that we have created a talented and diverse team. This is not a token gesture. All our staff are employed on merit – we look at a person’s ability not their disability.

However, less than half of disabled people and people with health conditions in Cornwall are in work. So why is this?

The most significant barrier for disabled jobseekers still appears to be the stereotypical assumptions and attitudes of employers about what people with disability can and cannot do. Some of most common misconceptions include the perceived cost of workplace adjustments and the fear of other people in the workplace doing or saying the wrong thing.

In fact, many reasonable adjustments involve little or no cost to employers. For example, travel expenses, specially-adapted equipment or support workers could all be funded through the government’s Access to Work programme. And you don’t need to be afraid of saying the wrong thing (within reason, of course). What I mean is, you can say ‘see you later’ to someone with a visual impairment without causing offence. Trust me – we say it all the time.

I’m passionate about challenging perceptions and changing attitudes to overcome these barriers. I want to help employers realise the potential a more diverse workforce brings. At iSightCornwall, we can support you to become a more confident and inclusive employer by offering advice and training on sight loss support; showing you how to create accessible documents for the application process; as well as offering you the chance to see inclusive employment in action by visiting our charity and meeting our staff.

We don’t just help with the recruitment of new staff but can also support you to keep your valued employees if their circumstances change. Retaining an experienced, skilled employee who has acquired an impairment is far more beneficial for you than recruiting and training new staff.

When Darren Phillips’ sight deteriorated we worked with his employer at the Beresford Hotel in Newquay to make reasonable adjustments. By providing him with a portable hand held video magnifier, Darren was able to continue in his role of Deputy Manager. His manager Jackie Cunliffe told us how much they valued Darren’s wealth of knowledge and experience and how they would have really struggled without him if he’d had to give up his job.

We’re proud to be a disability confident employer. Being able to attract people from the widest possible talent pool is absolutely vital in keeping a business competitive and moving it forward. I would urge all of our local businesses to seriously consider what they can do as employers to attract more disabled talent to their organisations.

If you are willing to think differently about disability and open your eyes to the wider pool of talent on your doorstep you could discover employees that you’ll wonder how you ever did without. By the way, did I mention I lost my sight 13 years ago? If I can become the chief executive of one of Cornwall’s oldest charities, imagine what others can achieve.

For further support and advice, contact Carole Theobald, Director of Operations 01872 261110 ctheobald@isightcornwall.org.uk

Disability Confident – a government service supporting employers to attract, recruit and retain disabled workers

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