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Nellygwyn
19-07-14, 11:04
I need some advice please.

I have an unseen disability (hearing) which makes me feel isolated and excluded from what's going on around me. I have been luck enough to recently been given a hearing dog who not only alerts me to sounds, also provides support and comfort in every day situations.

the problem I experience at work is that the management team seem to have got it into their heads that they are doing me a 'favour' by allowing me to take my assistance dog into the work place. Something I have continually tried to educate them about.

We recently moved office building and a number of stupid issues were raised by the management team, all of which I tried to stamp out or politely correct. One of the points resulted in the charity having to contact the HR director. From this point onwards, the whole situation has been very difficulty and almost untenable. I now feel that other problems are being highlighted and the management team are trying to push me out of the company. The last straw was yesterday when I was told off for sending an email to someone to ask questions about for technical work. I was told that I should have referred to the head of office first, despite the original email being sent from another source and stating anyone with questions to contact one of four people. I got very angry and ended up crying because of the stress of the situation. I was told I was undermining the head of office by raising the questions in the first place.

I don't really know what it was the I did wrong but think it stems from the HD charity contacting the Director of HR to point out the law under the DDA. The charity felt that by contacting the director of the company rather than my Head of office would send ripples but it would also highlight that they were in the wrong (probably not the right word) to try and stop me from doing things and point out that as a disabled person my rights are above and beyond those of an able bodied person. Yes you can treatment me differently but only if it means I am being given the same or better than someone without a disability.

One of the matters raised was use of the toilets and that I should only use the disabled toilet or not take my dog with me when going to the loo as others would not like it. This may seem trivial to some, but was a clear volition of my rights under the DDA. Another point was taking my dog into the kitchen area where we are meant to eat lunch, again meaning that I effectively was not allowed to enter the kitchen area to eat my food.

A fellow colleague who is aware of the problems I am experiencing has told me to keep a record of all that is happening, which I am doing. However this matter is now getting me so,stressed and upset I am not sure what to do. I love my job and enjoy what I do.

I work in the private sector so am not sure what external support I could approach for help.

Thanks for listening, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Flymo
19-07-14, 12:45
I don't really know what it was the I did wrong but think it stems from the HD charity contacting the Director of HR to point out the law under the DDA.

It's been the Equality Act 2010 since October 2010.



The charity felt that by contacting the director of the company rather than my Head of office would send ripples but it would also highlight that they were in the wrong (probably not the right word) to try and stop me from doing things and point out that as a disabled person my rights are above and beyond those of an able bodied person. Yes you can treatment me differently but only if it means I am being given the same or better than someone without a disability.

I understand what you're trying to say, but I think the "I have rights above and beyond because I'm disabled" attitude might be at the heart of the problem. It can be seen as an assertion of privilege and it can put people's backs up.

At the heart of this, you have the same rights as a non-disabled person - no more and no less. What the law says is that, in some cases, special attention must be given to ensuring you are treated equally, also it makes it illegal not to treat you equally. This requirement to treat you equally might mean adjustments might need to be made in the way you do your job and in the facilities you are offered to allow for your disability, but this is subject to the requirement that the adjustment is reasonable. It is not for the disabled person to say what is and isn't reasonable - that is determined from the perspective of an objective bystander. Part of reasonableness is considering the effects on others.


The Equality Act 2010 only grants absolute rights to assistance dog users in respect of carriage by taxi or private hire vehicle.



One of the matters raised was use of the toilets and that I should only use the disabled toilet or not take my dog with me when going to the loo as others would not like it. This may seem trivial to some, but was a clear volition of my rights under the DDA. Another point was taking my dog into the kitchen area where we are meant to eat lunch, again meaning that I effectively was not allowed to enter the kitchen area to eat my food.

I can't see that it is anything other than reasonable to allow the dog to accompany you to the toilet and into the kitchen, but, again, I think change might require a slightly different attitude from all concerned.

If you say "I have an assistance dog, I have my rights and the dog is coming with me", you don't leave much space for people to raise any questions or unease they have, let alone answer any questions in a non-threatening manner. Not everyone will understand the high health, training and welfare standards of a registered assistance dog, the significance of the dog's jacket and how vital the dog is to you at all times. If they perceive wrongly that you are bringing your pet to work and because you're disabled you have the right to tell everyone what the dog is allowed to do and where it is allowed to go, you can see how misunderstandings arise.


I can't go behind the decision of Hearing Dogs to contact the HR Director, as I don't know the facts, but just because it is an equality matter doesn't exempt you from the normal protocol and politics of the workplace.


Hannah Ensor came at the issue of disability being a barrier from a different perspective (http://stickmancommunications.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/statement-of-disability.html) (click), but she captures what I'm trying to say in her final picture. Your dog is about allowing you to be a fully effective member of the team, alongside everyone else. What you need is for everyone to buy in to creating access for you to work with the dog so that you can be equal. Rights exist, and for a reason, but what is needed most is a change of attitude. Your dog is your ears. "Please can my ears come with me" is much less threatening than "I have rights above and beyond because I'm disabled".


I hope this helps.

Nellygwyn
19-07-14, 14:27
Hi Flymo

Thanks for your comments. I don't go round saying that as a disabled person I have rights above and beyond. I have had my HD dog for just under two years now. From the beginning it was we need to approve you bringing a dog into the building rather than we have a legal requirement to let you being him in, so,I trust you can understand my frustration, we also had a kitchen area in the old building and nothing was said about me being allowed to take him into this area or taking him into the toilets. This only changed when we moved into our new building this year.

The problem I have is that because I raised the issues with the HD charity, and made a point of telling my line manager that I would be doing this and the subsequent fall out from that, I feel the management team are now picking holes in the things that I do. Yesterday coming out with comments like I did not have the authority to contact the person I did by email, that I am a liability, I am undermining the head of department, stupid comments like that. I explained that the email was sent from a source other than the head of office and invited people to contact the four named persons if we had questions, for I which I was told that was wrong. I am now being told I over stepped the mark.

On top of all this, I am sat in a corner and do not really get included with conversations or banter that goes on in the office.

I do feel that this attitude has only arisen since the hr letter and am now not sure what to,do. I feel,that if I,bring it back to the attention of hr again it's only going to cause more bad feeling and not resolve in a pretty outcome

Lighttouch
19-07-14, 15:15
In my view this is just a lack of disability awareness issue.

Your colleagues may not be aware that you are using a working dog. Staff need to be aware that when your dog has it's coat or harness on it's working.

I feel for you as you must feel very isolated. Could I ask how many staff the whole company employs?

The only way to solve this issue is to have open debate between affected parties and all must compromise.

You don't want to be excluded from the comradeship.

Ideally you and a few other disabled staff need to group together to raise disability issues with HR.

I'll elaborate after you feedback.

Nellygwyn
19-07-14, 20:16
Thanks for your comments. The company is multi national and has several thousand employees across the world. In my office there are probably about 120 max, and I am the only known disabled person they employ. Hence the problem. They don't know enough about disability awareness, some do I will agree but the majority do not.

The impression I get, and I have been told this is not the case, but yet to have it demonstrated so, that it would be better for everyone if I was not employed by the company. Certain things go on, a couple of examples to give you

1. The team I work for had to attend a conference (this was after I had my HD) and it was suggested that I stay behind to answer the phones (difficult when you have a hearing defect!) rather than attending

2. the company have a quarterly reward scheme where they send employees off for treats/networking with others from around the uk. I know that I will never be considered as I would stand out as being different as I could not really participant I. Conversations and that I would need to take my HD with me.

Yesterday's incident highlighted the fact that my head of office does not like the idea that I am getting know around the company. It felt like they were ashamed of me.

One comment that came out when I was discussing the issues with the HD charity about restrictions was did HR actual know that I was deaf and had a HD at work. Thinking about that now, I do recall we had a meeting for everyone within our building a while ago about new benefits the company were providing and an hr person came to give the talk. She was quite surprised when I walked into the room with my HD, so the answer was no they probably did not know and had probably not been told.

So,I am sure you can understand my frustration and anger at times.

Lighttouch
20-07-14, 12:40
The company is multi national and has several thousand employees across the world. In my office there are probably about 120 max, and I am the only known disabled person they employ. Hence the problem. They don't know enough about disability awareness, some do I will agree but the majority do not.

That's a large organisation. It will have a policy section. Look on your 'intranet' for an 'Equality Statement' and they should also have an Equality and Diversity 5 year plan. You need to start empowering yourself with policies and procedures relating to disabled staff and customers. The organisation will follow the 'Social Model of Disability'. If you've not come across it before it's very liberating. Check it out on the web.

You think you are the only disabled person. It's almost certain that about 8% of the workforce or more are disabled. Many people, like you, have hidden impairments and don't want other people to know about due to fear. It's nothing to be ashamed of - we are who we are.

You need to stand up for your rights as nobody else will.

There are things you could do to remove disabled working barriers.

Your disabling barrier relates to your hearing. We don't know if you are hearing impaired or deaf.

If hearing impaired then you could suggest a few 'reasonable adjustments' like
- hold meetings in rooms that don't echo.
- the Chair should be made aware of your impairment before any meetings you are involved in and lay ground rules like - if a person wishes to speak raise their arm/speak one at a time/ face you when speaking if you are a lip reader
- if you haven't been taught how to lip read find a course and ask if you can attend.
- self-refer to Access to Work. Have a word with them about needing a portable infa-red induction loop to use at meetings, a flashing light in your office to indicate when the fire alarm goes off.
- you may want training in British Sign Language BSL or ave the need of a BSL signer at a specif meeting. Your boss my say it's to expensive but remind him/her that the Government pays 80% of the cost and the remaining 20% willl be corporately funded - not out of his budget.

The above ideas are just ideas as I don't know about your impairment.

It's good that people notice you. Where I used to work everyone knew me by my first name even if I'd never met them before.

The next thing you might consider is setting up a corporate disability group to discuss work disability issues to bring to the attention of the HR Manager or best still the main CEO of the whole business - always good to have the backing of your group from the ultimate boss as nobody dare question him/her.

Nellygwyn
20-07-14, 18:59
Light touch thanks for your comments. In answer to your question, I have a severe/profound hearing loss on my left side and moderate to severe on the right.

Your comments are stop on but everything you have said has already been tried and put into place. As for funding, that made me laugh. Tried that and told we don't have the money or it's frowned upon that they need to buy me special equipment. Unfortunately due to the size of the business no government funding is available.

As for standing up for my rights, that's the whole problem of the situation along with bringing the issues of disabled people to the HR team. It's because I allowed the HD charity to take the matter to the director of hr. The head of office felt that I should have spoken or had the letter sent to him directly. The point of goes over his head was because I was not sure who was controlling the issues and the problem ended to be addressed from higher up the chain. I am now being told that I am undermining him, and making myself know around the company, which he does not like!

My Hearing dog alerts me to sounds, that's why he accompanies me to work. The amount of times I have had to put the head of office and management team straight when they remark that they are only allowing me to being my dog into work as they know how useful he would be at home. He alerts me when the fire alarm goes off. He is also suppose to alert me to the telephone but as the office is open planned it's not practical or fair for him to do this. He is not just for home, he is part of my life in the same way a guide dog is to a blind person.

RubyRed
21-07-14, 16:48
Nellgwyn Ive read through your posts and just have to comment mainly with ooohs and ahs and youre joking etc etc.
Ive seen a few working dogs at work and think they do a wonderful job to physically disabled people with every day tasks, they are so clever and much more patient than the human variety.
Ive been a flexible homeworker since 2008, this means many things to many people but mostly comments such as 'it must be great working from home and not have to come to the office', 'I wish I could do that', I get so sick of these stupid people that I usually reply with 'I'll swap my disability and pain with you any day'.
I speak to many managers who have been with the company for many years and know me well say ' I havent seen you in the office for a while ', so I feel as though I continually have to explain. Im sure management think they are doing me a favour also as I have equipment supplied for me at home so understand what you mean, these people dont always deserve an explanation and it makes the whole situation uncomfortable sometimes.
I cant really offer you any other advice but I hope you can get some kind of understanding at work for you and your wonderful 'canine companion'.

Lighttouch
21-07-14, 22:23
As for funding, that made me laugh. Tried that and told we don't have the money or it's frowned upon that they need to buy me special equipment. Unfortunately due to the size of the business no government funding is available. Can I ask who said Access to Work wouldn't fund your accessible kit or support worker - I'm curious.

As for standing up for my rights,.... As a sole disabled worker you have no voice. They were acting as an advocate on your behalf in my opinion.

The head of office felt that I should have spoken or had the letter sent to him directly. Typical protacol. Obviously this person's manager has been given them a dressing down about the line of command and it's passed down the line. You get to kick the waste bin. I much prefer your actions as things happen rather than getting brushed under the carpet. But now they've shot a canon ball over your bows play it their way. Ask for a 121 with your manager to discuss issues - remember to take possible solutions to the meeting.

The point of goes over his head was because I was not sure who was controlling the issues and the problem ended to be addressed from higher up the chain. I am now being told that I am undermining him, and making myself know around the company, which he does not like!
You need a 121 with a list of things that need sorting within a timescale. Action points need making and decide who will look into the issues. The meeting and action points must be minuted. Set a date for the next meeting - keep on the pressure.

The amount of times I have had to put the head of office and management team straight when they remark that they are only allowing me to being my dog into work . . .

This is a disability awareness training for managers issue - they need to be enlightened that he is a working dog. Phone Access to Work to see if they will come over to your place to give a 20 minute Powerpoint presentation at an 'all managers meeting'. Sell the idea that in your opinion it would be good for new managers to understand training which will result in better customer satisfaction and greater sales - they'll go for that angle!!

You have to sell the benefits of having disability awareness training - that is benefits to the organisation not you. Get political - use their way of talking to get what you want. Make them think that they came up with the solution not you - that's the secret way of getting things done[/QUOTE]

Flymo
21-07-14, 23:40
Access to Work often doesn't pay 100% of the costs. If the employee has been in their role more than 6 weeks and the employer has 50 or more employees, the employer has to pay part of the costs of many types of support. Details are in the employer's guide to Access to Work (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-guide-for-employers).

Access to Work is also not intended to cover the costs of providing reasonable adjustments required by the Equality Act 2010, though they might still do so.


Unfortunately there are unenlightened employers who say that if they are not legally required to provide something (i.e. it is not a reasonable adjustment) they won't pay for it. In that situation, unless the support needed falls into a category where Access to Work demand no employer contribution, there's arguably little point finding out from Jobcentre Plus what Access to Work will fund.


As Nellygwyn says she works for a large organisation, the employer contribution for special aids and equipment, also adapting premises or equipment will be:

all of the first £1000, and
20% of the portion of the cost from £1000 to £10000


The employer's total liability for the first £1000 means Access to Work would pay nothing towards the cost of many aids and equipment.

Lighttouch
22-07-14, 07:17
So there 's the first £1000 to pay for which is peanuts to large private organisations. I assume this company is a utility or energy company.

The other sad fact is that managers assume they need to find the money from their tight budgets - wrong!

A large company will have budgeted for Access to Work costs through a corporate slush fund. The hardest part is finding out who holds the purse strings.

Phone AtW and find out who they liaise with regarding finance when dealing with your organisation and that will be the person who will be your new best friend!

Let us know what you plan to do and we can help out as best we can.