Focusing on ‘abilities’ gives those with disabilities a ‘sense of purpose’

Posted on June 26, 2019 by Janna Starcic - Also by this author

According to research, Michelangelo, painter of The Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel (portion shown), was said to have high-functioning autism.
According to research, Michelangelo, painter of The Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel (portion shown), was said to have high-functioning autism.

While looking for news online, I read about a program offered by Transport for London (TfL) that provides “people with mild to moderate learning disabilities and those on the autism spectrum the chance to gain skills and work experience.”

Real-life work experience
Steps into Work (SiW) is a 12-month program that is run in partnership with Remploy, a UK company specializing in helping people with disabilities obtain employment, and a local school, Barnet and Southgate College. The purpose of the program, now in its 10th year, is to promote independence and move participants closer to a paying job. According to Remploy, 86% of those taking part in the program move into employment, further education, or training after completing the program.

At the end of the program, the students are invited to apply for a paid position within TfL. Since 2016, 83% of those who have completed work placement have transferred to paying positions within 12 months, according to an article by UK-based Railstaff.

TfL is aiming to provide real-life work experience, its website states. Roles may be complex but are structured so that people with learning disabilities and those on the autism spectrum should be able to effectively complete tasks.

The program is made up of three unpaid positions, mainly in offices across TfL providing administrative or office support. Tasks include scanning case files, filing documents, data entry, and emailing staff about meeting schedules.

Confidence in self, ability
After participating in the SiW program, 24-year-old David Yeboah, from North London, went on to gain his dream role with TfL. Yeboah, who is autistic, is now a customer service agent at a West London station. In his role, he talks to customers and helps them get to where they need to be, something that he would have felt extremely anxious about in the past.

“The [program] has given me a lot of confidence in myself and my ability,” Yeboah explained. “In my new role, I really enjoy getting to mix with different people and learning about people’s cultures. Working gives me a sense of purpose and makes me want to get up in the morning. It also makes me feel more independent…”

I love hearing stories about people who have overcome challenges to gain success. If your operation or company offers similar programs, let me know, it would be great to share.

Janna Starcic is the executive editor of METRO Magazine.

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