Freelancing is a popular option for people with disabilities who have found that the 9-5 doesn’t cater to their needs. We caught up with Paralympian gold medallist Liz Johnson, who turned from athletics to disability inclusion in the workplace with The Ability People – and learned more about Podium, their new platform.
Liz set up The Ability People when she realised there was a disconnect between employers wanting to hire people with disabilities and their processes to help those employees stay in work.
Difficulties getting a job
For many, it’s tough to get a job when an employer doesn’t think they can offer the required adaptations for an employee. Instead of seeing the benefits, some business owners look at things like additional costs, or the time investment of changing processes.
However, times are changing and more employers are cottoning onto the fact that people with impairments offer a unique perspective.
“We’re always adapting to the world around us, every day,” says Liz. “We have to make things work in a world that’s not built for us – which means people with disabilities are excellent problem solvers, they’re resilient, and bring a unique perspective to things”.
Help for employers
Often, Liz says, employers think they’re offering an accessible workplace – but, in reality, the processes they have in place can prevent this. “It’s not just about making the building accessible”, she says – but rather, about catering for all types of disabilities.
This means working with businesses on everything from disability awareness training for staff, to helping them revise how day-to-day processes work to make sure they’re accessible. Many companies work with an intranet, for example – and they won’t always work with screenreader software. Or, businesses insist on set working hours without the flexibility to commute outside of rush hour.
The Ability People helps employers realise the wide range of disabilities people can have – including invisible ones – and shows them how to make their business as inclusive as possible.
However, even though many businesses are willing to take on training and change their processes, many people with impairments choose to create their own path.
Freelancing is tough for everyone who attempts it – but people with disabilities often find it’s a great way to forge a career that works around their impairments. Being your own boss is a brilliant way to work flexibly, and you can work in ways that suit you.
There’s also a lot of help out there for people with disabilities who want to go self-employed. For example, the Access to Work scheme helps fund essential adaptive equipment, or services like sign language interpreters.
More than anything, self-employment is the perfect way to establish your career in a way that suits you. Your unique experiences and problem-solving attitude mean you can bring a fresh perspective to your clients.
Being self-employed as a person with disabilities or impairments does one further important thing: it centres your abilities and knowledge, instead of spotlighting your disabilities.
Liz and The Ability People realised there is market for employers who want to hire freelancers with disabilities. However, there was no dedicated forum to connect the two!
Many freelancers with disabilities or impairments find it’s tricky to know when to tell clients they’re disabled. They worry it will put clients off working with them – and that it could eliminate them entirely from potential work. On the other hand, finding clients who actively want to hire people with disabilities was also a minefield.
Podium removes that worry altogether. You know the employers using the new platform are actively seeking freelancers with disabilities to join their extended teams. There’s no stigma attached: you’re selling your services to someone already interested in what you’ve got to offer!
Podium is a new platform that connects employers and freelancers with disabilities. It’s free to post your advert – and you’re in charge of what you choose to charge.
You can find out more about The Ability People, Podium, and becoming a freelancer on our latest podcast with Liz Johnson – available here.
Freelancing is a perfect solution for many people who need to be flexible in their working hours, location, or type of work. However, we know it’s a daunting mission to start on, which is why we’ve got tons of articles to help! Read these next: