Supporting colleagues with disabilities - Robert's story
My name is Robert Fry and I am Scheme Manager at Anchor Hanover’s St Clements Court retirement housing scheme in Kettering. I have severe hearing loss in both ears and this National Inclusion Week I would like to share my experiences.
In the past my disability has made finding work difficult. I was never confident going for interviews because I struggle to hear general conversation. I would be apprehensive and nervous that I would have to ask the interviewer to repeat themselves or misunderstand questions and that would put me at a disadvantage.
A career change
I came to work with Anchor Hanover as my wife was a Scheme Manager and had always enjoyed her talking about how good the company was, how inclusive they are, as well how varied the role was. I regularly visited the scheme as I helped out with the many functions, parties and fundraising events that my wife organised. At the time I was working as a part time Operations Manager for Wickes, a job I had done for 32 years. My wife told me about a vacancy for a part time Scheme Manager to cover maternity leave and I applied for the role. I was interviewed by the Team Manager and District Manager and after a full and comprehensive interview I got the job.
Whilst it was daunting taking on a completely different role, I was very pleased to be offered the position, and when the opportunity came to work as a full time Scheme Manager a couple of years later I jumped at it. I thoroughly enjoy the challenges the role offers me and have been very grateful for the support I have received to help me despite my hearing loss.
My disability has had some impact on my Scheme Manager role though.
For example, many customers I deal with on a day to day basis may have a quiet manner and sometimes get agitated if I ask them to repeat themselves, they think I am not listening and are being rude when I just can’t hear them. I sometimes struggle to hear conversations, talk louder or answer telephone calls via loudspeaker because of my deafness. This can cause concern about whether other people can overhear our conversations which may contain personal, private or confidential information.
Access to Work
When I discussed these issues with the NHS audiology department, they told me about the Access to Work scheme which supports disabled individuals in work with aids and adaptations. I asked Anchor Hanover’s Disability colleague network about this and they put me in touch with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager.
After discussing how my disability impacted my work and what adjustments I might need, I completed the application process. I received a visit from one of the team who went through my needs on a day to basis. They recommended products which would help me to hear via direct speech, at meetings, and answering the telephone and once the recommendations were received, Anchor Hanover was able to purchase these and receive a grant to help towards the costs.
Exploring the support available for colleagues with disability
I would definitely recommend other people with disability discuss their needs with their line manager, wherever they work, to explore what help might be available. Reasonable adjustments, occupational health referrals or Access to Work could all help individuals with disabilities receive the help they need to enable them to carry out their job effectively, and give a massive boost to their confidence in the workplace.
Now I have received this equipment it gives me the ability to hear conversations at meetings and over the phone much more clearly and to have more confidence in my day to day work life. It has given me the desire to seek promotion in the future, as well as to join different groups like the Anchor Hanover Colleague Engagement Forum and the Disability Colleague Network. I want to be a spokesperson to help people like myself and to help raise awareness of those with a disability.
I think the colleague network is a great initiative and hope that as a network we can educate people about ‘invisible disabilities’ as often a disability is not easy to immediately identify. I hope we can all work together as one and ensure those with a disability get the support they need from their workplace.
Robert Fry is a Scheme Manager at St Clements Court, Kettering
National Inclusion Week 2020
Find out how Anchor Hanover is highlighting the importance of inclusion in the workplace by taking part in National Inclusion Week for the fourth year this week.Find out more