Bringing disability awareness to the private sector

‘The Botanical Gardens’ – (Pen & Ink drawing)

A new company – Train Ability – is offering disability awareness training to companies in the private sector.

Angela O’Connor set up the company in January, offering interactive workshops to companies on disability issues relating to employment and training for staff who deal with customers and the public.

“The key aim of Train Ability is to increase disability awareness for staff in the private sector.  If you are a restaurant, hotel, shop or bar, you are increasing your sales and social awareness by having and promoting your business as disability aware”, she said.

Companies that avail of Train Ability’s services can claim back 90 per cent of the training costs under the National Development Plan.  There are also grants available to encourage companies in the private sector if they employ someone with a disability, all when they use Train Ability.

“Every company in the private sector is eligible for this funding, so there really is no excuse for this training to be last on the list of customer care training,” said Ms O’Connor.

She added:  “Our workshops are interactive and we believe in breaking down the barriers when it comes to people’s own fears around disability.  In the public sector, this training is free, but there has never been an onus on private sector companies to provide staff with disability awareness training.”

Before establishing Train Ability, Ms O’Connor was a primary school teacher for 10 years during which she worked with children with disabilities.   After completing a Masters in Education at NUI Maynooth, she began to work at Third Level delivering lectures in disability awareness.

“It is an area I feel very passionately about”, she said, “Thirteen per cent of the Irish population lives with a disability – that is 13 per cent of your customer bases – but some people find it a difficult subject to talk about.

“There is still a stigma around the whole area of disability and in my work I see it on a daily basis.

“We like to think that we are open to disability but when you actually work with frontline staff, they will be the first to tell you they feel out of their depth when it comes to disability, they are unsure of what the correct terms are, or if they should offer help.

“There absolutely is a market for this training and the feedback that we have got in the past nine months has been incredibly positive.”

Ms O’Connor has been contracted to draft a report on tourism and accessibility for a private company in Dublin and is keen to expand her services around the country.

For further information see www.trainability.ie

*Courtesy of Sunday Business Post

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