Talking Diversity with Michael McDonnell

Talking Diversity with Michael McDonnell, Managing Director

People in organisations need to be convinced that diversity in the workplace makes real business sense. This is a real business case that can be made here.

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Free or Low Cost Assistive Technology
Free or Low Cost Assistive Technology

Juliann Bergin (Clinical Assistive Technology Specialist, Enable Ireland) talks us through a range of widely unknown free or low cost assistive technology features, that can dramatically improve workplace integration and performance.

Diversity as a Key Business Asset with Kristen Doran (Senior HR)
Diversity as a Key Business Asset with Kristen Doran (Senior HR)

Hiring people with diverse backgrounds and thought processes strengthens SAP's innovative capacity and ability to compete on a global scale.

Talking Diversity with Michael McDonnell
Talking Diversity with Michael McDonnell, Managing Director

People in organisations need to be convinced that diversity in the workplace makes real business sense. This is a real business case that can be made here.

Case Study - Danyl

Danyl on his work placement with his work colleague

A Dream Career Choice for Danyl

Danyl has been attending The Print Room within the Appleby Trust for two and a half years; including two years as part of the pilot project. Throughout school Danyl felt isolated and left out amongst his peers and found exam time particularly difficult due to the tense environment and added pressure he would place on himself to do well.

Danyl left college aged 16 with no qualifications and a few months later was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. At the age of 17 Danyl was given information about the work placement  programme provided by the Appleby Trust for people with Asperger syndrome and was referred thereafter. The most positive aspect of being part of The Print Room for Danyl has been working in a relaxed environment with staff who are well-resourced to provide the required support and to be amongst other young people who have the same diagnosis. Danyl’s confidence has increased and he has made good friends.

The Print Room has prepared Danyl for work in the community through social skills training and job coaching. The job coach worked closely with Danyl to determine his skills, interests and abilities which led to a work placement within a video production company as a videographer. This was a dream come true for Danyl as photography has been a long time passion and this move towards videography enhanced Danyl’s abilities even further.

On-site job coaching was provided that was client centred and client driven to meet Danyl’s needs, thereby aiding Danyl to become independent in his work and allowed support to be withdrawn. Danyl has said without this given support he would have found it extremely difficult to enter the employment market by himself and gaining a work placement has been an important element towards having a positive future.

Furthermore, Danyl will be developing his skills and abilities even further by enrolling on a wider key skills course provided by ASDAN which will take place within The Print Room.

For further information contact:
Appleby Trust
Armagh Shopping Centre, Unit 11
Thomas Street
Armagh BT617AE
Tel: 0044(0)28 3751 8211

This IS working in Northern Ireland

"This IS working in Northern Ireland"
How people with sight loss participate successfully in the world of work

RNIB has launched “This IS working in Northern Ireland” which tells the story of 11 men and women who are blind or partially sighted. They are working in a wide range of jobs, supporting themselves and their families, contributing to their employer’s success and using their energies and talents to further the wealth and wellbeing of our society.

This IS working in Northern Ireland shows how the challenges of sight loss can be overcome in the workplace. It explains how employers can play their part in providing equal opportunities in the job market and describes the resources and support available from RNIB Northern Ireland and elsewhere to employers and to blind and partially sighted job seekers.

For a copy of "This IS working in Northern Ireland":

For further information on vocational training and employment opportunities for people who are blind or partically sighted contact RNIB.

One Question
One Question – What does work mean to you?

The Irish Association of Supported Employment took to the streets of Galway with a video camera and asked one question – what does work mean to you?

Answers - Money, confidence, friends, respect, well-being, contributing, feeling valued - What does it mean to you? A big thank you to everyone who took part!

Case Study - Gemma
Gemma, Retail Sales Assistant at Heart & Home Newry

Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise Opens New Doors for Gemma

Gemma joined Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise (CRSE) in November 2011 to gain experience and achieve qualifications in a retail setting.  Gemma who has Cerebral Palsy was finding her job as a waitress hard to maintain as it involved a lot of heavy lifting and required balance.  As a result of this she felt there was limited opportunity for her to progress much further in the catering industry.

After some encouragement from Stephen Mc Clelland from Newry & Mourne Enterprise Agency, Gemma contacted Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise to find out if she was eligible to apply for a training place. Gemma explained, “This was a very daunting experience for me as retail was not a career I would have considered before.  I am quite shy and really didn’t believe I would have the skills and confidence necessary to interact with customers.”

Gemma’s fears were unfounded and she quickly settled into the retail programme.  Alongside up skilling in retail and customer service qualifications she undertook a work placement at Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise’s gift shop Heart & Home located at The Quays Shopping Centre, Newry.  Whilst in a supported position Gemma was given the opportunity to put the knowledge and skills she had learned into practice getting involved in all aspects of retail from serving customers to assisting the manager with window displays.

Rachel Ervine, Retail Manager at Heart & Home stated, “Gemma was a natural.  She is very bubbly and obliging and once we got over some confidence issues she excelled in customer service.”

With the recent opening of a second Heart & Home gift shop located at Slieve Gullion Courtyard Gemma has secured a position as a retail sales assistant, a job she is thoroughly enjoying.

For further information on Clanrye Retail Social Enterprise (CRSE) contact Judith Poucher, Project Manager on 028 3089 8119 or email


Case Study - Workable NI
Disability Action

Disability Action operates Workable (NI) which is a Department for Employment and Learning programme across Northern Ireland.

Workable NI provides flexible support to disabled employees and their employers throughout Northern Ireland.

The programme can help employers recruit or retain disabled staff and can support disabled jobseekers to be successful in employment through providing practical support in the workplace.

The video showcases the experiences of both employees and employers involved within the Workable NI programme.

Watch the Workable NI video, where employees and employers share their experiences of Workable NI.

If you would like more information on Workable (NI) please Contact a Placement Officer at Disability Action who will give you advice on the programme.

Disability Action
Portside Business Park
189 Airport Road West, Belfast
Tel: 028 9029 7880
Textphone: 028 9029 7882
Fax: 028 9029 7881

You can also contact the Pathway Adviser at your local Jobs and Benefit Office.

Case Study - Robert
“I know that the training I am currently doing is helping me gain the skills that I need in order to be able to go out and work full time”

Robert is a young man with Asperger's Syndrome. He initially attended a special school before going on to mainstream secondary school and completing his Leaving Certificate Applied and his Post Leaving Certificate Courses. After secondary school Robert went to study an Access Course at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Robert enjoyed his studying and his teachers and tutors were very supportive of his learning requirements.  However, he also wanted to explore employment opportunities.

In 2010, he attended a course in the VEC called “IT Skills for Employment”.  This was a great opportunity for Robert to meet new people, learn new things, but more importantly to gain confidence in dealing with and communicating with other people. When he was almost finished this course, the National Learning Network was suggested as a progression route. 

Robert is currently participating on a training programme called Prospects. It is specifically designed for people with Asperger's Syndrome. The course includes modules on vocational training and work placements as well as modules on communications skills, career planning, health & safety in the work place, personal effectiveness, personal & interpersonal skills. 

As part of the course Robert has a work placement one day a week in a local shop. He says “I love going to my work experience on a Friday. I work in a shop stacking shelves and helping customers find things. It is great for getting out and meeting people and also learning new skills that I thought I could never be able to do”. 

Robert has had a very positive experience at the National Learning Network and finds the staff supportive and friendly. He hopes that when he finishes his course at the NLN that he will be able to get a paid job.

Case Study - Kernans Supermarkets
“Employing people with disabilities makes good business sense”

The Kernan family have been in the retail business in Donegal since the 1920s and now have 4 retail businesses - Newtowncunningham, Ramelton and Ballyshannon and their most recent shop in Stranorlar.

Anthony Kernan took over managing the businesses in 1990 and now employs 130 staff across the four stores. He employed his first person with a disability for a position in his forecourt in the Newtowncunnigham business in 1999.  Although, his decision to offer the person the job was met with some scepticism, Anthony believes this was one of the best business decisions he made and has not looked back.  Currently, 10% of his staff are people with disabilities and his first employee is still employed with him and is a very valued member of his team.

Anthony has taken positive steps to open employment opportunities for people with disabilities. He employs a number of people with a range of disabilities (i.e. physical, learning, mental health, sensory and hidden disabilities) across all areas and levels in his businesses i.e. retail, forecourt, catering and administration.

When positions become available, he contacts the local Employment Service Office and disability employment organisations such as Employment Response (North West).  He has developed a good relationship with Employment Response (North West) over the years and he has benefited from their on going support and advice Anthony is aware of and has availed of the programmes available from FAS and now Department of Social Protection such as Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant (WRAG).

Anthony believes that employing people with disabilities makes good business sense, “First of all, people with disabilities can do the same jobs as any one else.  Some people with disabilities may require some  additional support or an adaption or piece of equipment but once it is in place they can do the job equally well as any one else and in my experience some times better. Secondly, as an employer you have a responsibility to the local community in which you are located, to employ staff from the local community.  People with disabilities are part of your local community therefore the staff of your business must reflect this as it’s their family and friends who are your customers”

Anthony actions have not gone unrecognised; he has won two O2 Awards including the National Award for Best Practice in Ireland.

Case Study - Colin
“At 19 I had a stroke, I thought my career in Finance was over but with support from Cedar, the university and my work placement I’ve achieved a degree and a full time job!”Praesent Inc

Colin was in his second year of a Finance degree when he had a stroke. The impact of the stroke meant that he had difficulties with his vision, decreased stamina and difficulties with his memory.

Colin was referred to Cedar Brain Injury Team for support to complete his second year exams necessary for him to start his work placement year and to provide ongoing support to assist him to complete his work placement year and to finish his degree.

During his initial stages with Cedar it was clear that Colin was anxious about the work he needed to do to be ready for upcoming exams, having missed 3 exams during his illness and having 1 exam to repeat.

Colin was supported to prepare for his exams by designing a study planner that would provide focus for study and incorporate breaks to manage difficulties with fatigue. His Key Worker also liaised with Disability Services at the university to arrange study support from an advisor with expertise in Finance.

Colin is covered that he was only permitted to sit two of the exams in September and the other two in January and this was a problem because he had to have passed all of his exams before starting his work placement in September.

Following discussion with Colin, referral agent, university and work placement provider, it was agreed that Colin would start the placement in September on a part time voluntary basis and build up his attendance to full time by January when all the exams would be completed.

During this period Colin was supported by Cedar to practise strategies to minimise difficulties with stamina and memory. The work placement providers was also supported to raise their awareness of brain injury through training and to risk assess the premises to minimise problems relating to Colin’s vision. The phased integration into the work placement was monitored carefully so that issues with stamina did not impact on his work.

The phased integration was successful and Colin started paid work placement in January after passing his exams. Cedar continued to support Colin and employer during the work placement period, arranging regular work reviews. Feedback was constructive but Colin needed no additional support because he was managing his activity and using his strategies well.

In preparation for returning to university, Cedar supported Colin to contact course co-ordinator to request his timetable for the final year in advance and to discuss his learning support needs with the universities Disability Services. The advance timetable was beneficial in supporting Colin to plan for assignments and study to maximise his success. Colin continued to use the planner to manage his time throughout the year. Colin was also granted study support by the university.

Colin’s work placement was so successful that he was offered full time employment on completion of his degree.

Colin achieved 2:1 BSc in Finance (Hons) and returned to his work placement as a full time employee.

Case Study - Cathal
Cathal works part-time in Car Parts and Accessories Shop which New Horizons Partnership assisted him to find.

‘I love my week now. I love my job where I can have the ‘craic’ with the boys and now all the customers know me and say hello when I meet them out somewhere. I am busy every day and that’s the way I want it!’

Cathal came to the New Horizons Partnership in 2006 to start the New Start Programme - a three year pre-employment training programme.  This programme is a HSE-funded initiative (Training and Occupational Support Service) and is person-centred programme promoting independent living and work skills.

Cathal completed a vocational profile which includes his skills and abilities and previous experiences as well as exploring his career aspirations. Following on from this Cathal started a personal development programme which included pre-employment training, independent skills, travel training skills etc.

Cathal also ‘sampled’ a number of work placements through the New Horizons Supported Employment programme including a work experience placement in a Car Parts and Accessories Shop.

Cathal completed his three year training and then moved on to National Learning Network for a period of one year where his skills were further developed.

He returned to New Horizons Partnership to join the REACH programme; which encourages community participation. As part of the programme Cathal also returned to his work experience placement in the Car Parts and Accessories Shop. His work placement employer was very impressed Cathal’s work skills and work confidence that  that he offered him a part – time paid job. 

Cathal now works part-time as well as continuing his training and getting support from New Horizons Partnership.

Quote from Cathal’s mother:

‘If you had told this time ten years ago that Cathal would be enjoying a full and happy life, travelling on his own to training and social events; and working part-time in the local Motor parts store, I really wouldn’t have believed it’.