#ShiftThePower

Access to Employment

Persons with disabilities themselves must now be given an opportunity to sit on decision making tables and allowed to make meaningful contributions… – youth with disability testimony, ‘Stories from the Classroom’ report by Leonard Cheshire and UNESCO

Project

Youth with disabilities often report barriers to finding meaningful work and, when at work, they share struggles with job security and promotion. For those at school, experiences of bullying and violence impact their self-esteem and lead some to drop out entirely.

In partnership with Leonard Cheshire, we trained young people with disabilities living in Thailand and Zambia to report on their experiences – they report on the barriers of the recruitment process, employer attitudes and bullying in the classroom, all while advocating for youth-friendly, disability-inclusive change.

Thailand

As part of the pilot, we developed a community reporter network of young people with disabilities living in Thailand to use their phones to share their challenges and solutions to accessing employment. This first began in January 2021, where we co-delivered online training with 6 young people in Bangkok – including two blind participants, one who uses lip-reading, one who has Aspergers, and two with physical disabilities.

To ensure the course was accessible, the training and pre-reading materials were translated into Easy Read. During the session, videos were visible to facilitate lip-reading and smaller break-out sessions were used to give the group a chance to ask questions and clarify before moving on. Training looked at how to send in reports and use messaging tools; a refresher on keeping safe; how to use your mobile phone to record audio and video; and ethics.

This original session was recorded and sent out with follow-up audio modules and a digital guide (in Easy Read); followed by wider cohort training in February, supporting Thai colleagues to deliver the training, as well as short e-learning modules on Learn.ink as refresher content.

Because of this, the network was able to take part in a reporting sprint, where they shared the barriers they faced during recruitment processes, working environments, and employer attitudes and policies, all through their phones.

Zambia

The next phase of the project looked to amplify experiences of bullying and violence faced by youth with disabilities in school, as Leonard Cheshire joined UNESCO to better understand their ideas for change.

As part of this, Radar co-delivered community reporter training with Leonard Cheshire – supporting 12 young people with disabilities living in Zambia to report on their experiences in school as well as other young people with disabilities in their communities.

Training began in June 2021 and amongst the 12 young people, 8 have different types of physical disabilities and two have visual impairments and prefer large print. To better support this, we adapted the course to be accessible, meaning each young person could work through modules on citizen journalism, staying safe, and capturing audio-visual material.

In addition to the online training, the young people had access to refresher modules and quizzes through their mobile phones, helping embed learning and maintain engagement. With Leonard Cheshire, we then set up a reporting line using a popular chat app and, across a two-week reporting sprint, they sent in 52 reports.

Through their reports, the network shared the impacts of bullying on them and other young people with disabilities, including a reduction in self-worth and, because of this, a drop in academic performance. Over half either stopped going to school or were withdrawn entirely.

 My confidence gradually dropped because I started to question myself, if I was really a person. - young person with disability

Alongside the challenges, they also set out their aspirations to be included in changing this, making sure classrooms are safe and inclusive for all learners.

Impact

For the youth with disabilities in Thailand, the stories, concerns and ideas shared were used to help advocate for age-appropriate, disability-inclusive employment policies and practices. Many of the reporters have continued to report on their experiences and have taken part in panels, discussing what accessible change would look like.

As part of anti-bullying week 2021, Leonard Cheshire and UNESCO released the ‘Stories from the Classroom’ report, amplifying the concerns and ideas shared by the network of young people in Zambia.

I would want to add disability issues in our school curriculum so that everyone can know more about disability rights, that they're also human and they deserve all rights that we are entitled to - young person, 'Stories from the Classroom' report by Leonard Cheshire and UNESCO

Here, the young people lay out their 5 key recommendations, focusing on ensuring the implementation of existing laws and policies to safeguard learners with disabilities and delivering empowerment projects for this group to better understand their rights.

Partners

Leonard Cheshire

Links

Read the Stories from the Classroom report from Leonard Cheshire and UNESCO

Find more information about the pilot here.