Web opens world of work

Job hunting when you’ve got a disability can be an uphill struggle – but hope is on the horizon with a new online work experience scheme.

The founders of resource website Sky Badger are hoping to ‘level the employment playing field’ with their research and copywriting programme.

Sky Badger was set up by four mothers of disabled children, and is one of just two causes which have Professor Stephen Hawking as a patron.

One of the founders, Naomi Marek, who lives in Potton, Bedfordshire, said the scheme was hatched during a telephone call with the theoretical physician, who lives with motor neurone disease.

She said: “It is often so hard for young disabled people to get a start with employment.

“For example, if you have cerebral palsy, jobs such as hairdressing are out, or if your autism means you’re agoraphobic, it would be hard to work in a supermarket.

“The beauty of our online work experience scheme is, over the internet, people’s disabilities are invisible. It is also available to parents of disabled children who cannot work outside the home.”

Sky Badger’s mission is to find help and adventure for disabled children and their families in the UK.

It does this by listing all the charities and services which offer help, from free nappies to disability-friendly holidays, after school clubs to how to apply for grants, on its website and social media.

It is piloting the online scheme, called Sky Badger Scouts, in Bedfordshire, and is recruiting people aged between 14 and 25.

Naomi said: “The scouts will get a taste of copywriting, research and data-entry, and access to future employment opportunities and further education in the IT sector.

“The work includes researching disabled sports clubs, arts groups, sibling groups – everything in their area for families with disabled children. The information gathered will be available on the Sky Badger website for free and available without assessment to all of the 7,690 disabled children under 16 in Bedfordshire, their families and professionals supporting them.”

All Sky Badger Scouts will work remotely via a laptop, computer, tablet or other adapted technology, which allows those with significant mobility issues to get involved.

Naomi added: “Technology has given us an incredible opportunity to level the playing field for hundreds of thousands of young disabled people in the UK planning their careers and looking for work.”

Speaking about the scheme, Professor Hawking said: “My advice to other disabled people would be: Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with.

“Although I was unfortunate enough to get motor neurone disease, I have been very fortunate in almost everything else. I was lucky to be working in theoretical physics, one of the few areas in which disability was not a serious handicap.”

Sky Badger was awarded a £2,500 grant the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bedfordshire Freemasons to help with its work. For more information, go to www.skybadger.co.uk