Louise McVicker

Embracing Diversity: Apprenticeships, Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technology

Exam results are out! Are you exploring apprenticeships? Open up your organisation to those with learning disabilities. Find out more here...


Image of a girl working on her computer

It was great news earlier this year when HM Government signalled that it wants to invest in giving people with learning disabilities or difficulties (LDD) greater access to apprenticeships. The commitment is to reach 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020 and half the disability employment gap.

Although participation rates for disabled apprentices have improved recently and more disabled people are employed than ever before, there is still work to be done in both areas. Employment rates for people with learning disabilities hover around 6.8% and the lifelong costs of economic activity are considerable.

As a result, a taskforce was commissioned to explore access to apprenticeships for those with learning disabilities. Improving access to apprenticeships will allow more people with learning disabilities to benefit from the opportunities available through apprenticeships and work.

While we’re still waiting to see precise details of the government’s recommendations, any initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce must of course be warmly welcomed.

But in the process of opening up apprenticeships to people with LDD, it’s vital that we don’t create additional barriers for the very individuals who stand to benefit.

It’s inevitable that potential apprentices will need to use the Internet at crucial points in their journey – from researching information about available schemes to filling in forms and sending emails. For people suffering from dyslexia and other learning disabilities, however, these forms of electronic interaction can often be extremely stressful and intimidating.

While this exciting government initiative is being implemented, therefore, it’s vital that the proper supports are freely available to those who need it. Fortunately, assistive technology is smarter, more widely available and better value than it’s ever been. 

Products like our Read&Write family of literacy tools take the pressure out of interacting with employers and government agencies, providing support with everyday tasks like reading web pages aloud and spell-checking emails. What’s more, they follow respected industry UDL (Universal Design for Learning) guidelines, ensuring they’re easy for virtually anyone to use.

And there’s another valuable upside to all this. Designing our Read&Write software with UDL in mind can have positive consequences for all apprentices, including those with and without disabilities. Assistive tech can help anyone scan-read a lengthy document faster and more accurately. Equally, it can help individuals find a better choice of words when they’re writing a letter or report.

It’s great to see government commitment to get more disabled people (and especially those with LDD) integrated into the mainstream workforce via apprenticeships. Let’s take a moment to be sure that as a society we’re not making it harder – even unintentionally – for the very people who stand to benefit.

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