How to Improve Tech Workers with Disabilities’ Experience

May 13, 2022
hackajob Staff

If you're a naturally curious and inquisitive person, then maybe a career with DWP Digital is just for you. What makes us say this? Well, we met Diane Reddell, an Associate Test Engineer at DWP Digital, who shared insights from her career there. As a person with a disability Diane is also a Disability Advocate at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is passionate about improving the working landscape for workers with disabilities. We asked her for top tips for how organisations can progress in this space, the kind of roles DWP Digital is hiring and much more. Enough from us though, let's hear from Diane!

Allow engineers to be curious

I’m quite curious and I like to play around with systems, websites and even tech equipment. Doing things like reverse engineering really drives me. To this day I still find that to be the best part of a job; investigating and finding out the knowledge and then sharing that with people and I've been able to do that a lot here at DWP Digital. When you're curious, you’ll try all avenues that even the creators don’t know or haven’t gone to because their vision is different. You get to play around and have fun with it and with plenty of opportunities available for Testers at DWP Digital, I'd definitely recommend joining.

Take the time to listen to disabled workers' needs, and actually implement what they ask for

As I have difficulty in moving around sites and travelling to sites, it was very helpful receiving Access to Work help with taxi services, internal access to work and actual assistance to help me around the building. DWP Digital also provided me with a desk on the ground floor, a bespoke desk and chair and this was all pre-Covid. I’m still working from home now. This is an agreed workplace adjustment due to my disability. I benefit from being able to spend more time doing my job rather than struggling with travelling in, so working from home allows me to be more productive.

Don't be a barrier for disabled workers looking to work

Prior to working here, I had to leave a job where they weren’t flexible enough for me and didn’t put any reasonable adjustments in place. I’d always advise putting in place adjustments to help your employees do their jobs effectively, and this can range from things like working from home, desk support, and much more. Don’t be a barrier because there are plenty of us who want to work and want to do well.

Due to the pandemic, there’s definitely been an attitude shift or at least a start. It’d be great for more people to be aware that people with disabilities have different needs, so just listen and be understanding. If you're interested, you can understand how to break the disability bias here.

Community helps. A lot.

Community is also very important to improving our experiences as it allows you to share and gain knowledge like never before. It also helps you as a team to problem solve and to find more innovative solutions. At DWP Digital, we have our engineering community which covers Testing, Software Engineering and DevOps.

I’m also a member of the Women in Digital group which helps women progress within the organisation (check out how we can be more inclusive in my LinkedIn post about inclusive tech). I was a co-founder of DWP’s Digital Voices which was created as part of the Women in Digital Network’s objective. It was based on my experience of Tech North’s (now Tech Nation) Northern Voices programme. The Digital Voices programme helps women within DWP Digital to find their voice to speak and blog about all things digital. I found it great personally, everyone who takes part finds their confidence increases exponentially. Additionally, I attend my union's disability boards and forums as a DWP Digital rep and bring that back to the business to help more disabled people succeed in the workplace, so having that space for community really does make a difference.

Keep the conversation going

If I see an issue, I talk to people about it. We also have disability forums and focus groups where we can give feedback and a pulse survey which focuses on well-being too. Additionally, we have all-colleague calls and we get to converse with the Senior Leadership Team about subjects and there’s always a Q&A as part of that too so if there’s an issue we can bring it to their attention.

Be an ally

Go talk to disabled people or other protected groups and find out what their lived experience is. Be an ally and help people out if you can; you can offer, for example, disabled people opportunities to go for promotion or to take part in voluntary projects to develop their skills. Disabled people do have other skills they can bring to the table like good planning skills, being able to think outside the box and also being able to explain more complex situations. We can help our customers due to our perspective: we can think about the barriers we face and which barriers they may also face.

If you're an engineer, then join DWP Digital!

Just do it! You've got nothing to lose. If you need help with doing your application form or interview tips, or an assessment day or presentation, there's a wealth of support behind you and you can even contact the recruiters on LinkedIn. It’s very supportive.

Our Engineering Practice is really active and there are loads of development opportunities going on. There’s a Slack channel within this to communicate but also share learning opportunities. We also have an annual conference where the engineers get together with our suppliers and we have external speakers who discuss advancements in technology. We have knowledge-sharing lunch and learn style events for the whole organisation. I myself created a Beginner’s Introduction to Javascript which we went through on a weekly basis and this was based on a survey where people said they wanted more awareness and development.

Tackle New Challenges

At a previous DWP Digital Hack the North event, I was part of the winning team where we looked at how homeless people could get help if they suddenly found themselves homeless and on the street. We created an app called Lighthouse, that allowed people to find the nearest shelter, times they’re open etc. It was great working collaboratively with other user researchers, data analysts and other specialists who made up the team. My main role was investigating the design and code for the prototype screens and providing advice on the suggested structure of the MongoDB databases which would eventually be linked to the screens. We were all really pleased to win because we came up with a viable solution to help the most vulnerable people in society. It makes you realise the work we do at DWP Digital really does make a difference.

Like what you've read or want more like this? Let us know! Email us here or DM us: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, we'd love to hear from you.

You can read more of Diane's blogs here:

Can we Twitch it - Yes we can | LinkedIn

Reflections from DWP Women in Technology Conference - Breakout session 4 - Women in Software Engineering | LinkedIn

Lightbulb-Post-It-Civil Service Live Pitch | LinkedIn

NPW Awards, IWD, Digital Voices and Womanchester | LinkedIn

Bureau Local Hackathon - An Adult Social Care Perspective | LinkedIn

Shining a light on Hack the North 2.0 winners 'Team Beacon' - DWP Digital (