A blind software developer from Cookstown in Co Tyrone has settled his disability discrimination case against both his former employer the Western Health and Social Care Trust and the HSC Business Services Organisation (BSO) for £3,000. The case, which was was agreed without admission of liability, was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Stephen Campbell, who is registered blind and uses a screen reader to interact with laptops, worked in the ICT department at the Western Trust, as part of the software development team, where he jointly managed and developed the Trust’s intranet service for staff.
When a promotional opportunity arose, Stephen wished to apply. However, the application process for this job required using an application wizard on the Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (HSCNI) jobs website to download and submit the completed application form. Stephen discovered that this technology could not be activated by the screen reader technology he used, making the application process inaccessible to him.
Stephen could not find anything on the HSCNI website regarding reasonable adjustments required by disabled people trying to access its services via the website.
Mr Campbell said: “For two job applications, the Western Trust did accommodate me by stalling the recruitment exercise and reasonable adjustments were made to facilitate me. However, I was keen to apply for other jobs and promotional opportunities in software within the NHS and other trusts, but when I applied, I encountered the same accessibility issues on the website.
“I thought this was unfair and I needed to challenge it. So, I brought this case to both raise awareness of the issue and hopefully remove this barrier to accessing employment for disabled people in the health service here. I welcome that as part of my settlement BSO have agreed to keep RNIB updated on development of the HSCNI website.”
Eoin O’Neill, Director of Legal Services, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said: “The employment rate for disabled people in Northern Ireland is 36 per cent. It is the lowest of all the UK regions. We know disabled people face barriers to employment, but we also know they are a diverse group of people with skills and talents that our economy needs across both the public and private sectors.
“As employers, all public sector organisations must comply with equality legislation. Their websites should be accessible for all service users including those with disabilities. Employers must also ensure that they do not discriminate against or treat disabled candidates less favourably during the recruitment and selection process.
“The Commission remains committed to working with partners, organisations across the disability sector and individuals to help more disabled people find and retain paid employment,” added Mr O’Neill.