Civil Service employers must and do consider their obligations under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015 to provide reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is about meeting the needs of people with disabilities, including visual impairment, so that they can have access to and can participate and advance in employment. The intention of the provisions dealing with reasonable accommodation is to create a level playing field between individuals with and without a disability.
Employers across the civil service provide reasonable accommodations to staff who have a disability so they can participate and advance in their employment.
There are a range of supports available to staff and employers that can help with reasonable accommodation.
- Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs) are appointed across government departments. A key part of the DLO role is to support staff with disabilities. The DLO can work in conjunction with other sections, e.g. Human Resources (HR), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division to assist staff with disabilities.
- The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service provides a wide range of free and confidential supports to all staff and management of the Irish Civil Service.
- My own Department has increased training and support aimed at ensuring civil service employers are aware of their duty of care as an employer. For example, DPER has provided:
- Training on Reasonable Accommodation for over 150 people who work with staff with disabilities.
- Guidelines on the provision of reasonable accommodation.
In relation to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has developed a range of applications that are used across Civil Service departments and offices for handling routine functions. These include systems for managing parliamentary questions, processing internal submissions, electronic records management, and so on. These applications are built to be accessible for visually impaired users from the ground up. The applications undergo accessibility testing, including the use of screen readers, the primary tool used by visually impaired users to interface with their PC. This testing, is carried out during both the development and maintenance of the applications and involves working groups with visually impaired members. This allows the OGCIO to gather direct experience and feedback from visually impaired staff in order to continuously improve the user experience of the applications.
While provision of reasonable accommodation for any individual staff member is a matter for each Department my own Department provides devices and office productivity software with industry leading screen reading software that provides text-to-speech outputs for visually impaired and blind staff.