We talked with Fara Muneer, who is the Head of Business Development at the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) and lead for CAE Pathways – a great programme for disabled students in London to get involved in! What’s it like working in inclusive design and how can students channel their passion for accessibility and inclusion… and make it their career? Read on!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background!
I’m Head of Business Development at CAE and my background is working in a variety of disability and inclusion services across public, private and charity sector. Alongside the work I do with CAE I also represent CAE at the London panel of Disability Sector Champions supporting the UK Cabinet Office consultation on their forthcoming National Strategy for Disabled People. In CAE I lead on business development of access consultancy and training and project management.
Where did your journey with the Pathways programme start?
When I joined CAE in 2018 I quickly realised that there was a skills gap. One of the challenges we recognised was that there are no formalised apprenticeship or training programs into access employment and with the current diminishing pool of access consultants this presented a risk on delivering our mission of more inclusive environments. Wider data showed in access professionals that only 4% of members were under the age of 30 years. The City Bridge Trust (CBT) is a long-standing strategic partner of CAE funding our ASAS service supporting a more inclusive third sector in London. CBT also had another funding program called ‘Bridge to Work’ tackling the disproportionate level of unemployment amongst young disabled Londoners. From that initial discussion brainstorming session in July 2019 we put forward a proposal to CBT and in Feb 2020 CAE was awarded £322k over three years to support Pathways – a training and mentoring program for up to 40 young disabled Londoners to train in careers in access and inclusion. Pathways will see us collaborating with Mencap, Inclusion London, my AFK, National Autistic Society, Muscular Dystrophy UK, Leonard Cheshire and Whizz-Kidz.
What types of careers are there in the field of inclusive design?
Inclusive design is a design principle that places people at the heart of the design process. It’s based on the understanding that we are all different, and all have varying needs. Inclusive design seeks to reduce the barriers that can stop people from being able to access the environments or services they need (whether physically or digitally). Apart from the opportunities within access, wider research of jobs sector in inclusion is growing with ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ (D & I) given significant investment amongst organisations. Many businesses are seeking a more diverse workforce and need people to deliver their D & I strategy. We felt our programme would be an ideal springboard to enter wider fields than just access such as in D & I, training, facilities and estates – discover sample job roles on our web pages.
How do you see young people and graduates making a difference in your field?
It’s an exciting area to work within and you can make a real positive change in supporting more inclusive environments. You can have any background to enter or join Pathways but having a construction qualification also means that you can take on more technical work such as becoming an Access Consultant and supporting new builds as well as existing buildings and environments. Coming onto this work with a disability adds a new dimension and diversity of talent but its also important to consider that the work we do is pan-disability and to have a wider perspective of the impact of the built environment on all disabilities will be part of the training we provide on Pathways.
The CAE Pathways programme
The Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) has launched its new, ground-breaking Pathways programme to transform the lives of young disabled Londoners. CAE will train young people on inclusive design and the accessibility of buildings and services. The three years + programme, which is aimed at 18-30-year-olds, will provide the knowledge, skills and support young disabled people need to kick start a career in inclusive design and access.
The Pathways project aims to work with 40 participants over three years offering advice, support and continued professional development opportunities during and after the programme. Participants will be able to attend two days of training per month over 12 months on a wide variety of topics relating to disability awareness and inclusive design with practical exercises. There will also be on the job shadowing and mentoring from industry experts, matched to participants’ area of interest.
Written by Fara Muneer
Edited by Laura Patari