Since retiring as a Paralympian, I’ve been working with businesses across the UK to close the country’s shocking disability employment gap.
When the pandemic hit, I knew there was a unique chance to capitalise on the working from home revolution and create further opportunities for disabled people to access new and diverse forms of employment.
So we launched a new service within The Ability People (TAP), Podium: a jobs marketplace for disabled freelancers.
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How does Podium work?
Podium is an online platform where disabled freelancers can showcase their abilities and employers can post remote job opportunities.
Both parties can connect directly, empowering disabled workers to seize opportunities which meet their needs, and giving employers access to a huge amount of overlooked, incredible talent.
The platform is free to join. If work is booked and completed, Podium then takes a 20 per cent fee; half of which is donated to a nominated charity of the freelancer’s choice and half is put back into the business to continue to develop disability inclusion services.
We recommend freelancers set their day or hourly rate to include this “fee” so that they can retain their full rate for each job completed, which is how freelancers generally structure their pricings anyway.
What kind of opportunities does it offer users?
The platform is available for companies of any size and in any sector to use, alongside all freelancers who have a disability. Right now, freelancers on the platform include writers, translators, graphic designers, and marketeers.
It really could benefit anyone, for example, a farm could be looking for an administrator and they could connect via Podium. Since we’re online and the jobs are remote, we’re able to connect hiring managers, business owners and freelancers anywhere in the world.
For example, one New York based freelancer, Geoff, was able to take on a digital marketing project for a company in London after being connected through the platform.
What impact has the pandemic had on you and your customers?
Previously, we were often working in person with big corporates, or on site at smaller organisations. But the pandemic triggered the need for a new, digital offering to support disabled freelancers and job seekers. Disabled people in the UK are already twice as likely to be unemployed.
With overall unemployment going up thanks to the pandemic, this issue will only be compounded and disabled people will be pushed further down the pecking order. Add to that the fact that many disabled people are shielding and can’t easily head into offices right now, and you’ve got a perfect storm.
But, at the same time, we’ve glimpsed a world where location and working hours mean much less. There is a window of opportunity in this moment; if we embrace home working long-term we can capitalise on the depth of disabled talent that has been overlooked for decades and marginalised by the inflexibility of ‘normal’ working practices.
Do you have a long-term plan for the platform?
We hope this is the beginning of a more democratic approach to talent. Most employers haven’t worked with disabled people before (pre-lockdown, there were many excuses thrown about as to why it was ‘impossible’!).
Now, there’s no excuse. And we hope freelancers feel empowered to promote their talents and employers recognise the value they can bring.
Long-term, the ambition is to build a thriving marketplace that creates employment opportunities for disabled people on their terms and leads to authentically inclusive workplaces everywhere.