The Fire Brigades Union, which represents 55,000 fire fighters, is urging the 46 fire authorities to offer their employees access to literacy support software.
The union has bought a corporate licence for Texthelp’s Read&Write Gold text-to-speech software for its 500 staff as part of a drive to help members who are dyslexic.
Now the union is trying to persuade all authorities to make the software available on their IT systems. “We tried it ourselves to see how easy it was to use; we got a licence and are now looking for the employers to adopt it too,” said National Project Manager Trevor Shanahan.
The union has been talking to senior managers to make sure that they have the policies and support in place to continue to meet the requirements of the Disability Rights Act.
“Employers have a duty not to discriminate against a disabled person in the recruitment and retention of employees, promotion and transfers, training and development but if fire fighters could not read well they could endanger lives,” says the union.
So far seven fire authorities have joined the 20% of British public service organisations that have bought literacy support software.
“The Fire Service has improved its efficiency because individuals have a clearer understanding of procedures,” said Shanahan. “Now they respond more quickly and can operate at a higher level."
Texthelp provided information sessions and a training course for Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) so they can now deliver training on Read&Write Gold.