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Eddie Kirkwood rubbishes the idea disabled people are less productive

Eddie Kirkwood is a man on a mission.

He has cerebral palsy, which means he needs to use a wheelchair. But he doesn’t let that stop him taking an active part in life. Far from it.

He has spent eight hours a day, seven days a week, for the last eight years volunteering to pick up litter around his home city Glasgow, on his own!

Eddie told ITV News: “Eight hours a day, seven days a week, for the last eight years, I have been volunteering to pick up litter around Glasgow.”

“I take a great deal of pride in my city. Other people see me out picking up rubbish and tell me I’m doing a great thing, but I don’t see it that way.

“I just want to do my bit so everyone can enjoy clean paths and streets.”

Eddie’s story is one of amazing dedication, commitment, hard work and attitude. You can’t fail to be impressed by the 28-year-old.

And he demonstrates some of the great qualities disabled people typically offer employers – even though Eddie is a volunteer.

Eddie says he’s applied for a job with Glasgow Council but he hadn’t heard back from them at the time he was interviewed by ITV News.

We hope Eddie has found a job because he deserves to have one. Not least because he is a very productive worker: by his own estimates he’s filled more than 3000 black bags with rubbish so far!

Eddie’s story is the perfect reply to comments that The Chancellor made recently, when he suggested that productivity in the UK economy is low because there are now more disabled people in work.

Evidence shows that organisations with more diverse teams, including disabled people, consistently outperform organisations that are less diverse.

But disabled people often face barriers to gaining employment. For example, recent research by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI)* showed that up to 75 per cent of disabled people find that their condition has an impact when job-hunting.

The survey, which was run in partnership with global diversity and inclusion recruitment website VERCIDA, also found that 53 per cent of respondents said they faced barriers as early as the application stage.

Whilst a similar number reported hurdles at multiple stages of the recruitment process. Although these figures represent an improvement on the results from RIDI’s previous survey in 2015, there’s still a long way to go to get more disabled people into work.

RIDI’s mission is to create disability confident recruiters and employers by raising awareness and removing barriers, in order to help more disabled people into work.

RIDI works hard to create job opportunities for disabled people like Eddie but the scale of the challenge is stark: that there are more than 12 million disabled people in the UK, but 79 per cent do not have a job.

This means there is a disability employment gap of around 30 per cent, or just over two million people.

A handful of those two million disabled jobseekers hit the UK’s TV screens recently as BBC2 aired its second series of Employable Me.

Employable Me follows people who aim to show that having a disability doesn’t make them unemployable.

It does a great job of showing the personal stories behind people with disabilities when they are job hunting and the barriers they often face.

Hopefully Eddie’s story and the stories of the people featured in the programme can help change attitudes among recruiters and employers.

Many more of them still need to be persuaded to see past the disability and look at the tremendous skills, experience and character that disabled people like Eddie can bring to any organisation.

And if anyone suggests that disabled people are less valuable or productive, tell them they’re talking a load of rubbish – just ask Eddie.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Eddie plays powerchair football for a team called Glasgow Gladiators Powerchair Football Club, which he helped to found.

Every player needs a specialised sports chair, which cost over £5000 each. Eddie being Eddie, he is fundraising to pay for more chairs so that more people can take part and play in the team.

You can donate by visiting Eddie’s Glasgow Gladiators Powerchair Football Club fundraising page.

*RIDI and VERCIDA are clients of Big Voice Communications.