For Rhiannon and Olivia, developing their customer service and hairdressing skills at a Toowoomba hair salon is working wonders for both the girls and the business.
Jazzy Lane Hair Studio is providing equal opportunities for people with a disability, with Rhiannon working three days a week and Olivia working every Friday morning.
Both have been working there since 2018, and over that time accessing National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supports to help them gain skills in the workplace by developing their confidence and building on their social connections.
Rhiannon’s mum, Jen, said her 19-year-old daughter – who has an intellectual disability – used a support worker in the salon assisting her to apply colours and learning braids, while also helping with bookwork during her school-based traineeship.
“Rhi has always taken an interest in hairdressing since she was a little girl. Rhi uses her support worker to help her with her skills, as she is also a hairdresser, and to help with transport as Rhi does not yet have a licence,” Jen said.
“The NDIS has helped Rhiannon to gain some skills in her workplace to become a more confident person. She has also achieved this through being able to access allied health services that may not have been accessible otherwise.”
Rhiannon’s efforts were recognised in her first year at the salon with the Elissa Flanagan ‘Aim High’ Scholarship at the Business disABILITY awards; she then completed her Certificate II in Salon Assisting the following year.
For Olivia, her support worker helped her to get work experience at the salon when she finished high school.
Olivia’s mum, Belinda, said the 21-year-old – who has Down syndrome – wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after school but thought she was capable of working in a salon.
“We knew it was an area where she could possibly do things and there would be young women role models there and a place to build social connections,” Belinda said.
“Olivia makes coffee, as well as all the salon activities like cleaning mirrors, folding towels, cleaning colour bowls, and unpacking stock and putting on shelves, and men’s buzz cuts. I think she likes cutting because there are more interactions with customers.”
Olivia also volunteers at a local kindergarten and café, with help from support workers.
“She has a support worker help her; initially it was lots of hands-on support like demonstrating jobs, and then they step back as a supervisory position.
“I think it has been allowing her (Olivia) to explore her dreams and goals and make plans for what she’d like to do, and try. I think it has been great for her self-esteem to be part of workplaces and to learn about how the world really works outside of her four walls of school or home.”
Owner of Jazzy Lane Hair Studio, Gay Hold, said she is passionate about inclusivity in the workplace and has learnt a lot about working alongside people with a disability.
“With Rhiannon, we made sure we did one thing at a time and had visual posters up to remind her to do things,” Gay said.
“We as a team check her work, but it isn’t obvious. From where she has come from and where she is now is amazing.
“We adore her, and her clients adore her.”
Gay said she also loves having Olivia work at the salon.
Gay encourages other businesses to employ people with a disability.
“A workplace gets ten-fold more than what you put in; you will not get a more loyal, hard-working employee than people with a disability are. Knowing you have made a difference to someone else’s life is something I am proud of,” she said.
“It may not be easy to start with, but once you put the work in the reward is worth it.”
Jen said it is important for businesses to be inclusive and accessible as it opens opportunities not only for employees, but the employers as well.
“You can never base someone’s potential on face value or a diagnosis; everyone deserves a chance and an opportunity as everyone has something to offer. Being accessible benefits the wider community too,” she said.
Belinda agrees, and says it is everyone’s right to be able to work.
“We all want to feel like we are making a contribution to our community.”
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, or email@example.com