An Access Assistant supports a person with a vision impairment, another impairment or long-term health condition, to thrive within their job role.
At Guide Dogs, we currently employ around 25 Access Assistants (with roles funded through the government’s Access to Work employment support programme) who come from all walks of life, often having changed career or volunteered for us before applying.
It's important that Access Assistants understand they don't do the job of the person they’re supporting. Instead, they enable them to carry out their professional duties successfully by providing help with things like admin tasks, sighted guiding on public transport or driving the person to meetings.
Here, Rachel and Steve share their experiences:
“I support two members of staff in the Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns team, based in London. They do quite different roles, making the job really varied and rewarding.
“Most of my role is administrative and involves things such as setting up meetings, diary management and note-taking although it also includes some sighted guiding and a little bit of guide dog care. For example, I’ve travelled on the train up to Coventry with Clive for a meeting with council planners about making the built environment accessible, and I’ve also visited Parliament a few times.
“Attending meetings usually involves sighted guiding, describing the room and spotting people such as politicians when they arrive, as well as checking Clive and Penny’s guide dogs are happy and comfortable. I might take the dog out to ‘spend’ or get them a bowl of water – always make sure the colleague you’re supporting gives you a poo bag!
“Before I joined Guide Dogs, I was an administrator at a theatre. While I was there, I began to feel that I needed something more in my life and started looking online for volunteer opportunities. This led to me becoming a My Sighted Guide volunteer which was way more fulfilling than I ever thought it would be. When I saw the Access Assistant role advertised I thought, that sounds like a really good role and I can do that!
“Both the admin and sighted guiding have been helpful prior experience, but having the desire to support someone is what’s most important. Even though you’re largely in the background beavering away, I enjoy knowing that my job makes a difference to someone and that you’re making their day easier.”
“I’m an Access Assistant for Miles, a Community Fundraising Relationship Manager in the West Midlands. Previously, I had many sales roles in different industry sectors but my real passion deep down was helping people, rather than selling a product I had no real interest in. One day, I went to a networking event which had a Guide Dogs’ speaker talking about the charity’s work. It made me think, what am I doing selling telephone systems?
“I took a big risk and left my job to volunteer for Guide Dogs initially. I now work four days a week for Miles, and on Fridays work in the Supporter Care team.
“Miles looks after around ten to twelve community fundraising groups, keeping in touch with them and overseeing what they do, so I help him with lots of logging, checking emails, looking at spreadsheets and Googling things. Generally, I am being Miles’ eyes and giving him any information he needs quickly and informatively.
“I might also drop Miles off or meet him at Birmingham New Street station, for example, and do some sighted guiding. You need to keep your wits about you in terms of other people and the surroundings as you’re responsible for getting that person around safely.
“To be a good Access Assistant, I believe empathy, being able to communicate clearly and listening are key skills.
“I feel very privileged to work for Guide Dogs and always find it a bit of a buzz. The best part is knowing that you’ve helped someone – you are doing something good every day and every week. It’s a fantastic role.”
If this blog has sparked your interest in becoming an Access Assistant, any vacancies are advertised on our jobs board