CAMPAIGN: #DisabilityWorks for Nathan, Alan and Sarah

Nathan Hill at his Stannington Tearoom
Nathan Hill at his Stannington Tearoom
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The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits to business of opening the door to an often excluded section of society.

It is in association with Sheffield City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

To find out more: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039


Each morning, he unlocks the door to his Stannington tearoom, turns on the lights and sets about unstacking the dishwasher.

He displays his homemade cakes and cookies while the coffee machine warms up, hangs his ‘open’ sign on the door and waits for customers to arrive.

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Routine is very important to the 22-year-old, who launched his business two years ago, in a converted extension on his parents’ home. Nathan is severely sight impaired and deaf.

He also has learning difficulties and suffers with epilepsy. But the challenges he faces in his daily life have only made him more determined to carve out a slice of normality for himself. ‘Nathan’s Craft & Tearoom’ is it.

“Nathan loves working in the tearoom and adores chatting to his customers, he has lots of regulars,” says his mum Tracy.

“Nathan attended Henshaw’s College for the Blind, in Harrogate, after school, and really blossomed there. He was the first pupil there to go into a non-disability working environment and he did a great job, even winning hospitality awards, but on returning home he couldn’t find employment anywhere.

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

“That’s when we, as his parents, decided to help him build something that was going to work for him. We didn’t want him to just end up being cared for every day, spending all his time in day centres, where his skills were going to fade away. He’s worth more than that, he had lots of potential and we wanted to help him put it to use.”

With his parents’ help, Nathan opened his own business; a tearoom which also sells handmade cards and crafts - most of them made by Nathan himself.

“The reality is that Nathan needs one-to-one care, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of working,” explains Tracy, a nurse.

“Nathan has a permanent carer who works in the shop with him. This enables him to work safely, and the work really does give him a purpose. He takes his own orders, handles the cash, does all his own baking, and makes items to sell. The business gives him some independence; he enjoys serving his customers, keeping the place tidy, popping to the local shop when we run out of things, it’s been wonderful for him.”

Alan Thorpe runs social enterprise EyeCan.

Alan Thorpe runs social enterprise EyeCan.

And with Nathan now established and happy, he and his family have even turned their attention to helping others.

“We’ve just started offering training places in the tearoom to young adults with disabilities, to teach them skills and inspire their confidence to pursue work,” Tracy adds.

“We would like to offer more disabled adults the opportunity to enjoy supported employment - just like Nathan.”

To find out more: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039


As the boss of his own social enterprise, Alan Thorpe’s days are always jam-packed.

Sarah Griffin at Clumber Park Cafe.

Sarah Griffin at Clumber Park Cafe.

There are client meetings to travel to all across the city, and endless trips to the post office - and all of these things are complicated somewhat by the fact that Alan is visually impaired.

“I’m not going to lie, there are challenges,” says Alan, aged 52.

“There are days when it would just be easier to stay home and not bother, but I have too much self-esteem not to work and want to do things. And though there are frustrations, and little battles, on the whole I manage really well.”

Alan, of Heeley, began to lose his sight when he was seven - the result of a hereditary condition - and by the time he was 15 he had lost his sight completely.

But rather than sit back and allow his disability to define his life, he set up and launched EyeCan, a social enterprise which trains visually impaired people to use technology and consults with organisations to make their workplaces more accessible for working people like Alan.

“I can do everything I can because of my guide dog, Velvet,” says Alan.

“Velvet is the reason I can get up and ready in the morning, and jump on a bus to get across town to meet with a client. She gives me the confidence to tackle my job as if I could see as well as anybody else.”

And Alan says that, during the course of his work, he regularly comes into contact with visually impaired people who are employed, working, happy and performing well. But most of them are holding down jobs they were already doing before they lost their sight.

“The reality is, most people with a disability that I see working are people who are working for companies they were with before an accident or an illness took their sight. It’s far more rare to meet someone who has gained employment as a visually impaired person, and that’s a sad truth.

“There are plenty of benefits to hiring someone with a disability, someone who is keen to work and prove themselves and make a contribution.”

To find out more: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039


Sarah Griffin has come a long way.

After three years studying catering at a South Yorkshire college, the 19-year-old has just landed her ideal job at Clumber Park Cafe.

And Sarah, who has learning difficulties, has already proven herself an important addition.

“We’re absolutely delighted with her progress,” says cafe boss Mark Hutch.

“She’s quickly become a valued member of the team.”

Sarah, of Retford, began studying catering at Communication Specialist College Doncaster - part of Doncaster Deaf Trust - in 2013, along with personal and social development subjects, such as accessing the community and managing money.

During her first year she also started an internal work placement in the in-house Sodexo kitchen, doing food preparation and ‘front of house’ duties, and secured an external placement at a cafe in Doncaster town centre.

The college’s catering tutor also visited Sarah at work to provide initial support, and to ensure that she had the relevant customer service interaction required for the job.

Sarah’s tutor, Karl Parker, said: “It is amazing to see how far Sarah has come. She is now employed in a very busy café culture and is really enjoying the work she is doing,”

Sarah said: “The work placements really boosted my confidence and meant that I felt a lot more comfortable communicating with people.

“I completed my Level 2 in Food Production and Cooking and started to look for a part time job near my home. I worked for four months as a kitchen assistant in a local pub but left to work for the National Trust at Clumber Park.

“I am really enjoying my job and want to thank Communication Specialist College Doncaster for all that they have done to support me and help me to get this far.”

Boss Mark added: “The support provided by the college was second to none and we would really recommend that other businesses work with them to provide work placements and job roles for their students.”

To find out more: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039