How the workplace can be made open and friendly for people with disabilities 

According to the latest government statistics, 51.7% of people with disabilities are in employment, compared to 81.7% of people without disabilities.

Only 38.2% of those aged 16-24 years old with disabilities are in work. Employment rates vary considerably depending on the level and type of disability or health condition, with less than a quarter of people with learning difficulties, a speech impediment or mental health conditions in employment.

The Equality Act 2010 was brought in to prevent any disability discrimination in employment and recruitment and yet there is still so much disparity. By overlooking people with disabilities, businesses are missing out on a great pool of talent.

As part of our #AAT PowerUp social mobility campaign, we’re focusing on how and why you should be encouraging people with disabilities to join your workforce.

How should you encourage people with disabilities to join your workforce?

Supporting social mobility by creating a workplace that is inclusive and fair for all is really important in promoting social equality and will improve your workforce in the process. Initiate an inclusion scheme so it’s clear to potential applicants that there are opportunities for them and that they will be helped.

Awareness of the importance of having diverse and flexible working conditions should be embedded in the company values and shared across the whole team with training.

When recruiting, don’t only focus on experience and qualifications but look for the potential in an individual. Having a disability doesn’t mean they will be less capable at the job. Always give fair feedback, whether it’s during the application and interview process or when people are employed. 

Ask yourself if a wheelchair user could start at work in your office tomorrow and consider the practical adjustments that should be made to ensure that your working environment is accessible to all.

Alterations your business could make could include

  • Changing the recruitment process – modifying assessments to ensure they don’t disadvantage people with particular disabilities and allow extra time during tests.
  • Allowing changes to working patterns.
  • Fitting access ramps and adjustable desks.
  • Looking into assistive technology.
  • Arranging coaching and assistance from a support worker or another colleague. 
  • Installing audio-visual fire alarms.

The benefits to the individual and the employer

For a person with a disability, being given an opportunity to work can be life-changing. And by encouraging people with disabilities to join your workforce you will be inspiring the rest of your team – raising staff morale and retention.

People with disabilities are often highly self-motivated so will be a great influence on working culture. Adopting an attitude of being adaptable to people’s different needs will encourage teamwork. Colleagues might have to find alternative ways to communicate and work together.

AAT Comment spoke to Christina Heller who has dyslexia and dyspraxia, but has also landed her perfect job. Christina identified a few tricks to help her work effectively: “I use a coloured ruler to keep my place when doing credit control. Colour-coded notes and calendars help jog my memory. And CRM software is particularly useful, as it enables me to write notes on a customer’s account.”

What support is available?

  • Access to Work funding can be applied for by employees and the self-employed to help with the cost of making reasonable adjustments.
  • Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial advice to anyone looking for help with issues around health and work.
  • Disability Confident aims to help organisations improve how they attract, recruit and retain disabled workers.

Key takeaway

The best way to ensure a satisfied and productive workforce is by putting a real focus on health and wellbeing. Understand that everyone is different and give people some autonomy and flexibility to decide what would help them do their best work and then support them with that.

Invest in training, mentoring and coaching so that everyone is equipped to contribute to an inclusive and encouraging working environment.

In summary

As part of the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled job applicants and employees to do and progress in their jobs. But this should by no means be the sole reason that it is done. Promoting inclusion for all through training and other adjustments will have exponential benefits for your entire team and business, as well as for wider society.

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Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include Group and Merlin Entertainments.

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