Do you include disability on the Diversity & Inclusion agenda at work?
When you talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace do you think about people with disabilities? Disability is often not included on the diversity agenda. When you think about disabled people do you think about just sticks and wheelchairs? What about non-visible disabilities and long-term health conditions?
It's time for disability to be put firmly on the diversity agenda, so how do you recruit and retain disabled talent?
What is a disability?
You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. This definition can include conditions such as cancer, dyslexia, diabetes and is much wider than people think, as includes both visible and non-visible disabilities/long-term health conditions.
Many people are probably unaware that they come under the umbrella of the legal definition of disability and this is one of the reasons for non-disclosure. Amongst those that are aware, their condition may be manageable and therefore, does not impact their work and so there is no reason to inform their employers.
Reasons for including disability on the diversity agenda:
- We are an ageing population and will have to work for longer. Over time our senses and minds will change. If you stick around long enough then you will probably become a member of the disability club.
- At any one time, one worker in six will be experiencing depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress. In many cases, these problems lead to absence from work. The average employee takes seven days off sick each year of which 40 per cent are for mental health problems (Source: The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Policy Paper 8).
If we are unable to speak about this at work openly then this will just further the stigma and shame surrounding mental health.
- Most disabled people acquire their disability whilst of working age – 86 per cent so employers need to be able to respond to this.
- People with disabilities are the biggest minority group.
- People will disabilities tend to develop additional skills – problem-solving, empathy, resilience and seeing things from a completely different angle. If you are not recruiting disabled talent then you are missing out on a large talent pool.
Tips for Employers to work in a more inclusive way
I have some general do’s and don’t below but this list is not exhaustive. I will use the example of a wheelchair user as this is based on my personal experience.
If you have an open attitude to people with disabilities your staff will feel able to embrace and express their differences freely and authentically. There is no better way to improve confidence and fulfilment at work. A recent survey shows that it is the perception of disability, that causes the majority of challenges that people with disabilities have each day.
Don’t define somebody by their disability. Wheelchair users, for example, have heard all the 'jokes' and 'lines' thousands of times such as, “don’t drink and drive”, “don’t run me over”, “have you got a license for that?”, “women drivers!” These are some of the common ones. It is simply a lazy reference to the chair when people feel the need to say something due to perhaps awkwardness on their part. We all make mistakes, especially if we are not used to disability. If you do say something which you feel caused offence then simply apologise quickly and move on.
Be aware of your language. An easy way to remember whether a word may cause offence or not is asking yourself, is it disempowering or empowering? The word “wheelchair-bound” for example, is banded about and is part of everyday language, but it suggests someone who is passive and disempowered. Why is language important? Thoughts affect our words and our behaviour. The more commonly accepted word is “wheelchair user”.
Most chair users do not like someone leaning on their chair and treating it like a piece of furniture. You wouldn’t just lean on someone’s arm. It is an invasion of someone’s personal space.
Do not push someone without asking. Empower the individual by allowing them to approach you should they require assistance.
A final thought… is it the disability which is disabling or could it be the attitudes, environment and infrastructure of your organisation?
If you need disability awareness training at your organisation then please contact Yasmin via www.diversematters.org
Thank you again to Yasmin for allowing us to re-publish her insightful blog.
Diverse Matters is a specialist training consultancy who works with organisations and people to approach diversity and disability (both visible and non-visible) with confidence and strength and has worked with many key players in the legal sector. To get in touch with their team, click here.