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Disability is treated differently in the workplace - a person in a wheelchair looks to the left.

Disability – Nature’s problem solvers should be on your hire list

“Over 1 billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population, with up to 190 million (3.8%) people aged 15 years and older having significant difficulties in functioning, often requiring healthcare services.”

-The World Health Organisation

As humans we are a diverse collection of differences. Nobody is normal and we need to make a stand to normalise differences and celebrate them.

Disabled people are mothers, fathers, friends and loved ones. So why do we see them so differently when it comes to the workplace? There are still stigmas around employing someone with a disability, and a lot of companies can be less than welcoming. Why are non-abled bodied people within work such a surprise even today?

People with disabilities need to be recognised, celebrated, and seen. They need to be within a welcoming community and workforce just as able-bodied people are. If we don’t see people with a disability in the workforce, how can we visualise an inclusive future? Those with a disability have new and fresh ideas, motivation, and inspiration to carry others along when they need it. By acknowledging the barriers a disabled person may have faced and how they have overcome them with support, they can be seen as a role model within a workforce for others to look up to.

There are vital safeguards for us all when it comes to the interview process.

Would you tell your potential new employer everything?

But what if the deciding factor to getting the job was your perceived difference? You do not have to disclose to your employer the nature of your disability, but avoiding doing so can cause issues long term. We do need to remove the worry and concern about disclosing the nature of a person’s disability, so that employers get the opportunity to provide support in the correct way. As a society, we need to be making these changes so everyone has a fair chance and access to pursue their career of choice.

As humans we all have our limitations. Not every job can be tailored to suit an individual’s needs. There are risk assessments that need to be put in place to keep everyone safe, therefore it is important that you communicate your needs to your employer. There is a stigma behind the reason as to why you wouldn’t tell your possible future boss of a barrier/disability you have. Mainly due to the thought that it could possibly put your application at risk. However, without having an open, honest conversation about your circumstances, they would not understand how, as an employer, they could help you.

Everyone looks for different things in potential employers. High up on that list are ones who understand and communicate with their staff members. We no longer want to feel like a number on the payroll, we want to be celebrated for our individuality regardless of ability or disability and to feel appreciated and heard. Think of it this way: maybe there is a possibility of something becoming an issue within your work environment, possibly not straight away, but in the future. How could they, as an employer, cater for your needs? If you find a suitable solution or look to see what procedures they have in place for accessibility, communication or training, then you may have just solved that issue before it even becomes a problem.

Problem solver? Check.
Thinking ahead? Check.
Innovative? Check

How can an employer turn down the candidate who comes across as prepared? You have just proven your attributes rather than them simply being stated on your CV.

Those with a disability are nature’s problem solvers. They live in a world that was designed without them in mind. The world never gave them the option not to be. They are under-recognised and woefully underutilised. The barriers which they would have had to overcome, the skills and knowledge they have developed, along with their perspective, are invaluable. They do more than tick a diversity box.

As an employer, many reasonable adjustments involve little or no cost. You could start by making adaptations to a disabled person’s working pattern – part time hours may better suit the candidate. Providing support through a mentor or training. Write all communication in plain English. Making alterations to premises or allowing them to work on the ground floor for accessibility. Modifying of some equipment, such as office chairs and keyboards.

The population is aging and the number of disabled people is increasing. Smart companies will realise that a lot of people with disabilities are their consumer base and should reflect this in their workplace. Becoming a disability confident employer makes business sense. Disabled people are hugely diverse, have different ideas, thought processes and experiences. Companies who realise the talent that disabled people have, who recognise the qualities their companies need and how disabled people can contribute, gives them a competitive edge that is key for business, for all.

Are you ready to take action and become an inclusive employer and make your business grow?

If you need any help on your journey to becoming an inclusive employer, disability confident or training for staff awareness then contact us now on 0800 612 7429 or email enquiries@diversiti.uk for a free EDI audit and consultation on you needs.

Alisha Kemp – Diversiti UK