Every organisation should have equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as a top priority. It’s essential for creating an inclusive workplace culture.

If you have not already, you should be working on an EDI strategy. This should include disability. Disability is often forgotten when companies plan their inclusivity in the workplace policies. But it’s a big part of making sure your workplace culture is accessible and inclusive.

To help you with your strategy and planning, we’ve collected 3 do’s and don’ts to help you get started with your disability inclusion policy.

3 do’s for creating  an inclusive workplace culture

  1. Do make workplace adjustments easy to access
  2. Do be approachable, understanding and open to suggestions
  3. Do support the process

1. Do make workplace adjustments easy to access

Under the Equality Act 2010 organisations must provide ‘reasonable adjustments’. But we encourage employers to do more than their legal duty. Workplace adjustments help remove barriers and support all staff to their best.

Start by giving colleagues more than one way to request adjustments. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking to their line manager.

Then make sure that the process for getting adjustments is accessible. It should be easy to understand. Staff and colleagues should be able to go through each step easily.

You can do this by avoiding unnecessary and intrusive steps in the process. Disabled people often give feedback on using occupational health services. A lot of this feedback is negative.

This is because some assessments can ask very personal and unrelated questions. For example, about how much alcohol someone drinks or about illegal drug use. This can happen even when a colleague is only looking to change their working pattern or hours.

But in other situations, occupational health can be a useful tool for organisations. 80% of impairments and conditions happen during working age. When this happens, the person may not know what adjustments would help them. In these cases, occupational health services can be very helpful.

Using occupational health services must come down to the individual and the situation. Those who know what adjustments they need are unlikely to benefit from a referral. And knowing they will have to go through it can create a barrier to asking adjustments.

Keep asking at each stage

You should also ask about adjustments at different stages during recruitment and employment. This starts the conversation and shows your commitment to making adjustments. Ask everyone at:

  • Recruitment stage
  • Onboarding stage
  • Performance reviews
  • One to ones
  • Return to work interviews

Do not assume that because someone is performing well that they would not benefit from adjustments. Always ask the question.

2. Do be approachable, understanding and open to suggestions

42% of disabled people in employment have experienced negative attitudes from management.

These negative attitudes impact:

  • Confidence and self-belief, 41%
  • Emotional wellbeing, 41%
  • Disrespected, 34%

Scope attitudes study

These findings are as important to an inclusive culture as policies and procedures. Organisations can create a more inclusive culture by raising awareness with managers about:

  • disability, attitudes and access barriers
  • inclusive practices and language
  • social model of disability and listening to disabled experiences

Scope runs training that can help you with raising awareness on disability:

Introduction to disability inclusion

3. Do support the process

Disabled people are often given the responsibility of finding ways around barriers. So work with your disabled employees to find solutions. Do not tell them to go away and research it. The most inclusive employers support disabled people to find the solutions together.

This also means helping with applications to Access to Work. The employee needs to make the initial application. But we recommend supporting them from that point on.

Be proactive. Managers need to make sure that the employee gets their adjustments. Do not leave it to the individual to chase departments or providers. It should be up to the manager to make sure staff get their equipment and assistive technology.

3 don’ts for inclusive workplace cultures

  1. Do not assume capabilities
  2. Do not assume impairments or conditions
  3. Do not let the individual deal with it alone

1. Do not assume capabilities

It is important to remember that every disabled person is an individual. They may share the name of a condition or impairment with thousands of others. But their adjustment needs may be totally different.

Lots of awareness courses generalise impairments and conditions. These can sometimes be used to assume what an individual can do.

But you should always work with the individual to find out what adjustments work for them. Try to phrase the conversation in a positive way. For example:

“How can we make this task accessible for you?”

Rather than:

“Why can’t you do this?”

2. Do not assume impairments or conditions

There are 14.6 million disabled people in the UK. But there are people who have never had a diagnosis. Many do not identify with the term disabled. These employees may benefit from adjustments in their role.

You should never suggest to a person that they have a certain impairment or condition. Instead, ask if they feel they would benefit from adjustments in their role.

You can give examples of other adjustments in the workplace that  supported colleagues. This shows what you mean by reasonable adjustments.

3. Do not let the employees deal with it alone

The most inclusive cultures support the individual every step of the way. If a colleague requests adjustments, spend time with them to understand the barriers. Then work on any solutions together.

Do not leave it up to them. This can make people feel they are a burden and can create feelings of isolation.

Be a proactive part of the solution. Work with other departments to make sure you set up adjustments in good time. Being unable to fulfil a role because you do not have adjustments can be demotivating. Especially if you have to chase them up while also trying to do your job.

Related products