Eve Berteen is the Head of Inclusion at Scope. She explains why Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) should include disability. And how it can benefit businesses.

To make EDI more effective, Eve explains why intersectionality is important. And how co-production with disabled people is the best way to create change.

What have you noticed about including disability in the EDI space?

Lots of organisations think their EDI work already includes disability. And they might be quite comfortable talking about disability. Sometimes even more so than other areas of EDI, like race or LGBTQ+ inclusion.

But sometimes the level of disability knowledge and understanding is lower than they realise. That can stop businesses investing the time and money they need to.

What are the benefits of including disability in EDI work?

There is a much higher percentage of disabled people in the workforce than people think. Businesses often think about disability as just wheelchair users. Or those with “more visible” impairments. In reality, up to a quarter of your workforce might be disabled.

Disability inclusion can help you a lot with your other areas of EDI work too.

Once you start thinking about things like reasonable adjustments, you can apply the same thinking to lots of other areas of EDI. So start thinking more broadly about what changes you can make. What barriers are in place that need removing?

How can businesses include disability in their EDI work?

Research is important. Start by engaging with the social model of disability. That will help you get more confident with your knowledge, and with the language you use.

For example, “disabled” is not a dirty word.

Try to get confident using the word disabled rather than euphemisms like “differently abled”. Working with organisations like Scope to deliver training can help with that.

It’s important to approach EDI in a meaningful way. You must involve disabled colleagues in the decisions you make. Disabled colleagues need to have their voices listened to. The best way to achieve this is through co-production, or at least consultation. Co-production means making decisions with, rather than for, disabled people. That’s the key to developing the most effective strategies and policies.

Most big organisations will have colleague networks, including a network for disabled colleagues. Often, colleague networks will be great people to involve in co-production, or consultation.

Just one word of caution. For many, a colleague network is a safe place to be themselves. A place to meet with others who share their experiences. Colleague networks are not always designed to:

  • do work
  • campaign for change
  • engage in co-production

And that’s ok. If you do work with disabled colleagues, recognise and reward them for their time.

Within Scope our focus is on disability. But how should businesses balance disability? Especially among the other marginalised groups that colleagues will represent?

People don’t just fit in one box. I’m a queer person, but I also have chronic conditions that disable me in the workplace. And that’s the case for most people – people don’t fit into one box.

When we were developing Scope’s EDI strategy, we approached it with an intersectional lens. At Scope, we know that disabled people in the UK aren’t a homogeneous group. So, it’s not a case of just taking a one size fits all approach. We need to think much harder about multiple marginalisation. For example, the unique experiences of Black disabled people.

As part of our EDI strategy, we’re looking at improving representation and leadership.  How to create a culture of inclusion. And how to make EDI everybody’s responsibility. Through things like our research and campaigns, we’re looking at how the work that we do at Scope can become much more intersectional.

Related Scope services

Our business services can support you with your EDI strategy and initiatives. You can learn more about the topics we talked about in this article, like the social model of disability. Take a look at our services:

Accessibility training and workshops
Disability in the workplace training
Introduction to disability training session