Supporting disabled employees
More than 1 billion people in the world identify as disabled. That’s 15% of the world’s population.
Here in the UK, 23% of working age adults are disabled. The UK Parliament regularly publishes briefings about this. They use data from the Office for National Statistics.
So are we doing enough to support our disabled employees? The answer is clear and simple: no.
Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. This suggests workplaces lack:
Ableism is discrimination and prejudice against disabled people. It implies non-disabled people are superior. And anti-ableism is challenging that behaviour. It’s important to call out inequality in the workplace.
I was born with my disability, and I have never known my life without it. As a disabled woman in the workplace, I have faced many obstacles. I lost jobs because I’m disabled. I didn’t get hired because I’m disabled. I’ve felt humiliated and excluded at work because I’m disabled.
During my life, people have always seen me as a risk instead of a talent. People misunderstand me and judge my abilities based on my health instead of my skills. I constantly face this negative stereotype. And there are also accessibility barriers I can’t break through.
It becomes the ‘perfect mix’ preventing me from going through the same doors as other people. This is the ableist reality of being a disabled person in a job, or looking for a job.
The worrying data behind disabled employment
Statistics show that employers are not supporting disabled employees. According to Evenbreak, 82% of disabled job seekers struggle to find disability-friendly employers. Respondents rated 71% of employers ‘poorly’ for their understanding of disability.
In a survey by ComRes, 24% of British employers said they were less likely to hire disabled people. 60% of those were worried that a disabled person may not be able to do the job.
These numbers show the impact of negative attitudes and a lack of disability awareness.
There are systematic mechanisms that create employment barriers for disabled people. These include barriers related to:
- technology and physical spaces
- a lack of knowledge or understanding
- internal rules and policies
- inadequate adjustments
- outdated ideas
Additionally, there may not be enough support or inclusive practices in place. People often hesitate to take inclusive action due to uncertainty or misinformation.
Some businesses are overlooking disabled people due to ableist assumptions about their abilities. As a disabled woman, I have faced these barriers and could talk forever to these facts. Whether people believe me or not, the statistics speak for themselves.
The benefits of disability inclusion
Accenture did a study of the US labour market. It found that companies who hire disabled people perform better than other companies. They have:
- 72% more productivity
- 45% better workplace safety
- 30% higher profit margins
- 200% higher net income
According to a study, 75% of employers also think disabled workers are as good or better. This includes motivation and commitment. Hiring disabled individuals benefits companies from both an economic and cultural perspective.
The Department for Work and Pensions surveyed employers who are part of the Disability Confident Scheme. Around 71% of them think employing disabled people has a positive impact on staff morale.
How can businesses better support disabled employees?
First, we need a true commitment to the social model of disability. This means understanding it and using it as a foundation. Once we do this, we can start removing barriers. The social model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. These barriers can be physical or caused by people’s attitudes.
The model focuses on disabled people’s talents, aspirations, intelligence and skills. It also highlights the potential social and economic contributions of disabled people. This is the result of fostering an inclusive, accessible and diverse community.
Organisations should focus on fixing simple barriers like digital and communication issues. We should also encourage them to examine long-term barriers, such as internal practices. Organisations should also promise to change policies that exclude disabled people.
Organisations must represent the consumers they serve. To move forward with inclusivity and accessibility, they must commit to it. They must listen to the voices of those with lived experience. They must foster an environment for safe, honest and productive discussions.
Accessibility is a right, not a privilege. The right to participation, opportunity and equal treatment. To drive change, organisations must be responsible, accountable and proactive. It’s not enough to be reactive. The road is never linear, but change is vital.
Celia Chartres-Aris is a disabled founder and investor. She is a multi-award winning campaigner, advocate and activist for disability inclusion. Celia is also a policy designer and disability legal expert. She is an ambassador for intersectionality and disability.
Celia is on the 2023 Global Diversity Leaders list. She’s also featured on the 100 most influential disabled people list. She is the cofounder of the first policy unit in the UK. It focuses on putting disability at the heart of Westminster. Celia has also founded Access2Funding. It’s a business bringing together the global investment market and inclusive practices. Access2Funding is improving opportunities and participation for disabled entrepreneurs.
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We believe partnerships can help us build a more inclusive and accessible society. One where disabled people experience equality and fairness.
To do this, we partner with organisations to work on larger strategic goals together. For wider social change. For their customers. For their clients. For their employees.