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Disability Next Steps

From ticking the box to inclusion

A growing number of companies are making commitments to recruiting and employing persons with disabilities (PwD). Whilst a good first step, this often unleashes unintended consequences since the environment and people mindsets are still not disability inclusive. This article touches on three next steps that organisations must embark on foster disability inclusion and a sense of belonging.


1. Absence of accessible workplaces and tools for all kinds of disability:


Accessibility in the workplace is among the biggest challenges faced by persons with disabilities. The lack of disability awareness often cause organisations to be ignorant or not aware of the needs of PwD. As a result many companies lack appropriate accessible workplaces leading to considerable difficulties for persons with disabilities to adapt and integrate into the workplace.


It is important to note that accessibility doesn't just mean wheelchairs, ramps and accessible toilets. Accessibility must cover all kinds of disability – seen and unseen. An accessibility audit can identify and develop roadmaps to ensure that organisational facilities are supportive of a diverse workplace.


Organisations can create more accessibility with the aid of technology; installing adjustable desks and monitors, improved lighting, colour-coded keyboards, screen reader software, sign language apps and so on. Accessible environments create workplaces where everyone feels valued for who they are, where everyone can thrive.


2. Lack of awareness about disabilities in the workplace leading to unconscious bias


While one might not overtly discriminate against disability, unconscious bias is an unavoidable reality existing in our society. Within society there are many stories that portray PwD as “disable”, a victim, a person that cannot work like a regular employee. Such stereotypes born out of misinformation and limited understanding, serve as the base for conscious and unconscious bias towards PwD.


Many managers are therefore reluctant to add PwD into their teams since they have concerns that they may be less productive or have some genuine safety concerns. The best way to deal with this bias is to talk with or visit workplaces where they can see PwD’s in action and understand what adaptations are required at the workplace.


  • Exposure - pairing a regular employee with an employee with a disability can help them observe each other’s work and help them to bring new innovative ideas to the table mutually.

  • Psychological safety - Another strategy to combat unconscious bias is to create an environment at work where people feel comfortable speaking up about uncomfortable subjects and tackling unconscious bias head-on.


3. Lack of internal conversation


Oftentimes, companies avoid discussing certain topics with their staff. The term "disability" is viewed as a general condition, and solutions are developed in accordance with this. As a result, excluding employees from discussions makes them feel irrelevant or indifferent.


As an organisation, you should occasionally gather to talk about ways to make accessibility improvements to your company's standards. The World Disability Day is celebrated every year on Dec 3 to raise awareness of disability-related issues and to rally support for the inclusion, dignity, and rights of people with disabilities. Celebrate this occasion with your employees and engage them in a discussion about the adjustments your business has done to increase accessibility and what further you can do to improve it. Engaging them in a conversation can enable them to participate and offer their ideas.


Lets just take a step back and assume that you have done all the accessibility adjustments, had the conversation, trained employees, etc. But does it mean you are done? Well not quite. The process of accessibility is constantly evolving. You may have handled the present situations and tailored your team's solutions in accordance, but your work is never over.


Companies must constantly update their policies, develop new accommodation standards, and improve their training procedures due to the rapid advancement of technology and the emergence of new accessibility requirements. Therefore, as an organisation implement these practices in workspaces and allow your employees to bring themselves, including their disability, to work! Remember that an estimated 15% of our people have some form of disability - it's only when your specially abled employees cross that threshold have you become truly inclusive.

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