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The Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Although research revealed that employers now create a more supportive environment for individuals and employees with disabilities, resources to cater for them is a challenge across several organizations

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The Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
Disability Inclusion

Current research found that 19% of working-age adults in the United Kingdom have disabilities, 46% of State Pension Age adults are disabled, and 8% of children in the country are also disabled.

Knowing this, what are the inclusion strategies put in place to cater to this genre of individuals both at work and other levels?

The increasing takeover of technology across all units of the world makes inclusion even easier as these individuals with disabilities, both young and old, can work or study from anywhere they are.

Ben’s Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace gives us an in-depth understanding of the inclusiveness or lack of it in companies’ policies and working styles, provides key data, and methods that can be leveraged by companies to scale up a more inclusive work culture, with an ultimate goal of driving motivation, engagement, and talent retention at work.

An introduction to disability inclusion in the workplace

Everyone needs a job or something that ensures income enough to meet their needs but many people with disabilities face the difficulty of finding a good job or being accepted into the system.

Not limited to physical disabilities, some of these people are limited not just in movement, but senses and activities.

Under the law, specifically the Equality Act 2010, you are considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term negative effect on your ability to do everyday activities.

A condition is classed as long-term if it’s lasted for 12 months or more. You can also be automatically classed as disabled under the Equality Act if you have a progressive condition (one that gets worse over time), or are diagnosed with HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, a visual impairment, or severe, long-term disfigurement.”

Inclusion ensures they get equal opportunities as others in society. “This goes beyond encouraging people – ideally, inclusion should be a key part of policies and practices in the workplace.”

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Legislation

Highlighting the characteristics of people protected under the Equality Act 2010, which puts it forward that employers and employees are not to make decisions about applicants or employees based on a protected characteristic unless when allowed in law, or they could be found guilty of discrimination, Ben listed them to be:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation

None of these should be a barrier to anyone when it comes to getting a job.

Disability in the workplace: what the statistics show

A recent report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that:

  • 8.4 million people aged 16-64 (i.e. of working age) reported they were disabled
  • Of these people, 4.4 million were in employment
  • In total, 52.3% of disabled people were in employment, an increase of 25,000 from the previous year
  • The employment rate for disabled people is 28.8 percentage points lower than that of the people who are not disabled. This is known as the disability employment gap

Clearly, more people with disabilities have been employed in recent times, but the disability employment gap still makes it obvious that inequality is still high in the workplace.

The disability employment gap

Further exploring the reason for the gap, Ben explains that even though government research shows that 53.2% of disabled people were in employment, compared to 81.8% of non-disabled people, reducing the disability employment gap between 2013 to 2019, this is not good enough.

The disability employment gap increases for people with disabilities aged between 50 and 59 years (33.4% for the 50-54 group, and 33.8% for the 55-59 group). 

“One reason for this is that a higher percentage of all people across this age group have disabilities. Increased health risks, such as disease, injury and chronic illness, all contribute towards higher disability rates in the older population.”

Supporting disabled employees 

The Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
Source: Ben

Interestingly, research has also revealed that employers now create a more supportive environment for individuals and employees with disabilities.

Statistics show that 84% of people with disabilities make a valuable contribution to the workplace, 76% of employers now offer disability training for employees and 71% are willing to make adjustments such as buying or altering equipment, or changing working hours.

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However, the lack of resources to cater to these people stands as a hindering force to their employment. 49% of employers affirmed that having more funding for adjustments would help businesses retain disabled employees.

Perception of disability in the society 

The Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
Source: Ben

A report by the Charity Scope made it known that a third of people with disabilities think there’s a lot of prejudice against people with disabilities, another set believes people with disabilities are less productive than those without disabilities, and the gap between the beliefs of disabled and non-disabled people about prejudice has widened since the turn of the century:

  • In 2000, 37% of disabled people and 34% of non-disabled people thought there was a lot of prejudice around disability.
  • In 2017, 32% of disabled people and 22% of non-disabled people thought there was a lot of prejudice around disability.

Ben suggests that the lack of awareness or education, or exposure to misinformation is aggravating these beliefs and inclusive culture at workplaces is needed to enhance everyone’s understanding.

Creating a more inclusive culture at work

It takes time and commitment to create a more inclusive workplace culture, but it’s worth it in order to ensure all employees are comfortable, confident, and happy at work.”

In this regard, Ben suggests the following ways to improve inclusion in the workplace:

  • Identify existing unconscious bias: Humans like to organize the world by placing everything into categories and this can lead to bias
  • Change the language you use: The most important thing is to ask someone what terminology they’d prefer, and then respect that choice and educate the rest of the company to do the same
The Definitive Guide to Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
Source: Ben
  • Supporting disabled employees: Ask them which reasonable adjustments will need to be made. An employee with a disability may need additional technology to do their job
  • Training and communication: Your non-disabled employees should be aware of the steps you’re taking towards disability inclusion, why they’re important, and what they can do to accommodate disabled members of the team

Conclusively, Ben emphasizes: “There’s a lot that employers can do to be more inclusive in the workplace, from providing unconscious bias training to improving office accessibility. It will require some additional work and a willingness to change some policies and practices, but results in more employment opportunities for disabled people and overall a happier, supported and loyal team in the long-run.”

​Joan Aimuengheuwa is a content writer who takes keen interest in the scopes of innovation among African startups. She thrives at meeting targets and expectations. Contact: [email protected]

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