Disability Pride Month: Making your workplace a more accessible place
July is Disability Pride Month - it embraces all disabilities and encourages self-acceptance, as well as celebrating the disabled community. Some people take the time to celebrate their individual accomplishments, others might simply celebrate the pride of living with disabilities. The main focus is for people to be proud to be themselves, honouring the uniqueness of each individual and reclaiming the visibility so often denied to the disabled community.
Disability Pride Month also provides an opportunity to challenge the stigma around all kinds of disability, kickstarting the conversation to break systemic barriers and find new and creative approaches to increase accessibility.
A crucial area is accessibility in the workplace. Many people with disabilities, both visible and non-visible, dread applying for work, as employers often do not have any accessibility plans or adjustments in place. According to the Walter Report 2021, one in five people in the UK has a disability. However, only 53.6% are currently in work. To continue, almost half (47%) of disabled professionals think that their pay is not accurate and does not reflect the quality of their work.
We talked to a couple of professionals living with disabilities to find out the ways your workplace can become more inclusive and accessible:
Review the hiring process
The use of artificial intelligence (AI), is the area where accessibility should be thought of. It is becoming more and more common to screen applicants and streamline the application process using AI (usually using different ATS - applicant tracking systems). However, employers have to make sure that the use of such programs does not discriminate against people with disabilities.
The interview is the first time a potential employee and an employer meet - it is crucial to show that the employer is inclusive and accepting. There are several ways to make your interview process easier to manage.
These are things such as making sure your site of hiring is accessible and if you’re hiring remotely there are accessible options in place, such as turning on captions for the interviewee during the interview. One of our respondents said: “This is something that comes into play pre-hiring, but when you're interviewing candidates for a job, giving the questions in advance (or at least offering) is so helpful”. The interview should be designed to get to know the applicant, not to catch them out on tricky or confusing questions.
Have accessibility protocols in place
One of the things mentioned by our respondents was the way proactive accessibility is both unexpected and very welcome:
“I must say that if work knew what kind of accessibility they could offer it would be nice because when they ask me how they can help me I have no clue”, another respondent agreed: “Yes, I never ask for accessibility in anything because I don’t know what the options are”. Asking employees with disabilities what support they need without offering anything concrete first puts the stress of figuring out what they can ask for and what would be useful purely on them.
There are different types of practices that can help you design more accessible workplaces – physical and technological. Physical measures include Braille signage, wheelchair accessibility, special parking spaces and work equipment that is adapted to the specific needs of the employee. Examples of technological solution would be making sure there is text-to-speech (TTS) software available or technology that lets people control the keyboard functions in alternative or easier ways.
Provide your existing employees with training
Walter Report also found that the lack of diversity in the industry made it difficult for disabled professionals to progress in their workplace. There is a lack of professionals with disabilities in management positions, also 31% believe that their manager does not care or take the time to understand what their personal circumstances are.
The more educated you, your colleagues and your workplace are about the disabled community, the better you can support and make sure people who are part of it feel welcome in your organisation. It is important to learn the correct terminology, different types of disabilities and what kind of practices would be most beneficial in the development of a more accessible and inclusive workplace.
Additionally, inclusivity and diversity coaching could help to tease out any of the hidden biases the employees have and ensure they support their teammates the best they can.