Sunday 3rd December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Brought about by the United Nations to promote an understanding of disability issues and to spread awareness of the many gains from the ‘full integration of persons with disabilities’ in every aspect of life.
It’s 2017, and we still need reminding that we should be integrating people with disabilities into our everyday life including the workplace! What era are we living in? In the same way that it’s hard to imagine that women once didn’t have the right to vote, we will undoubtedly look back in disbelief that in 2017 there are still barriers in engaging with or employing people with disabilities, because of the perceived challenges?
Yet it’s true. We DO need reminding. Gov.uk reports that less than half disabled people who would like to work are in employment, not because they are unable to but because they are unable to find work. Evidence shows a diverse and inclusive workforce is good for business but achieving it still requires action! It’s not going to happen on its own. Employers and line managers need to be on board. They are the gatekeepers and as far as disabled people are concerned, access to work can be a real challenge.
It’s not that they don’t have the skills, far from it, but there is a focus by non-disabled people on what they CAN’T do, rather than what they CAN do.
Unlocking the barriers takes time and the gatekeepers are the ones who can bridge this unemployment gap and lead the ‘charge for change’ in their own workplace. Education is key; we need to be immersed in disability awareness from every angle. Programs, such as the BBC’s Employable Me that documents an intimate journey with the disabled person along the ‘yellow brick road’ to employment, go a long way to spread awareness. In addition, thinking of adjustments in the workplace to enable access to work can support someone with a disability enter the workforce. If employers can learn to look past the disability to the ABILITY of the person in front of them, then we will be well on the road to change.
Are YOU and your team at work disability aware? We’d love to hear what your team do, to combat prejudices in the workplace.