Creating a more inclusive workplace

According to the ‘Current Attitudes Towards Disabled People‘ report by the British disability charity, Scope, more than a third (36%) of people tend to think of disabled people as not as productive as everyone else.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of disabled people have experienced attitudes or behaviours where other people expected less of them because of their disability, and a staggering two-thirds (67%) of the public feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people! Many people don’t realize that having a inclusive attitude towards disability is as equally crucial as barrier-free physical access and disability accommodation.

inclusive workplace

Like many challenges, education is key to overcoming them. First, increasing awareness and, second, teaching people how to confidently champion inclusion in everyday situations is the only way we will get change. The Scope report shows that it is often only simple adjustments that need to be made to help reduce barriers disabled people face. Supporting organizations of all shapes and sizes to drive equality, embrace diversity and create more inclusive cultures is critical, from changing people’s attitudes to ensuring that there is a Disability access audit for dental practise, doctors or any office which is open to the public. 

Getting a more inclusive workplace means that it needs to be made an issue and equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) need to be on the top of everyone’s agenda. Your senior management team needs to understand the business benefits of a diverse workforce. Is it obvious what diversity already exists within your organization? One excellent idea is for companies to introduce inclusion champions to represent different protected characteristics and act as ambassadors for ED&I. This is an excellent way of getting voices heard and keeping key issues, like providing fair and equal opportunities for women with disabilities, on the agenda.

Speak out and create a culture that fosters a working environment where people communicate openly with colleagues and managers alike. It’s not nice for people to be afraid of having difficult conversations; aren’t confident to challenge inappropriate banter or unfair decision making, and can’t openly share their feelings and express their needs without fear of being labelled a nuisance. Awareness weeks dedicated to specific areas of ED&I, equipping everyone with learning resources to use during team meetings and company-wide inclusion surveys are great ways of getting conversations started and encouraging people to speak out.

Recruitment and selection practices are a significant barrier to disabled people, even getting employed in the first place. In the Scope report, of the disabled people who said that they had faced problems with employment, 76% of them identified employers’ attitudes as the problem. Today, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than people without a disability. While you may not have the power to change this by yourself, you can start the conversations and be aware of this as you work further up in your company and gain more experience. Times need to change, and it is the junior employees who are the future.