I have long been a supporter of the Employers’ Forum on Disability and the great work they do. They have recently changed their brand to become the Business Disability Forum. Their Recruitment Advisor, Tracey Abbott, tells us what has been happening and why it is important that businesses become Disability Smart.
Why EFD became the Business Disability Forum, why business should become Disability Smart.
Our old name reflected were we came from. We had a strong focus on how business employs and retains disabled talent. Over the 21 years we have been in existence the emphasis on employment remains strong, but our ability to advise and share best practice on customers and global matters has come to the fore.
It is easy for the leadership of organisations to dismiss disability as irrelevant or unimportant. It is tempting to assume that a small minority of your customers are affected by disability and that this isn’t going to change. Your products and services are probably not aimed at disabled people. Catering for the needs of disabled people may seem expensive and unrewarding.
The reality is that disability affects every aspect of business – employees, customers, markets, suppliers and stakeholders. More than three quarters of disabled people acquire their disability as adults. As societies age increasing numbers of older people will acquire disabilities. A third of people aged between 50 and 64 years have a disability and a third of all employees are disabled or are close to a disabled person. All these people are already the stakeholders, employees and customers of your organisation.
Becoming disability-smart is a catalyst for making your organisation more productive and more effective. The business benefits are proven; stronger leadership and more productive employees, more effective talent recruitment, more innovative products and use of new technology, stronger customer relationships and a better overall reputation.
Business Disability Forum has adopted the social model of disability that argues that it is society which turns impairments into disabilities. Any individual may have or acquire impairment such as blindness or diabetes. The impairment may be permanent or temporary. That person’s experience of disability depends on the extent to which society adapts and accommodates their needs.
There is a worldwide move towards rights-based legislation which expects the individual to be employed fairly, on the basis of their potential to do the job, with or without adjustments. There are also varying legal definitions of disability and different and inconsistent regulatory requirements on employers and providers of goods and services. ‘Minimal compliance’ is no longer a sufficient response to this challenge.
Business Disability Forum provides a unique range of advice, support and expert tools to help organisations become disability-smart. We have over 20 years of experience of working with a range of public, private and third sector organisations and of providing thought-leadership through bringing disabled people and business together.
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