Naidex is Europe’s largest disability event for trade, healthcare professionals and end-users. Taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on the 26th & 27th March, Naidex gathers innovation, information, cutting edge suppliers, and the most inspirational speakers from around the world to one venue, over two unforgettable days
It’s an important event in Evenbreak’s calendar, and we’re involved on both days. On the first day, 26th March, our founder, Jane Hatton is delivering this seminar in Theatre 6 at 11.45am:
What makes disabled people such fantastic employees?
Why should employers be excited about employing disabled people? And how should disabled candidates ‘sell’ themselves to employers? We look at employment from the point of view of the employer and the disabled candidate to see how each can help the other. An inclusive workplace benefits everyone.
And on the second day, 27th March, she’s part of a panel discussing employability
Panel – Employability
Is the workplace becoming more inclusive? Are companies doing everything they can to decrease the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people?
Our panelists will explore the advantages, opportunities and challenge the stereotypes of employing disabled people.
‘Job carving’, which refers to customising duties or creating specialist jobs for disabled people, is a method that’s being used more and more nowadays. As jobs become more flexible due to technology, companies look to job carving to create opportunities for disabled people. And it turns out that it benefits employees and organisations in many different ways.
Job carving differs from the standard way of a top-down approach to management. With top-down management, employees are indirectly involved in redesigning their jobs by providing information to the management. Job carving, on the other hand, allows the employee and the management to design the job together. According to Jennifer Ho of the University of Ottawa, “It is a strategy in which the individual and the employer negotiate the work environment, job duties and responsibilities, and other conditions of the job.” By (re)designing a position from the employee’s perspective, we can begin to think of how the person’s skills can contribute to the company, rather than impose a standard and “fit a circle into a square” approach. This applies to disabled employees as much as to regular employees, because even employees without impairments have personal limitations. Thus, job carving is not simply about inclusivity but rather, a managerial strategy that aims to maximise human resources from the ground up.
Job carving enables highly-skilled workers to focus on tasks that demand specific skills and delegate other tasks to a new role. Using this approach, disabled people can fulfill both high-skilled and low-skilled roles. The idea is to customise a job in such a way that maximises their time and skills.
There is, of course, the general perception that hiring disabled employees can affect efficiency and productivity. The numbers, however, tell that this is far from the truth. A study by Joseph Rowntree has established that employees with learning disabilities generally stay in their organisations longer than professionals that don’t have a disability. Moreover, an article from The Guardian, cited the Charity Awareness Monitor, specified that “77% of the public think more highly of companies that employ disabled people.” Both numbers indicate that organisations can benefit greatly in terms of workforce stability and their public image. This doesn’t even mention the dedication that many disabled employees have, particularly because our current society hinders them from having the same job opportunities as non-disabled people.
By using job carving strategies, you not only recognise the skills of disabled employees. You also accept disabilities as circumstances for potential excellence. In a previous post here on Evenbreak, we mentioned that disabilities can translate to competencies. A deaf employee, for instance, can be well-versed in reading body language. A blind person can have excellent verbal skills and thus excel in customer relations. Many people who live with some of impairment, compensate for this by focusing on another skill. Organisations may find this very valuable in positions that require expertise and focus, because they are assured that a disabled employee will flourish in a task they have confidence in doing. Job carving helps the transition and ensures that the employee fits perfectly into the position.
When in the process of redesigning a role, you need to do more than simply isolate tasks according to immediate organisational needs. Instead, you should look for neglected areas that can be covered by employees who can take on specific roles. This can be done by interacting with employees as well as clients, and one of the best ways to do this today is to leverage social media. Last year, digital marketing firm Ayima used the meta tag #AskAyima as a platform to start conversations online. Via the meta tag, the company was able to answer queries from digital marketers or potential clients on pressing issues that are making headlines in the digital world. Since the majority of the working population use social media, this setup provides a fast and efficient way to exchange information. Similarly, cosmetics brand L’Oreal Paris launched the hashtag #WorthSaying in a campaign that aims to engage with women and encourage them to bring up thoughts that they do not usually express. Strategies such as the aforementioned will enable an organisation to see angles that are not usually imagined from an insider’s perspective. This is particularly crucial for companies wishing to integrate people with disabilities, as most of the management and employees may not have experience with disabilities. Therefore, when ‘carving out’ a job and designing a role for a disabled employee, organisations could ask its clients for feedback or re-imagine its processes from a disabled person’s perspective.
Of course, another effective way to create inclusive opportunities is to seek the help of an employment consultant or a related social enterprise that is focused on this exact task. After all, the most precise way to customise a job is to determine the exact skills of a potential employee and look for specific tasks that fit these skills.
Regardless of the method, it is clear that job carving has lots of benefits for disabled employees and the organisation as a whole. Disabled employees will benefit from customised roles, enabling them to maximise their most valuable skills without their disabilities getting in the way of productivity. On the other hand, organisations can take advantage of a wider source of talent by opening themselves up to a disabled workforce. Aside from more hiring options, companies can also enrich their corporate culture with an inclusive environment. Disability ceases to be an issue when an organisation fosters a culture that pushes its members towards excellence according to their respective potential and limitations.
If you read this question and your honest gut response is yes, then you’re not alone. 67% of the British public feel the same way. 21% of 18-34-year-olds admit that they have purposefully avoided talking to a disabled person. They weren’t sure how to communicate with them.
The media representation of disabled people doesn’t help. Perform an image search for diversity and you’ll see images of colourful, happy people. Search for disabled people and you’ll see Paralympians or people in wheelchairs. Sometimes just a wheelchair itself.
If you are lucky enough you might spot a disabled person on the television. They are often depicted as an inspirational superstar or weak, defective, a ‘character’. Disabled people are massively underrepresented everywhere. White, non-disabled, heterosexual males still dominate our screens and advertisements. We don’t see our society reflected on screen. And we rarely see it in our workplaces either.
Does your workplace reflect society accurately?
Despite this, 1 in 6 people of working age is disabled. And only 8% of disabled people are wheelchair users. The majority of impairments are simply not visible. So, you will be talking to disabled people without realising it. The trouble is, for those with invisible disabilities, experience has taught us it is far safer to remain invisible. Keep quiet. Find ways around the barriers faced and cross your fingers that you’ll be able to keep it up. And people often do.
Living with a disability breeds strength. It builds resilience, problem-solving, innovative thinking, different perspectives, determination. All of which are massively valuable in the workplace. All are qualities employers tell us they want to see more of.
So how do you get your employees to be open with you? It starts with you and the culture you’ve built in your organisation. Do senior leaders in the organisation talk about their health conditions or challenges openly? Have you found ways to encourage flexibility? Do you have employee networks? Are your sickness policies fair or do they penalise those with long term health conditions or people who care for others? Does your workforce represent the customers and community you serve? Building an inclusive culture takes time, commitment, courage. But the dividends are far reaching…
I speak to employers about recruiting disabled staff on a daily basis. And I always ask this question. The response is always interesting and tells me a lot about an organisation.
Forward-thinking organisations can usually tell me this figure straight away. They also tell me they’re aware that the figure is very likely to be inaccurate. And if I’m having a great day they tell me what they’re doing to change this. They’re aware they don’t know the number of people with invisible disabilities. They’re aware they don’t know the number of employees with long term health conditions. They’re aware that often disabled people don’t disclose their condition. And for good reason.
Evenbreak candidates tell us that if they disclose their disability, they don’t get as many interviews. When they are employed, they often experience stigma and bullying. And fewer opportunities for career progression. So, if they don’t trust the employer, they don’t disclose it. And many disabled people don’t trust most employers. With good reason. Take the word ‘disclose’ for a start. Why not simply ‘tell’? Where else do you have to disclose something? Customs comes to my mind first! A quick internet search brought up this:
make (secret or new information) known. “they disclosed her name to the press” synonyms: reveal, make known, divulge, tell, impart, communicate, pass on, vouchsafe, unfold
allow (something hidden) to be seen. “he cleared away the grass and disclosed a narrow opening descending into the darkness” synonyms: uncover, expose to view, allow to be seen, reveal, show, exhibit, lay bare, bring to light; rare unclose “exploratory surgery disclosed an aneurysm”
It’s not brimming over with positivity, is it? What we all seem to forget is that different abilities, disability, long-term health conditions are normal. It’s part of life. Part of society. They shouldn’t need to be hidden or apologised for. And the battle for equal rights and opportunities shouldn’t be so utterly exhausting.
One day, I hope, it won’t be. Increasingly, organisations are being asked to ‘disclose’ the number of disabled people they employ. Organisations will have to explain the inconsistencies between officially disclosed disability and the actual disability figures given in staff surveys. And they’re being asked to consider the lack of representation of disabled people at senior levels.
So, there are a few questions for employers to ask themselves:
Do you know how many disabled people you employ?
Do you ask? If not, why not?
Do you know what difficulties disabled staff or those with long term health conditions experience while working for you?
Essentially, can you be trusted?
And if not… What actions are you taking to change this?
Today I learned that my five-year-old is a talented actress. I’d had no idea. It’s easy to focus on the things she needs help with instead. I know she struggles to ride a bike. I know she doesn’t like being told what to do. I had been simply enjoying her strengths rather than nurturing them. But now this strength has been spotted, she’s playing Lady Capulet. And in doing so, she lights up. Her confidence has soared. She’s a much happier child. Thank you, William Shakespeare!
As adults, I think we forget to pay attention to the things we’re good at. It’s much easier to focus on the negatives. And our confidence responds accordingly. Many of us can rattle off our positive attributes for CVs and interviews. But I’m not sure we pay much attention to them or sculpt our work days accordingly. Do we ever address the organizational or environmental aspects of our work? Two of the factors that affect our wellbeing and productivity…
What impacts on your work day?
Last week (as a nice change) I was given a computer game to play. Job Fit is a work simulation game. It shows you how you would perform in a job and flags up areas for improvement. In a nutshell, it teases out strengths and lagging skills. But in a fun way! With my nursing background, it was no surprise that I’m good at relating to people. But it also revealed that interruptions stress me. The constant ringing of a telephone in the game set me on edge. So much so that I almost stopped playing… Looking back, I remembered roles where noise massively affected my wellbeing. But at the time I had no understanding of this and no strategies to manage it.
So we need to pay attention. What makes you happier? Which aspects of your work do you focus on and enjoy? What part of your job description would you do for free? And can you build more of this into your role?
What do you find hard? Do you need to develop this area? Or can you focus on your strengths instead? How does your environment affect you? If like me, noise is a stressor, can you work with one earphone in? Turn off your phone when you need to focus? Would you be better working remotely? Or do you thrive on the buzz of a busy office?
Take the time to notice. Look for the people that pay attention. Find out your strengths and latent skills. And ask for what you need. Be Lady Capulet!
Finding suitable work can be a challenge for most people, but for disabled people there are often additional aspects to be considered, both in terms of accessing the recruitment process on an equal basis, and also in terms of the nature of the role itself. Asking for what you want or need is important.
There are a number of things that disabled candidates are allowed to ask for. In law (Equality Act 2010), employers must provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ requested by disabled applicants which will help them access the recruitment process. The definition of ‘reasonable’ is open to interpretation (and case law), but can include a range of measures, including (depending on circumstances):
A British Sign Language interpreter;
Additional time to answer questions;
Relevant assistive technology for assessment tests;
An accessible venue for interviews;
Prior knowledge of the type of questions to be asked.
Don’t be afraid to ask for relevant adjustments you need. If you don’t, you may be less able to demonstrate your true abilities. For example, if you would normally use assistive technology to use a computer in the workplace, this should be provided if you are given a test on a computer at interview.
When you are offered a job, you can then request any reasonable adjustments you require to carry out the job. Access to Work support can include:
adaptations to the equipment you use
special equipment or software
British Sign Language interpreters and video relay service support, lip speakers or note takers
adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
taxi fares to work or a support worker if you cannot use public transport
a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
a support service if you have a mental health condition
disability awareness training for your colleagues
the cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job
In addition to the ‘standard’ reasonable adjustments, it may be you have requirements for a particular way of working. Many disabled people would prefer to work part time, or flexible hours, or to work from home for all or part of the time. When looking for jobs, most are still advertised as full time. For some (few) roles, one full time person may be ideal, but for many roles, those hours and/or tasks could be divided between two or more people. Or it may be that some or all of the role could be carried out remotely.
If you find a role that you know you could do, and that you like the look of, there is nothing to stop you asking if the role could be considered for job share, reduced hours, remote or flexible working. The absolute worst that can happen is that they say no – nothing is lost. And it brings your skills to their attention should other roles be available now or in the future. Quite often, however, the employer may well be willing to look at alternative working patterns, especially if you have the skills they need.
Ask for what you need – after all, what do you have to lose?
Travelling with a disability takes guts. It also takes determination. Throw in problem solving skills. Organisational skills. The ability to speak out and up for yourself. Add a fair pinch of faith too. It’s no wonder disabled people develop such strengths in these areas! You plan each trip with military precision. You become an expert on companies to avoid and those that you can trust. You learn to be more flexible about the time it might take. And you develop grit.
But what about when you have an invisible disability? Or when you’re supporting a loved one who does? You might look the same as everyone else on the outside. Your needs will be less obvious. And even less likely to be understood. Asking for help is problematic. Barriers are less likely to be physical. But they exist all the same.
Autism and Dementia are probably the most well-known invisible disabilities. And too often they come hand in hand with isolation. How do you access the same opportunities as everyone else if you experience the world in a different way? Sadly, the answer is that many people simply don’t. The stares, the difficulties, the barriers… They become too hard to negotiate. Thankfully, forward thinking organisations are beginning to take steps to tackle this.
In 2015, the aviation industry led the way with lanyards! The OCS Group introduced the lanyards for travellers with invisible disabilities. The sunflower design acts as a discreet sign, signalling to staff that awareness and assistance might be needed. This simple aid enables travellers to communicate their needs without drawing unwelcome attention. And shows disabled customers that inclusion is a priority.
Since the success of the initiative, others have followed aviation’s good example. Sainsbury’s has since become the first supermarket to trial the use of the lanyards in stores. And the success of the initial scheme has led to 40 further roll outs in their stores across the UK. The rise of autism hours in both stores and entertainment venues has increased.
Demand is there. Business is becoming more aware of the value of the purple pound. Can your organisation afford to shrug and leave disability inclusion at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list?
The Disability Confident scheme supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace. It has three levels. Evenbreak was one of the first few organisations to achieve level 3 (leader). Essentially, being disability confident means removing barriers that disabled people might face. Here are our top tips:
Know why you are doing this
There are dozens of benefits of employing disabled people. Do it to access the talent you need, not out of some kind of misguided sympathy!
Get buy-in from leaders
Inclusion affects the whole business, and has to be led from the top. Leaders play a vital role in modelling best practice and creating an open and inclusive culture.
Involve disabled people throughout the process
The real experts on inclusion are disabled people themselves. Involve disabled employees, or invite disabled people to give you feedback. Employee networks are great for this.
Review your recruitment processes to ensure they are inclusive
As a mother of a young child, I’m interested in inclusion, both in the workplace and the classroom. And I’m not convinced there’s all that much difference in how we’d all like to be treated by others. Adult or child.
This brilliant graphic depicts inclusive best practice for quality teaching. I loved it the second I saw it. And the results of these strategies, when applied within the classroom, are mindblowing. Why wouldn’t we apply them to the workplace too?
A – All means all. Does your organisation ensure that the workplace is accessible for everyone?
B – Behaviour is communication. If something has changed in your workplace, what is this telling you?
C – Choice. We all like to have some!
D – Be a behaviourdetective. If an employee’s behaviour concerns you; have you tried to find out the why behind it?
E – Everyone starts together. See cartoon!
F – Fair means everyone getting their needs met. Flexible working, support from Access to Work. So many solutions for so many different needs.
H – Child honouring. The view that how we regard and treat our young is the key to building a humane and sustainable world. And indeed workforce.
I – Independence. Do you trust your employees? Do you let them work with autonomy and self-control?
J – Joyful learning. Oh yes, please! Always more of this.
K – Kids do well if they can. This is a biggie. I’ve learnt a lot from Ross Greene. His philosophy is that ‘kids do well if they can’ rather than ‘kids do well if they want to’. Skills versus motivation. And surely it applies to adults too? What might be getting in someone’s way? What lagging skills need developing?
L – Lead with strengths. This one sounds obvious but how often do we do this? Reshuffle job specs? Give people the opportunities to shine?
M – Movement breaks. Banish deskbound culture and presenteeism. Consider alternative work practices and increase productivity.
N – Needs-based. Identify what people need to succeed and try to meet those needs.
O – Open-mindedness. One of the many cultural rewards of a diverse workforce.
P – Plan and purpose. Are employees involved in the planning process? Are people set up to succeed?
Q – Question unexpected behaviour. Back to the b of behaviour as communication.
R – Relationship. Nurturing strong relationships that increase confidence and competence.
S – Self-regulation. Not just for children! What do we need to live and work optimally? A quiet space? Fresh air? Working with headphones? Movement?
U – Unconditional positive regard. Seems simple. Harder than you think. In a nutshell, this means valuing the person as doing their best to move forward in their lives constructively and respecting the person’s right to self-determination no matter what they choose to do.
V – Visuals. Again, not just for the children! Visual communication is preferred by many but often underutilised.
W – Words make worlds. Words are powerful. Don’t use them carelessly. Take a closer look at some of the words you use in your workplace. ‘Disclosure’ of disability for example. Interrogate the language you use.
X – Extra processing time. Give people extra processing time if they need it. It pays off!
Y – The power of yet. Another one that’s not just for the children. Many of us will focus on what we haven’t accomplished. What we can’t do. What we haven’t done. Add ‘yet’ on and change your mindset.
Z – The zone of proximal development. Sounds like something to do with space. But pretty easy to consider in the workplace. Imagine we all have a comfort zone, a learning zone, and a panic zone. The comfort zone can get a little dull. And even frustrating. It might have pizza and a sofa but I imagine disengagement is common. If we aim for the zone of proximal development we can stretch ourselves just enough to be able to learn and flourish. But without hitting the panic zone where we might become stressed or fearful.
Do you have small children? Enjoy traditions? Or are you simply a fan of slapstick comedy and innuendo? If so, you might well have found yourself attending your local pantomime this holiday. I am not a lover of pantomime. But I have a child who is. And so, I have seen two this year. Parenting brownie points for the whole year, I think.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend the relaxed performance of Sleeping Beauty. It was performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. And it showed me what accessibility looks like, done well.
The first hurdle is the sweetest…
Despite being a Midlands lass, I hate the Coventry ring road with a passion. It remains one of the most bizarre driving experiences in Warwickshire to me. But when I looked up directions on the Belgrade website I found a video! Some kind (brave) soul had volunteered to drive it, be filmed, and talk us through the chaos! It couldn’t have cost much to produce. It wouldn’t have taken much time to film. But it made our visit far, far easier.
On arrival, the signposting was clear and easy to spot. In the foyer were a team of volunteers, there to help. They wore purple sparkly hats (which got them extra brownie points). Midland Mencap supported nine families in need with free tickets for the show. And they were there in person to hand them out with a smile.
Colouring pencils and paper dotted side tables, keeping children occupied. Volunteers fromCoventry Building Society offered help if needed. And they carried baskets full of sensory fidget toys for use throughout the performance. Beautiful twiddle muffs were there for those in need, knitted by volunteers.
The theatre itself is fully wheelchair accessible. The lights were dimmed (not fully). Small changes were made to sound effects. And any special effects were explained at the start. The performance was captioned. As are all Belgrade productions.
If that wasn’t enough… The theatre also offered a familiarisation visit if needed. And provided a small library of social story downloads! The cast was diverse. The audience was diverse. And for a few hours, I got a glimpse into the impact inclusion has on a community. More of it please world!
To learn more about our best practice portal for ALL your employees or to advertise jobs with us, contact email@example.com or visit www.evenbreak.co.uk