Do you feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people?

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.

Macro photo of two cogs with the words 'different' and 'same'

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…

 

To attract disabled candidates and advertise jobs with Evenbreak click here.

To help all your employees become more confident and confident around disability inclusion, click here.

 

Navigating the world with an invisible disability; will business lead the way?

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 abPicture shows a green lanyard with a sunflower designout 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?

To tell us all about your inclusion initiatives drop me a line on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cassandraleese/

To find out more and show disabled people you’re an inclusive employer of choice go to www.evenbreak.co.uk