Can you be ‘a little bit inclusive’?

A few years ago, if I had asked employers about their approach to diversity, most would have said it wasn’t relevant to them. Business is about making profit, delivering products or services and getting the best people for the job. They weren’t interested in inclusion or having a diverse workforce – they just wanted to get the job done.

Thankfully, things have changed. A bit. Now, when I talk to employers about diversity I don’t always receive blank looks. Some will even show genuine enthusiasm, telling me about their programmes to attract BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) candidates, and their plans to get more women into board room positions. If I’m really lucky, they will tell me about stuff they are doing around LGBTQ+. This is great – diversity is finally on the agenda!

When I respond with equal enthusiasm, and ask what they are doing around disability, the tone changes. Quite often, the answer is – nothing. The reasons vary, but can include:

“We’re focusing on gender this year”

“Most of our roles are very physical”

“We’d love to, but we just don’t have the budget right now”

“We need to get everything in place first”

“It’s not a priority right now”

and even, on one memorable occasion would you believe, “We employed a disabled person once. Didn’t work out”

There seems to be a belief that you can pick and mix which bits of inclusion you like. Except that’s not really inclusion, is it? You can’t be ‘a little bit inclusive’, any more than you can be ‘a little bit’ pregnant. You either are inclusive, or you aren’t. If you are saying “we’ll be inclusive to this group, but not that group” – that’s not inclusion.

This tongue-in-cheek video would be funny, if it weren’t so true to life!

I’ve been to a number of events which were marketed as being about “diversity” or “inclusion” or even “diversity and inclusion”. And the content has purely been about race and gender. No other characteristics got so much as a mention. I’m not saying that race and gender aren’t important. They are – they are crucial. But let’s not pretend that this is about diversity or inclusion unless we, well, include everyone. And let’s not forget that people from ethnic minorities, women, gay people can be disabled too. Or can become disabled. Most (83%) disabled people acquire their condition while of working age. It’s the one protected characteristic that can happen to anyone, at any time.

So is your organisation avoiding disability inclusion using one of the excuses above? Do you sound like the people in the video?

Because if so, however good your race and gender programmes might be, you aren’t being inclusive unless you include disabled people too.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

How important is language?

Cartoon: Man in wheelchair at bottom of stairs with a sign "Way in, Everyone welcome"

I had a really interesting conversation with some disabled friends recently about inclusive language. The timing was interesting, as it was shortly after hearing of the sad death of Mike Oliver, who was instrumental in promoting a new way of thinking about disability in the 1980s, called the social model of disability. Up to this point, the narrative was a much more medical model – the thinking was that disabled people were somehow ‘broken’, the solution being to try and ‘fix’ us, and make us more ‘normal’. The social model turned this on its head, by acknowledging that what disables people isn’t our differences, but the fact that barriers in society exclude us. As a crude example, the problem isn’t the wheelchair, it’s the steps. If everywhere had flat access, wheelchair users wouldn’t be disabled from getting around in the same way as everyone else. Their impairment doesn’t disable them, the stairs do. Many people on the autism spectrum have much to offer the workplace, but they are often disabled from gaining jobs because the interview process doesn’t work for them. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the autistic person, and with more appropriate assessment methods, they wouldn’t be disabled when finding work. For many disabled people, this definition can be life-changing. To realise that there is nothing wrong with you, it’s the barriers you face.

“The Social Model of Disability literally saved my life; after I understood what it was about, it was my lifeline – it freed me up to be who I am”

“It puts the onus back on society to remove the barriers”

“It’s empowering; I can direct my energies into improving my quality of life.”    (source)

I think we were all agreed that the social model is the best model we currently have to understand disability. My personal view is that the medical model has its place – I’d love the scientists to find ways of managing pain without side effects, for example – but for those of us who aren’t scientists, the focus should be on removing the barriers (physical and attitudinal) which disable, erm, disabled people.

Teacher writing on blackboard saying "you at the back, read this homework I've set for you" to a bemused blind pupil
Thanks to “Crippen” – http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk

So what does all this have to do with language? Well, the medical model uses the term “people with disabilities” – in other words, the disability belongs to the person. The social model uses “disabled people”, as in people disabled by the barriers society put in their way. So far, so good. In disability activism, social model language is always used. At Evenbreak, social model language is always used (we exist to reduce or remove the barriers disabled people face when finding work, and thriving in the workplace). Far from believing that disabled people are a problem for organisations, we know that disabled people can be a positive asset.

The challenge is that some disabled people still use medical model language (popular in USA, but also by some in the UK).  They say they are a person first, and are not defined by their disability. Few could argue with that. But it still suggests that the disability, the problem, is owned by the individual – that society has no role to play.

In terms of inclusion, I absolutely believe that everyone has the right to define themselves how they choose. If someone chooses to use the medical model, who am I to criticise? And by only using “disabled people”, do we exclude people who choose to describe themselves as “a person with a disability”?

The real issue, my friends and I concluded, when it comes down to it, isn’t about models. It’s more about the words ‘disability’ and ‘disabled’. The prefix of ‘dis’ strongly implies ‘less than’, ‘problem’ or ‘broken’. Whilst the medical model uses those terms to describe the individual, and the social model uses those words to describe barriers in society, both are negative. We all agreed we certainly don’t feel that we are less than others, and struggle to use a negative term to describe us. We all also agreed that we dislike the (mostly American) ‘differently-abled’ (which still describes the individual, not the barriers).

So until someone much more clever than us comes up with a word to replace disabled and disability, the issue is to share awareness of the social model, so we focus on reducing barriers, not blaming disabled people. And, of course, it’s all about context. In other contexts, I’m not a disabled woman, I’m Jane, or Alex and Philippa’s Mum, or Talia’s grandmother. I’m a white woman, not a woman who is white. A gay man is a gay man, not a man who is gay. And in some contexts I’m a disabled woman – disabled by the barriers I face.

Whatever language we use, the focus should be removing barriers and creating accessibility and inclusion for all.

What words do you think would be preferable to either ‘disabled person’ or ‘person with a disability’?

 

We’re going to Naidex – are you?

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.

If you haven’t grabbed your FREE TICKET yet, please get them here

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.

How Job Carving Can Help Disabled Employees and the Organisation

Man in wheelchair sitting at a desk

‘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.

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.

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.

 

Employers, do you know how many disabled staff you employ?

Picture shows a question mark pointing to cogs pointing to a lightbulbI 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:

disclose verb

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?

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.

 

Spotting strengths and latent skills – why it matters

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…

Picture shows the words 'be smart' and a picture of a lightbulbWhat 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!

 

* As a loyalty perk, registered Evenbreak candidates can play Job Fit for free. Register here and you’ll receive the link in our newsletter.

Get that job – Ask for what you need!

"Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it" (Maya Angelou)
“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it” (Maya Angelou)

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?

Click here to find jobs on Evenbreak

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

 

10 Top Tips for Becoming Disability Confident

 

Disability confident logo

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:

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Review your recruitment processes to ensure they are inclusive

Pro-actively attract disabled candidates. Also, CVs and interviews may not reflect the talents of a disabled candidate. Ensure you use relevant, accessible and inclusive application and assessment methods. How accessible is your recruitment process?

  1. Provide workplace adjustments

Employers should offer and provide necessary adjustments throughout the recruitment process and during employment. These enable disabled employees to work effectively.

  1. Support existing employees who are or who become disabled

2% of people of working age acquire an impairment or long-term health condition every year. Make sure you don’t lose valuable people by being unprepared to be flexible.

  1. Train and equip all staff to be confident and competent around inclusion

It’s important that all staff are trained in unconscious bias and disability awareness, and have access to resources to ensure their confidence and competence in inclusion.

  1. Remove any barriers to career progression

Employing disabled people is just the start. A disability confident company will also help to nurture that talent by offering training, mentoring and opportunities for progression.

  1. Provide opportunities for engaging disabled people

These might include work trials, apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, work experience, holiday placement or other opportunities.

  1. Encourage your supply chain to be disability confident too

Once you are disability confident, ensure that partners and suppliers follow your good practice. Ensure that inclusion forms part of your procurement process.

 

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs