Disability Awareness In The Workplace

4th Nov 2022

14.6 million people in the UK have a disability, which represents 22% of the population. The numbers combine both those that have visible and hidden/invisible disabilities.

Creating inclusive workplaces that enable individuals with disabilities to thrive, whilst providing training and awareness around disability within your teams should make up an integral part of your DEI strategy. We discuss how you can create an inclusive workplace and what companies can do to support individuals with disabilities. 

Disability inclusion at work 

There are over 4.4 million disabled people in work and it’s more than likely that you work with or employ someone that has a disability. 

For those with disabilities, commuting to and from work can be difficult and ultimately a barrier. For example, for someone with a health condition like visual impairment or arthritis, what may seem like a straightforward journey can be significantly difficult with more time and effort needed. 

Offering flexibility at work means individuals living with disabilities can receive the necessary accommodations they need to stay in the workforce - for many, (this would mean being able to work from home). Disabled employees who require additional equipment can set up their workstations in a way that best suits their needs enabling them to be comfortable and be their best selves. 

This does not take away from the fact that businesses need to do more to accommodate accessibility options in the office, but it’s a great start to creating a more inclusive workplace. 

Disability awareness at work 

With more awareness around disabilities comes better understanding and with the better understanding, we can create action to create a more accessible and equal world. Raising awareness around those who live with disabilities can help to support and transform the day-to-day lives of so many - things which non-disabled people may often take for granted such as access to buildings or other facilities.

For our monthly team meet-up, Flexa took a trip to Sheffield so we could learn a bit more about Support Dogs, who are an incredible charity transforming the lives of so many children and adults. We got to meet the incredible dogs who are doing fantastically in their training alongside some of the wonderful trainers - not only to build our own awareness and understanding, but so we could share this with you all. 

Who are support dogs and what do they do?

Support Dogs are a UK charity dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children and adults with different medical conditions. They provide, train and support specialist assistance dogs to achieve this - and are sometimes able to train existing pets to support their owner. 

They specialise in three different areas, including:

  • Autism for autistic children - dogs are trained to provide safety and reduce stress in social environments, transforming a child’s life with the hope that they will no longer require the support when they become an adult
  • Seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy - dogs are able to alert and potentially save a life up to 1 hour before an epileptic seizure occurs, enabling the owner to find safety and control their seizure. 
  • Disability assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities - the client’s own pet dog can be trained to perform tasks tailored to their day-to-day needs, such as getting dressed, and providing greater safety and independence. 

We’re so incredibly proud of all of our canine and human friends at @Support Dogs. Please do give them a follow and if you’d like to donate or look at other ways you can support them, visit our Instagram and click the link in our bio! See you in part 2! 🙌 💙 #flexacareers #supportdogs #assistancedogintraining #assistancedog #supportdogs #labrador #autism #autismnawareness #autismsupportdog #supportanimals #disabilityawareness #disabilitysupport #epilepsyawareness #epilepsyservicedog #teamday #dogfriendly #dogsoftiktok #dogtok #charity #donate #love

♬ Guitar instrument pop - Margarita
We’re astounded by the work Support Dogs do to help change the lives of children and adults. The visit gave us some great insight and was a reminder to us all that companies need to do more.

How can companies help employees with disabilities in the workplace?

Offer flexible working 

Modifying work conditions/environment by enabling flexible working arrangements can make a world of difference, making difficult tasks more achievable whilst creating better independence. 

Modify working arrangements 

Not all disabilities are physical, which should be taken into account to accommodate employees. For example, neurodivergent employees with conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism can find it difficult to be around bright lights and loud noise. Providing equipment such as noise-cancelling headphones or natural lighting in the office environment can help, alongside being given the choice to be able to work from home. 

For those who require an assistance dog or support dog at work, employers are required to create reasonable adjustments, such as making space for the dog and its bed and potentially moving a workstation to a quieter/more accessible part of the office.

It starts from the recruitment process

Ensuring from the offset that applications are truly accessible may include providing documents in large print, braille or easy-read versions - making sure all are compatible with screen readers. Actively think about what requirements are needed, such as wheelchair accessibility or hearing loops. 

And, lastly, monitor the outcomes to ensure your policies are effective for recruiting individuals with disabilities so you can adapt and make changes where needed for the future. 

Provide training to your team 

For some colleagues and managers, it might be daunting not knowing how to handle things, whether you’re saying the right thing, or making sure the right support is being given. This is where communication is vital, i.e as an employer you should be communicating to find out what support is needed, but also letting other team members know what they can do to help support. 

Training should also include what employees should refrain from saying or doing such as ‘baby talk’ or helping someone without being asked; although it may come from a good place, we have to think from both sides about how this could make a person feel.

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