Disability awareness is more important than ever in the workplace. As employers, it’s essential that we create a welcoming and supportive environment for employees with disabilities. But it can be tough to know where to start.
At Thriiver, we specialise in supporting diverse workforces across the country.
In this complete guide, we will outline what disability awareness is, exactly why it’s important, and also provide some key tips, activities and resources for employers to effectively promote disability awareness in the workplace.
Why is Disability Awareness Important in the Workplace?
Disability awareness is a term that refers to the understanding and acknowledgement of the different types of disabilities that people may have.
It also encompasses promoting an inclusive environment in which employees with disabilities and neurodiversities feel comfortable, respected and supported.
There are a number of reasons why disability awareness is so important in the workplace. Some key reasons include:
- It helps to break down barriers and creates a more inclusive workplace for all employees of all abilities, helping to keep disabled people in work.
- It can help to improve employee retention rates, as employees feel more valued and supported in their roles.
- It improves morale and motivation levels among employees, as they feel like they are part of a supportive team.
- It helps to create a positive image of the company, which can attract more customers, employees and clients.
The Benefits of a Diverse Workforce
Not only does supporting a diverse workforce offer many potential benefits to businesses, but the diversity of a workforce can also have a positive impact on employees.
A diverse workplace is not only more inclusive, but can also lead to:
- A better understanding of different customer groups
- Increased creativity and innovation
- Improved decision making
- Greater productivity
- Higher morale and motivation levels
In fact, studies show that employees with neurodiversities can actually have a competitive advantage in the workplace.
“Placing 30 participants in software-testing roles at Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS), preliminary results suggested that one organisation’s neurodiverse testing teams were 30% more productive than the others.”
So, not only is disability awareness important for promoting inclusivity, but it can also have a positive impact on a business’ bottom line.
Tackling Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
When tackling disability discrimination in the workplace, it’s important for employers to play a key part in this. It is our responsibility to ensure that disability awareness, and not discrimination, comes from the top.
From a structural, procedural and attitudinal perspective, there are many changes that an employer can make to ensure that their workplace is discrimination-free and promotes disability inclusion.
This could include:
- Offering reasonable adjustments to disabled employees as per the Equality Act 2010, such as flexible working hours, arrangements, or locations
- Ensuring that job descriptions and person specifications don’t inadvertently discriminate against disabled applicants
- Providing assistive technology such as specialist equipment, software or training to enable employees to work to their full potential
- Making changes to the recruitment process such as using video interviewing, sign language interpreters or offering written instead of verbal assessments
- Ensuring that all employees receive regular disability awareness training, which should cover topics such as unconscious bias and workplace rights
- Regularly reviewing policies and practices to identify any areas of potential discrimination.
What is Disability Awareness Training?
Disability awareness training is designed to help employees understand more about disabilities, and how to create an inclusive workplace for all.
There are a number of different types of training available, but it’s important that businesses choose a provider that can offer bespoke training that is relevant to their organisation and workforce.
Some key topics that could be covered in disability awareness training include:
- An overview of different types of disabilities
- The Equality Act 2010 and workplace rights
- How to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace
- Unconscious bias and how to avoid making assumptions about employees with disabilities
- Communicating effectively with employees who have disabilities and neurodiversities.
By providing this training for your employees, you can make your workplace disability-friendly and ensure that everyone feels respected, valued and able to do their jobs.
8 Disability Awareness Activities For the Workplace
There are a number of different disability awareness activities that businesses can organise for their workforce. These activities can help to challenge assumptions, break down barriers and create an inclusive, safe space for employees of all abilities.
Some activities to raise awareness in the workplace could include:
1 – Organising an ‘inclusion day’ where employees can learn more about different types of disabilities and how to support colleagues with disabilities
2 – Offering employees the opportunity to share their experiences of living with a disability, or of supporting someone with a disability, on a company blog
3 – Providing key resources from local organisations that support people with disabilities, either online or in a ‘resource hub’ dedicated to diversity
4 – Creating an ‘accessibility map’ of the workplace showing accessible routes, facilities and equipment
5 – Running workshops and training days on topics such as communication, assistive technology and workplace rights
6 – Organising charity fundraising events for local disability charities
7 – Offering staff workplace needs assessments to identify any adjustments that could be made to support employees with disabilities
8 – Providing mental health awareness training sessions for all employees, which can have a big impact on employees living with disabilities and mental health issues.
By taking part in these activities, businesses can show their commitment to promoting disability awareness and inclusion in the workplace, and boost staff morale and engagement.
Disability Awareness in the Workplace FAQs
How can I be more disability confident at work?
A disability friendly workplace is probably the most useful tool to disability confidence at work.
If you have a physical or mental impairment or disability and don’t feel adequately supported, get in touch with your line manager and discuss what reasonable adjustments could be made.
To be more disability confident in the workplace, you could also begin championing the inclusion of people with disabilities within your organisation. This might involve becoming a mentor for employees with disabilities, or joining an employee resource group.
What are some common accommodations for employees with disabilities?
Some common accommodations that can be made for employees with disabilities include:
- Flexible working hours or arrangements
- Accessible office layouts
- Assistive technology
- Accessible parking.
How can disability awareness be improved in the workplace?
There are a number of ways to improve disability awareness in the workplace, and it’s important to find an approach that works for your organisation.
Some ideas include providing disability awareness training for all employees, ensuring that your business practices are inclusive of people with disabilities, and organising disability awareness activities in the workplace.
How can I make sure my hiring processes won’t deter a disabled person from applying?
You don’t want to miss out on hiring talented individuals because of bad recruitment practices. There are a number of ways to make sure your hiring processes are inclusive of disabled people. Some tips include:
- Make job descriptions and person specifications clear and concise
- Provide screen reader captions for images in your job specs and website
- Offer alternative methods of application, such as online forms or video submissions
- Allow extra time for assessment tasks and offer assessment tools where necessary.