Disability rights – do they even have anything to do with your company? Should you embrace the extra responsibilities? Will it even make a difference?

The short answer is yes! 

Did you know that there are at least 9.8 million registered disabled people in the UK alone? (office for national statistics, 2021) and that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment? (Autistica, 2021) 

39% of jobseekers won’t apply for a position if they believe the organisation isn’t inclusive.

Societal movements and importance change all of the time, with a push for a generally more inclusive business environment, the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) landscape is ever-important for every business and organisation. And a major part of being inclusive is including disabled people too!

A unique marginalisation that will likely affect all of us at some point in our lives, it is important to recognise whilst permanent disability is an essential legal requirement of inclusive businesses, temporary disability also exists and should be accounted for. What do you need when you have the flu, an impaired function making it a lot harder or even impossible to work? A couple of sick days, anyone? 

Disability support is not only for diagnosed disabled people either. Getting a diagnosis of a disability officially is difficult to say the least, taking an intersectional view (whilst diagnostic criteria is improving), but the foundations are still based on a small demographic of people’s presentation of ‘symptoms’. These are usually categorised by their effect on surrounding non-disabled people and how much more difficult day to day life is than a ‘normal’ person. (Think white, cisgender, male, heterosexual) 

Getting a diagnosis is also very expensive, you could be looking at spending up to £2500 –  which in most cases is unaffordable. On top of this, depending on the disability, there is up to over a year waiting list to get there. (The Independent, 2023) With limited access to information on the ways disabilities present and the accumulation of medical bias against women, fat people and people of colour, layers of institutionalised discrimination interlink and what is called intersectionality comes into play.

Due to this and the lack of accurate knowledge around disability including and especially neurodiversity, as well as the stigma around its term may mean that you have undiscovered disabled people in your company. This could mean that they aren’t performing their best because of a lack of information, accessibility, and inclusivity. 

It’s always important to remember, disability is not a dirty word. So – use it! Bringing out the best in your employees both present and future, improving their motivation and yours to boost your business, by reading this blog, you’ve already started! Disabled people are complex humans just like non-disabled people, not superpowered or powerless, just different.

Beyond disabled people in the workforce – how many times have you thought that the text is too small or too bright to read? That it would be really useful to have quiet spaces at work to have a break or get work done in the silence? Did you know that ensuring you have a disability-friendly business can help in making working life easier for everyone in ways that you haven’t considered yet?

There are so many benefits your whole workforce can utilise from you becoming a more inclusive employer, and that inclusivity that includes disabled people can benefit in;

  • Reduced staff turnover
  • Lowering costs (less sick days, better productivity etc)
  • Improving business relationships
  • Better brand identity 
  • Increase in long term sustainability 

Embracing disability rights to the fullest requires investment and work. You can do more than just what your legal responsibility dictates, to be an inclusive employer. Like any good investment the research, implementation and drive to pursue the changes to the end is essential. Think about who is informing your decisions. Is it actually ‘disabled inclusion’, advice or information without disabled leadership or centring disabled people being part of that conversation? (This piece is written by a disabled person – so you’re good here) It’s an important factor to consider in DEI decision making, even DEI specialists have to consider DEI.

So what other benefits can your company gain from being more inclusive?

  •  New ideas, opinions and perspectives more relevant to a wider audience
  • Future-proofing your business for a more inclusive future generation and society
  • Increased staff motivation and reduced staff turnover 
  • Increased output and quality of work
  • Wider pool of potential employees, including their skills and ideas
  • Better working environment for everyone

All in all, embracing disability rights benefits the whole of your business and there are plenty of ways to get started. Here are just a few;

  • Implementing training for all levels of staff 
  • Employing more disabled people and keeping open those lines of communication for how you can improve accessibility specific to your business
  • Providing captions to videos
  • Creating Employee Resource Groups
  • Empowering your staff to feel they can show up as their true selves 
  • Adding to agendas for 121s to include talking about accessibility 

The earlier diversity and inclusion are embedded into the foundation of your business, the easier it is to achieve the benefits of an inclusive business and be future-ready.

Whilst this is based on an average business model and it will be different for individual business differences it gives you a glimpse into the effects of embracing disability rights. Watch This Sp_ce can audit your business and can give you a detailed and in-depth analysis and how to do the work to be an inclusive business of today.

Want to check how inclusive your business is? Check out the Watch This Sp_ce quiz at https://watchthisspace.scoreapp.com/