Earlier this month, the UK government’s goal to see one million more disabled people in work was reached. According to Government reports, over one million more disabled people are in employment, compared to five years ago. A great achievement.
However, in contrast, new figures also show that there are more than 20,000 disabled people waiting for support through the disability employment programme. An alarming jump from just under 5,000 a year earlier. Is the disability employment gap widening? And what can we as organizations do to address it?
In a recent article Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum commented, “All these things are very positive and one of Business Disability Forum’s central messages is around the importance of creating a culture where people feel able to bring their whole selves to work, to be open about disabilities and long-term conditions and to ask for the support that they need. That these cultures are being created, or worked towards, is in itself cause for celebration.”
But just hitting the headline figure is not the end of the story. Let’s not confuse getting one million more disabled people into the workplace with narrowing the Disability Employment Gap. The chasm between the employment rates of disabled people and non-disabled people is still there. Much more needs to be done to ensure we continue to shrink the gap.
Much like universal design in architecture, where accessibility is at the heart of the design, we too can design our workplaces with support and inclusivity at the heart of everything we do. However, just 1 in 10 organizations say that they consider neurodiversity in their people management practices.
Inclusive tools in the workplace can be a great help for our neurodiverse colleagues. Within the workplace it can come in the form of built-in accessibility features such as screen readers and speech recognition software, text to speech software and digital reading guides, as well as electronic spell checkers and word prediction. These are contained in a lot of the popular programs used across organizations. To go above and beyond, investing in the right tools for staff can help us to see increases in confidence, morale and retention.
Organizations who invest in the right tools for their staff see an increase in morale and retention. Read&Write for Work, as an example, is a reading and writing software tool. It helps employees to work in a way that suits them best. Employees can change the format of their digital documents. They can communicate in their preferred way. And, they gain access to accessibility features including text-to-speech and talk & type dictation.
Driving workplace inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. From leadership and DE&I teams, to Human Resources and individual employees - we all have a part to play. We can each make an impact. Together we can drive cultural change at work. We recently hosted our Festival of Workplace Inclusion. It's a great place to start, or continue your journey to supporting your diverse workforce.