How can employers support disabled staff?

As a student, you may worry about whether an employer will actually be accommodating about your disability. While we know that not every organisation is perfect at this (and some sadly not very good at all), there are many organisations that are very proactive. To illustrate what is possible, I asked several established disability consultants about the best practise they’ve seen in organisations. There also links to a couple of resources that can provide ideas for adjustments you may need in the workplace.

Brendan Roach, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum

” From our experience, the organisations that get this right have an approach that is rooted in an understanding of the lived experiences of their disabled candidates and employees. They also tend to:  

– Take a whole organisation approach to disability inclusion i.e. they understand how disability impacts on a range of business areas from learning and development to recruitment, IT, procurement and facilities to name just a few.

– Proactively identify and remove barriers for groups of disabled people. E.g. by auditing premises and processes, carrying out focus groups with disabled staff etc. and acting on the findings.

– Have a robust and well publicised process for making workplace adjustments (reasonable adjustments under UK law) so that employees can access adjustments (whether physical like equipment or non-physical such as flexible working) in a timely manner. “

Brendan has over 10 years’ experience of supporting organisations on all aspects of improving disability confidence. He leads on the Business Disability Forum’s international projects. The Business Disability Forum’s website can be viewed here, while Brendan’s LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.

Jürgen Menze, Disability Inclusion Officer, International Labour Organization

“When it comes to supporting disabled staff to enable them to contribute their full professional and creative potential, one can summarise the key issues in three “A”s.

Awareness about disability issues among managers and co-workers is the first key issue. Face-to-face and online training as well as collaboration with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) has proven to be effective.

Accessibility is the second key issue. This goes well beyond the built environment and includes communication, information and transport.

Accommodation of individual needs which are not addressed by general accessibility measures is the third key issues. To effectively provide reasonable accommodation to a disabled staff member, the manager needs to be sensitised and ask the staff about the specific need(s) in a confidential manner.”

Jürgen is a tri-lingual human rights professional with several years’ experience in multi- and bilateral development cooperation agencies in East Africa, South East Asia and Central America. He currently works for the International Labour Organization as a Disability Inclusion Officer, details of which can be found here while Jürgen’s LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.

Graeme Whippy MBE, Disability Consultant

“I think Channel 4 are a great example of a company that goes the extra mile in demonstrating that it welcomes disabled talent. Just look at the support page on the 4Careers website – they provide a named person that disabled applicants can contact for advice, they’re absolutely clear on the support that they provide to help disabled applicants be their best, and overall it just oozes encouragement.

It’s little wonder that in 2017 nearly half of apprenticeship places went to disabled applicants, and that was without any ring-fencing or positive action.”

Graeme has several years’ experience as a disability consultant, including working with Viacom, Channel 4 and Lloyds TSB to improve their processes and culture for recruiting and supporting disabled people in the workplace. Among other projects Graeme also works with the Business Disability Forum supporting businesses in improving their practises for both disabled customers and staff. Graeme’s LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.

Looking for ideas for how to speak to employers about accommodating your disability? Below are a couple of resources that can help you understand what support you may need and what employers can do.

Disability Confident: downloadable and video case studies

The government has shared real case studies of workplace adjustments to accommodate staff with a variety of disabilities in a variety of jobs. While this page is aimed at employers, it’s still interesting to learn about what companies are doing.

These case studies can be found here.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

JAN, an American organisation, has information on a range of disabilities, including ideas for adjustments (“accommodations”) to enable a person to perform well in their job. This can be found here.


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