Nearly 1 in 5 working adults have a disability and more than 1 in 5 consumers have a disability. Disability is a major demographic currently poorly treated in the UK and overlooked for its huge potential by many organisations.
In 2017, the Purple Pound estimated the spending power of those with disabilities and their families and it was worth a staggering £249 Billion in the UK to business! Despite this, a staggering 75% of people with a disability have felt a company has, at some point, failed them and they have had to walk away due to accessibility issues or poor customer service related to their disability. Scope found there is a Disability Perception Gap (2018) that 1 in 3 people with a disability feel they experience prejudice. Change is needed because, not only is there a strong ethical and moral need for change, so much potential is being missed. Disability is widely misunderstood. There should be people with disabilities at all levels of the company, including senior management.
Disability is just a small part of a person they have much more to offer in terms of skills, abilities, and talents. It could be that their disability has just helped them develop additional skills and qualities like resourcefulness, problem solving, and/or empathy. Certain 'disabilities' often lead to certain skills, so someone with ADHD is likely to be creative, innovative and often have lots of energy. Someone with autism may have excellent attention to detail and a good factual knowledge among other useful skills. It could be that they have developed other practical skills, like IT skills. It is very likely they have had to adapt and develop skills due to their disability giving them valuable life experience. Everyone is different and should be viewed as such.
Mencap report that 1 in 50 people have a learning disability, yet only 6% of those who are working age actually work in paid employment. Not only would hiring people with disabilities be good for the company reputation and corporate image with more consumers seeing the business more favourable. In fact, consumers have been found to be more loyal to businesses that have a diverse workforce and hire people with disabilities. Also, hiring people with disabilities is more representative of society and shows the merits of diversity. People with disabilities are not less productive or less capable. In the correct role, they may be more productive due to the life skills their disability has given them. Hiring people with disabilities promotes a supportive company culture good for staff morale. Hiring those with learning disabilities, Beyer and Beyer (2017) explain that increased productivity and effectiveness for those with learning disabilities can focus on the lower skilled tasks, freeing these elements from other job roles. Mencap highlight the strong work ethic, hard working focus to work, friendly nature, loyalty, the high retention, low absence of employees with learning disabilities. They are not just keen to work, they are able to work well and there are lots of additional support if needed, like from Access to Work for support workers, job coaches, equipment and more.
People with disabilities often have life skills from their disability useful to companies like determination, creative thinking, reliance. They often do not need any modifications, but when they do, the funding and costs, if there are any, are likely to be very low. Employees may bring additional skills, like BSL. A United Nations Report (2007) found employees with disabilities had less time off sick, higher productivity and stayed with companies longer (Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities. United Nations, 2007). If an employer makes efforts to accommodate or simply understand an employee with a disability, then that employee is more likely to stay loyal and retain their job because they feel understood and supported. This encourages them to make extra efforts to and stay reliable. It has therefore been found that employees with disabilities have therefore been found to be dedicated, capable and reduce turnover and bring fresh ideas.
The more different someone's life experience, the more likely they will have original ideas for creativity and to solve problems, useful for business ideas and tasks, like product development. If you assume someone is less suitable just because they have a disability, you do not have an open mind to the mix of talents they may bring. You would not do this due to other characteristics, like gender, so you should not do this due to disability. Those with disabilities can have insight and stories organisations could learn a lot from.
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