Listen. We're not doing good enough. We need to have a conversation about the ways in which we fail to provide simple and basic accommodations for disabled people in society.
A friend asked me for support connecting with someone who could help them into employment in the UK. So I tweeted asking for help from the internet. I got a few retweets and some good responses, but damn it's hard to find good leads if you don't have the emotional energy to chase the leads.
This is a universal challenge to all employers, please hire disabled people. For fuck's sake, hire disabled people. There are lots of jobs you have where you're not even doing basic outreach or decently advertising you'd make workplace accommodations. Hire disabled people. Yes you. Right now. For fuck's sake.
One in five working age adults in Britain is disabled
In 2020, 8.4 million people of working age (16-64) reported that they were disabled; this is 20% of Britain's working age population. This means 1 in 5 working age adults has limitations impacting their ability to work. We can all do more, chances are you know more than one disabled person.
The benefits of disability inclusion in the workplace
The UK Government website lists a few benefits of hiring disabled people. The broader truth is disability inclusion benefits everyone. We have to do more than just end stigma. There are a range of benefits to hiring disabled people you might be unaware of.
Findings show hiring people with disabilities include improvements in profitability, competitive advantage, and inclusive work culture.
Not that hiring disabled people should be all about how it benefits you, but some of you might need the pocketbook incentive.
Make changes to support disabled people at work
You can't actually create an inclusive work culture without disability inclusion. However, disabled people in the workplace need more than platitudes and days of visibility. Here are three ways you can meaningfully support your disabled colleagues.
1. Listen to disabled people
You cannot understand people you never listen to, this is true of product strategy, user research, and building inclusive workplaces. Carly Findlay has written a book on growing up disabled in Australia. Make room for disabled people to share their experiences in their own words.
Disability is complicated and there's no one right answer to how to help. Even disabled people disagree with each other from time to time about how they want to drive change and improvement.
2. Fight disability stigma at work
Stigma is still deeply entrenched in the workplace as a whole. We can do more to make the workplace safer. Work with experts like The Ability People (TAP) to change your workplace culture. You should also be aware of what discrimination at work looks like, and specifically disability discrimination.
Mark Esho is a disabled entrepreneur and he shared some really great thoughts on how employers can change their workplace practices around disability. Stigma looks different in different workplaces, and everyone can do more to ensure it's safe to have a disability at work.
3. Don't just fight stigma, take action
Stigma fighting alone cannot change the number of people with disabilities who have sustainable employment or the right level of legal and governmental support to maintain their quality of life. Work with disabled people at work to build healthy mechanisms for feedback and improvement.
Hire disabled people
Hiring disabled people is work. Take it seriously. Make sure to include an accommodation statement in your job ads.
Resources to help employers hire disabled workers in the UK
- Use a job board like Inclusively, they claim to be the professional network transforming the way candidates with disabilities, mental health conditions, and chronic illness connect to inclusive employers.
- Join the Disability Confident Employers scheme on Gov.uk. Any organisation that signs up to be disability confident in the UK is affirming that they will offer an interview to any disabled applicant that meets the requirements for the job. Make sure you say this on your jobs page.
- Promote Access to Work – a gov programme where disabled people can apply for funding for things to help them at work. Employers shouldn't use this to pay for ‘reasonable accommodations’ which they are required to provide themselves for disabled employees.
- Read some evergreen advice on how to hire disabled workers
Humans are a species built for social connection and survival in numbers. We thrive when we consider the ways in which our social settings include people with disabilities. When you design for disability support, you can improve the lives of people without disabilities too, Kat Holmes makes a great case in this 2017 talk from O'Reilly Design Conference. If you're not considering hiring neurodiverse talent, you're behind the times.
Find work if you're disabled
In the spirit of paying it forward, here's everything I found that was relevant to getting hired if you have a disability and need help finding employment in the UK.
Organisations helping disabled people find employment in the UK
- Big Ambitions is a community interest company established in 2010 who deliver support programmes to help people to gain and retain work alongside and improve poor mental health
- Gov.uk has a scheme called Intensive Personalised Employment Support focused on helping unemployed disabled people access support
- Action on Disability provides a range of services, but you have to contact them for additional support
Job boards that help disabled people get employment in the UK
If you're disabled and looking for a job, there's a few boards you can use to self serve looking for your next job.
- The Disabled Workers Cooperative – A cooperative charity running a jobs board for disabled people.
- The Disability Directory of Scotland – A database of scottish companies and organisations working with disabled people, not specifically focused on employment.
- Disability Jobsite – A jobs board for disabled people, with some basic interview advice.
- Evenbreak a disabled job seekers job board; lots of posts make no mention of disability
- Scope.org has a section on helping disabled job seekers
While this may be a decent start, most of the sites below do not specifically have employers call out accommodations or support offered in the job listing. This is a major opportunity for employers to call out the accommodations and support branches candidates can ask for.
For fuck's sake, hire disabled people and treat them like people. It's the least you can do.