In a bid to break down the barriers in business, the past week has been named Disability Works Week.
It is estimated that up to 1.2 million people across the world have a disability, which is the equivalent to the population of China. Data collected between 2015 and 2016 showed that just 43% of those of working age with a disability were in employment compared to the 79% of non-disabled people. Personal circumstances will mean that the reasons behind these statistics are far from straight forward but reducing the list of existing unnecessary barriers would be a step towards closing this gap.
“Too many people with disabilities are being prevented from working because employers are unwilling to make reasonable adjustments.”
The Paralympics has been a great way to put disability in the spotlight and promote what individuals are capable of and despite it only occurring once every 4 years, it appears that the legacy of London 2012 has continued. However, this has now led people to believe that everyone with a disability has either superhuman speed or strength and most definitely will be in the Paralympics at some point. Just as not everyone is the next Michael Phelps or Jessica Ennis, not everyone with a disability will be scooping up the medals in Tokyo 2020 and more importantly – not everyone wants to be.
The Paralympics did illustrate how having a disability doesn’t take away the motivation, drive and desire to learn and progress, if anything it enhances it and many businesses are missing out on this from both an employee and consumer perspective. The workplace itself is often a challenge and although change can mean some initial extra expenditure, I wonder if businesses would reconsider if they calculated the opportunity cost of losing potentially great employees because they’re not willing to adjust. Not all changes are drastic, for many a simple case of adding a small ramp at the front of the building, offering some software for those who are visually impaired or simply an open mind and a flexible attitude can make the world of difference.
Another issue that has been a huge talking point in the past and, I believe, will continue to be until improvements are seen, is the challenge of transport. A good friend of mine, Paralympian and multi-medallist Sophie Christianson, is the voice behind the campaign #WheresTheApp after she struggled constantly with booking and receiving assistance on trains getting into London for her job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. These additional barriers take what would for most be merely a monotonous commute and transform it into at best an awkward and stressful journey and at worst a situation to be avoided completely. Disability access (or the lack of it) within shops, transport and the workplace affects thousands of people every day. When you think of all the research that goes into creating the optimal shopping environment to encourage customers to stay and browse, it’s fairly irrelevant if some of your shoppers struggle to make it past the front door.
So please businesses, open your mind (and your doors) look at what you could do to make sure you’re working to be part of the solution – disability counts.