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Unleash your EDI potential by taking a “limitless” approach to disability

Never let what society thinks of you curtail your dreams

I am still basking in the rays of sunshine that our last guest speaker, Anoushe Husain virtually brought into my workspace this month as she shared her life story, and challenged our thinking about the self-imposed limits we can impose on ourselves, our colleagues, and our companies that simply need not be there.

Born missing her right arm below the elbow, living with multiple health conditions, a cancer survivor, a Muslim and coming from an ethnic minority, Anoushé has never let what society or culture thinks she should do limit her or dictate the direction of her life. She is constantly breaking the mould and challenging not only her own beliefs about her own potential but also that of society and her own culture. She spoke candidly about her experience of exclusion in sports from a young age, and how she has broken all of the boundaries that others imposed by using the resilience she learned in early childhood.

Four practical steps you can take to support staff

One of the main challenges I hear from clients is around not knowing where to start when supporting people with disability in the workplace. Happily Anoushe and I discussed a whole ream of options and practical advice which will be the starting point of our three miniblogs.

1. Make inclusion the default option

One in four people of working age in the UK have a disability, therefore it makes good business and social sense to provide accessible options at every opportunity to ensure that people can thrive and do their job effectively. Whether this is having screen reader technology as standard, avoiding jargon so that more people can communicate easily, or rolling out adjustment passports, make an effort to make these workplace features the norm to ensure that people with disabilities (and without) avoid barriers that can easily be removed through improved systems and thoughtful planning.

2. Ask people with disabilities what they need

Sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many organisations haven't taken this step. You can run an accessibility survey, have a facilitated focus group, or ask for anonymous comments - all of these methods serve to bring you the information you need to make changes based on peoples lived experiences of working in your organisation through the lens of disability. Remember knowledge is power and avoid the benevolence bias of making decisions for people without consulting them on their lived experience.

3. Clearly communicate about peoples access to support

Surprisingly only 1 in 5 people with cancer are aware that they qualify for disability status under the Equality Act (2010). This indicates that there will be many more people with a range of disabilities including neurodiversity related conditions who are simply unaware of their protections, rights and access to support in the workplace. If you aren't already, ensure you inform managers about how to offer support, and make information about sickness policies, reasonable adjustments and access to work easily available for all staff.

4. Give examples of the changes you can make

Once you are aware of what type of support is available, develop communications that clearly showcase what people can have to enable them to thrive in your workplace. For example, you might have access to adjustable desks for those with physical disabilities, flexible or agile working so that people can manage work around hospital appointments, or you may offer to send interview questions to candidates in advance who may benefit from this due to neurodiversity. The important thing is to share the information with people so they know what is on offer to them, and trial the solutions to ensure they meet both the employees needs, and the businesses requirements of the role.

In the next mini blog we with explore disability and intersectionality and how you can adopt an inclusive approach to disability that centres the voices of the most marginalised.

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