The exploits and achievements of our elite disabled athletes at the Paralympics have provided excitement and inspiration for many of us. But as the games come to a close, what is the future for disabled candidates – and are you tapping into this highly skilled, resilient and diverse talent?
We worked with Evenbreak, a not-for-profit social enterprise that brings together inclusive employers with talented disabled people and promotes the business benefits of employing disabled people, to understand the opportunities and dispel some myths.
Only 46.7% of disabled people of working age are in employment, as opposed to 80.3% for non-disabled people.
However, as the Paralympics continues to remind us, a disability doesn’t have to prevent someone from achieving greatness.
Certain disabilities actually close a skills gap that may exist in your organisation. For example, an Autistic candidate may have a greater attention to detail and make fewer mistakes than someone who doesn’t live with autism. Disabled people have to overcome barriers every day, developing skills in creativity, innovation, persistence and problem-solving. Disability turns to ‘ability’ as we learn to work to people’s strengths, rather than be clouded by misconception.
The workplace is probably fine
Ramps, signs, special chairs….? Most disabled employees need very few adjustments. After all, they have probably adjusted and adapted throughout their everyday life already, so they are equipped with the ability to make things work for them. They will be able to tell employers about any adjustments they might need (e.g. flexible working, precise instructions etc). Of course for some, there may be small adjustments to make them more comfortable or productive – but it doesn’t need to cost the earth or cause upheaval in the business. Access to Work will often pay towards any adjustments required.
Legislation (predominantly the Equality Act 2010) rightly prevents us from discriminating against disabled people. However, good inclusive employment practice should go beyond legal compliance, and focus on attracting the best talent for the business.
Create an open and inclusive culture
Talented disabled candidates tell us that they thrive in workplaces which value their skills and are able to think flexibly around work arrangements. Having a culture which values everyone, and in which discussions around inclusion and accessibility are a part of everyday life encourages employees to be open when they need support, and give of their best.
Are you accessible?
Is your candidate experience and application process accessible and free of barriers? Increase your talent pool by making yourself more accessible to everyone. Most employers don’t intentionally discriminate, but their recruitment processes may still contain barriers that will exclude some candidates. Is your website fully accessible? Are you wedded to the “CV/interview” selection process or are you prepared to offer work trials, relevant tests, etc?
There are many organisations to help you attract and retain talented disabled people. Business Disability Forum is a membership organisation offering support and consultancy to employers wishing to become more “Disability Smart”. The government’s new Disability Confident scheme offers guidance and resources around inclusion and accessibility. In order to attract talented disabled candidates you may not find anywhere else, advertise your vacancies on Evenbreak. All of these will help to position your organisation as a genuinely inclusive “employer of choice”.