Hello PPMA members and friends

July is Disability Pride Month and was set up to promote positive pride in disabled people for just being themselves. Originating in America in 1990, the year that the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, it is now celebrated worldwide to reduce stigma surrounding disability. To recognise this important celebration, Claire Buckle from Ability Consultancy has written this post for us and she reminds us of the most common 5 myths around disability in the workplace. Claire is the the founder of Ability Consultancy and is an award-winning disability advocate living with Cerebral Palsy. She uses her life experiences to support organisations to be diverse and inclusive.

A former GB para-athlete turned successful business owner, she is a positive role model for disabled people everywhere and works with her team to enable future generations of disabled people to live, learn and earn like their peers.

With over 1 in 5 people of working age reported as disabled (according to the Government), it is important that key decision-makers involved in people management are clued up about disability, so that they can professionally support the 9 million potential workers, aged 16-64. Below are the top five myths surrounding disability in the workplace.

MYTH 1: People with disabilities don’t want to work

Unfortunately, this is still the ugly reality for disabled people and the negative stereotype remains that disabled people are too ill or too weak to work. This is the starting place for a lot of disabled candidates and their first hurdle to employment is to prove that they want the job, can do the job and are hard working. After being made redundant in 2017 I had over 40 interviews in six months – does that sound lazy to you? I set up Ability Consultancy in 2019, to help breakdown such barriers to employment for disabled people. My view is, “A job brings so much more than money, with it also comes a sense of purpose in life, increased confidence and new contacts/friends and this can be so important when social isolation and loneliness is common with people with disabilities.”

MYTH 2: You can always tell if someone has a disability

Whilst some disabilities can be seen, it is estimated that 70-80% of disabilities are invisible (according to the UK Parliament) and called ‘hidden disabilities’. These include mental health conditions, neurodivergences, epilepsy and importantly fall under The Equality Act 2010. Within the workplace, the emphasis on disclosure is often left up to the individual based on the relationship they have with their managers. This isn’t a consistent and effective approach. One expert tip we suggest is to have a specific support person available to talk too, for a specific disability. Having a fully trained ‘champions’ means that a person can reach out without the fear of discrimination and get the support they need.

MYTH 3: Disabled people are less productive

Disability doesn’t mean inability. Sometimes tasks can take longer for a disabled person, but this does not make them less productive. This outdated thinking misses what other aspects a disabled person can bring to the role for example, one of the positive aspects of being autistic is great focus and attention to detail. Be aware of stereotyping however, as being autistic doesn’t automatically make you good at maths – you must have an interest in it! There is also a perception that disabled people are off sick more and it’s the opposite. Disabled people are off sick much less than non-disabled people.

MYTH 4: – Hiring a disabled person will cost more

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to any part of a job that may place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. However, most reasonable adjustments have little to no financial cost. For example: making sure an employee’s desk is on the ground floor, or near a toilet, or in a quieter area. Plus, the Access to Work scheme helps disabled people get into employment and takes out the extra cost of specialist equipment, support and travel.

Myth 5: – Hiring a disabled person will put our customers off

This is certainly not the case. Having a workforce that is representative of the diverse nature of society will enhance your company’s reputation. Also, hiring disabled individuals can improve a company’s ability to understand and cater to the needs of disabled customers.

In summary, creating an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity, including disabled employees, not only helps dispel these myths but also creates a positive and supportive environment for everyone.

Ability Consultancy works with businesses to ensure that the services they provide, and any delivery they undertake, are fully compliant and meets the legal requirements of the Equality Act 2010. For more information visit www.ability-consultancy.co.uk

Claire Buckle, founder Ability Consultancy