Disability in the workplace: Making inclusive environments
Let’s work together to make the workplace a more accessible place for those with disabilities
First things first, it’s essential to keep in mind that all people with disabilities, impairments or chronic health conditions have inherent worth and should be treated with the same respect as anybody else. Additionally, people with disabilities are often exceptionally capable and require little help from others. However, there are a few things non-disabled people can do to make things to make disability in the workplace a bit easier.
The views of coworkers and peers have a significant impact on the self-esteem, performance, and job satisfaction of employees with disabilities at work and in the community. Even in an environment where there is a strong commitment to these policies, negative attitudes in the workplace or social circles are frequently the biggest obstacles to inclusion and professional progression for disabled individuals.
In 2021, there were 4.4 million disabled people in employment in the UK. Which is an impress 300,000-person increase since 2020. But, with 14.6 million disabled individuals in the country, the number could definitely be better with improved accessibility and inclusion.
There are many benefits to hiring people with diverse abilities that aren’t widely acknowledged. For instance, according to a Forbes survey, 56% of businesses with yearly revenues of $10 million or more strongly concur that having a diverse staff fosters creativity; collaboration results in achievement.
If you’re a business owner, manager or even an employee, here are six ways you can contribute to making society and the workplace more inclusive for disabled people.
First, inquire, then take their advice
Don’t presume that everyone needs assistance just because they live with a disability. Asking if there is anything you can do to make the process go more smoothly or effectively for them is great. But, listen to them if they say they’re just fine because they know best how to address their needs.
However, if someone does ask for help, make sure to request clear instructions on how you may assist.
Listen intently and speak clearly
This step might not be relevant for all disabled individuals. But, if someone has a developmental disability or a condition that impacts their hearing or speech, this step is essential.
Using concise language, and matching your speech’s tempo and vocabulary to the person you’re conversing with is a great way to effectively communicate with those with developmental disabilities or other cognitive problems.
But keep in mind, unless you are told otherwise, they are capable of making their judgments. So, allow those who struggle with their speech to complete their statements and avoid speaking for them or interjecting.
Address people directly
This might seem self-explanitory, but if you’re talking to someone with a disability, speak to them, not anyone else. Depending on the nature of their disability, some people may use interpreters who will relay information between. And, while it might feel natural to look towards the interpreter when speaking, it’s far more polite to make eye contact with the disabled individual.
Observe personal space needs
Some people who use a wheelchair, walker, or cane consider these devices to be part of their personal space. So, leave a comfortable space between yourself and these devices.
In a similar vein, never begin pushing a wheelchair without first getting consent from the user. And, never move, touch, or lean on a mobility aid. Mobility aids are often the only way disabled people can move around, so moving or touching them can cause severe safety issues. It’s also just not polite.
Be accommodating to the families of those with impairments
Many people with disabilities or chronic health conditions have family members who take care of them or keep them company. So, accommodating these individuals and making them feel welcome is a great way to improve accessibility.
Check accessibility before scheduling meetings
And, finally, before a meeting, confirm the location and send specific details regarding the location’s accessibility. To ensure that everyone can participate fully in the meeting, find out if there is anything you can do to get ready.
Remember that mistakes do happen! The most crucial thing to keep in mind is to just ask questions and follow leads from others. Some of these suggestions may seem odd at first. especially if you’re requesting information from a new employee or someone you just met.
We instinctively want to avoid difficult situations and may unintentionally try to avoid dealing with coworkers who have disabilities, which leaves others feeling truly excluded. Once you get through the initial difficulty, things get much simpler. On the other hand, every time you avoid them, it becomes harder and more embarrassing to ask them about their disability. Don’t allow discomfort to stand in your way.
To get the best performance out of employees, you must first give them an enabling environment as well as a sense of belonging showing them that you care. Even if the task is much more challenging, they will find a way to complete this assignment faster because this will boost their inner morale and unlock their potential.
The Sensational Museum
‘Using what we know about disability to change how museums work for everyone’ is the tagline for The Sensational Museum
Led by Professor Hannah Thompson from Royal Holloway, University of London, The Sensational Museum is a £1 million pound-funded project by the Arts and Humanities Research Council whose goal is to alter current access methods and introduce a deeper sense of inclusivity within the museum sector in the UK.
Thompson is joined by a plethora of professionals on this project who unite on the idea that disability needs need to be put at the centre of all museums’ strategies going forward. There is Social Design specialist Anne Chick from the University of Lincoln; Psychologist Alison Eardley from the University of Westminster; and Museum Studies expert Ross Parry from the University of Leicester. They will work together between April 2023 and July 2025 to really transform the way disabled and non-disabled people interact with the art and each other in museums in the future.
Collaborating with museum staff as well as disabled and non-disabled visitors, the more-than-equipped team will be looking into two core areas: new ways of accessing museum collections and cataloguing objects in a more inclusive way. The key idea is to acknowledge and put into practice the fact that the needs of diverse visitors are all unique and not everyone absorbs art in the same way. Sector organisations include VocalEyes, an initiative that works towards inclusion for the visually impaired and blind in the arts and heritage sector, Curating for Change which helps create career paths for the disabled community, and the Museums Association, a membership organisation that campaigns for socially engaged museums. They will all be on hand to offer acute advice and inspiration as to how this project can create innovative change within museums across the country.
“Many people want or need to access and process information in ways that are not only – or not entirely – visual. But museums are very sight-dependent places. Let’s imagine a museum experience that plays to whichever senses work best for you. The project aims to give all visitors inclusive, engaging, enjoyable and memorable experiences,” Professor Hannah Thompson.
Visit The Sensational Museum website to stay up-to-date with this project and how it’s developing. It has the capacity to create real social justice and impact the disabled community and how they will be able to engage with art in a more inclusive way in the future.
All I Want For Digital Campaign Calls for Inclusive Future
All I Want For Digital is Knocking Down Disability Accessibility Barriers Online Worldwide
Global digital transformation agency Cyber-Duck has launched the ‘All I Want For Digital’ campaign, which aims to remove digital accessibility barriers worldwide. Diverse users of the internet need to be heard and listened to. Is there enough being done to include them across all digital channels? Data from WebAIM, shows not, with less than 3% of website homepages being truly accessible to all users, meaning that the majority feel excluded from what most people take for granted. This is exactly what the #AllIWantForDigital campaign is shining a light on; the need for all brands, companies, and individuals to work harder to make all their digital experiences inclusive.
‘Ask yourself, what one thing would make digital better for everyone?’
This is the question Cyber-Duck team members asked a group of campaigners, Paralympians, creators and personalities with visible and hidden disabilities. The goal was to learn about their positive and negative experiences of online interactions in order to provide the world with inspiration to better the digital world.
Former tech journalist Rory Cellan-Jones, comedy writer Sara Gibbs, author and campaigner Sandi Wassmer and gold medal Paralympian Giles Long are amongst others, featured in the campaign as representatives of people living with disabilities and how they’re affected by non-inclusive digital experiences. They share their reasons why they want to see positive change in this space. Take Mik Scarlet, TV presenter, co-CEO Phab, and wheelchair user, who says, “I want people who design or own a website or app to have a mind shift change. To stop thinking that they’re designing for disabled people or for those people over there and remember that good products work for everybody.”
Danny Bluestone, CEO and Founder of Cyber-Duck says, “Whether you are trying to pay utility bills online, order groceries, find gifts for friends and family, apply for a job or keep in touch over the holidays, no one should feel excluded because of poorly designed digital experiences, which are not inclusive.”
Bluestone explains further that this inclusive mindset should be adopted at the first stage of a web design, “Accessibility guidelines are a tick box activity for some. But we and our campaign partners want to see more positive action taken to design with inclusivity in mind, creating accessible experiences, which benefit everyone. Accessibility can’t be an after-thought and can’t be solved with plug-ins.”
The campaign has been supported by key charities and initiatives including the Royal Association for Deaf People, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, para-sports
classification organisation LEXI, disabled children’s community Phab, digital disability awareness training platform AbilityNet, and the British Interactive Media Association, which supports the next generation of digital professionals through knowledge sharing and developing talent. This campaign alongside this powerful group of initiatives together have the power to create impactful solutions to improve the usability of digital products for everyone.
Take a look at the All I Want For Digital campaign here.
Tatiana Lee: Advocating for Accessibility and Inclusion in Media and Tech
Tatiana Lee is an award-winning disability inclusion and accessibility consultant, producer, model, actor and activist
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Included is proud to be sharing in the joys of women and their successes. International Women’s day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. The globally-celebrated day was initiated in 1908 when women marched through the streets of New York calling for higher pay, shorter hours and the opportunity to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America celebrated the first National Woman’s Day. Notably, today we will be celebrating Tatiana Lee, Apple TV+ Accessibility Lead.
Tatiana Lee is an award-winning disability inclusion and accessibility consultant and is herself a wheelchair user. She has also modelled in campaigns for Apple, Target, Zappos, and a host of others. Lee’s activism was influenced by the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in the media and entertainment industry. Her passion and commitment to creating a more inclusive Hollywood and creating accessible working places pushed her to advocate for accessibility and disability visibility in the entertainment scene.
She was known to be very consistent on social media platforms — raising awareness and seeing that emerging disabled creatives access opportunities to be included in Hollywood films and other entertainment platforms. Speaking on her experience of navigating the entertainment industry as a disabled woman of colour, Lee expressed that “I have discovered a more profound passion advocating for accessibility and inclusion in Media and Tech.” She continued,“I never thought six years later that I will be taking on a role that encompasses all those passions into one,” Lee said.
However, Lee’s advocacy, consultation, and production projects won her numerous awards, notable among them was the Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore Producers Award. Most of her works were featured by reputable media outlets, including Forbes, CNET, Washington Post, and Apple Newsroom.
Tatiana Lee is not only an incredible example of what disabled women can achieve but her work is also increasing opportunities and improving the lives of disabled women.