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Disability in the workplace: Making inclusive environments

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Disability in the workplace

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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DWP Plans to Replace Regular Disability Payments with One-Off Grants Spark Major Backlash

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DWP PIP

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ignited a storm of controversy with its latest proposal to overhaul the personal independence payment (PIP) system. The proposed changes, which would replace regular PIP with one-off grants for some claimants, have been met with fierce criticism from disability rights advocates and the broader public.

The government’s consultation aims to modernize the disability benefit system by scrapping the “one size fits all” approach of PIP, according to Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride. The plan suggests that assessments could be eliminated for certain conditions, with the focus shifting towards providing claimants with one-off grants or vouchers for essential services and equipment instead of regular cash payments.

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This radical shift is driven by the government’s concern over the “unsustainable rate” of the benefits bill, particularly due to the increasing number of mental health claims. However, critics argue that the changes would undermine the financial stability of disabled people, many of whom rely on PIP to manage their daily lives and additional costs associated with their disabilities.

James Taylor, from the disability equality charity Scope, expressed deep skepticism about the motivations behind the consultation, labeling it as a tactic to cut costs at the expense of vulnerable individuals. “Life costs a lot more for disabled people,” Taylor stated, emphasizing that removing a stable source of income would not address any societal issues but rather exacerbate them.

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Research by Scope suggests that disabled households require an extra £975 per month to maintain the same standard of living as non-disabled households, highlighting the crucial role of PIP in bridging this financial gap. The proposed reforms could lead to significant reductions in income for disabled individuals, with PIP accounting for about 21% of their total income and even more for those in the lowest income brackets.

The potential reform has also drawn criticism from Iain Porter of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who views it as an unjustified burden placed on those already facing significant challenges. He argues that the focus should instead be on addressing the root causes of ill health and poverty that affect millions in the UK.

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The proposed changes have been further complicated by the recent findings of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which accused the UK government of failing to address systemic violations of disabled people’s rights. This international scrutiny underscores the need for reforms that genuinely support disabled individuals rather than pushing them further into hardship.

Critics are calling for a benefits system that is compassionate, tailored, and supportive, rather than punitive and cost-cutting. As the government moves forward with its consultation, the outcome will significantly impact the lives of millions of disabled persons across the UK, making it a critical issue of fairness and social justice in the lead-up to the general election.

As debates and discussions continue, it is clear that any changes to the PIP system must be handled with utmost care to avoid unintended consequences that could leave many of the most vulnerable in society at greater risk of poverty and exclusion.

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks Coffee Company announced on February 14th that it will leverage its growing store presence to support and promote the inclusion of partners, clients, and communities it serves. To achieve this, the company has created an Inclusive Spaces Framework, which aims to enhance independence, choice, and comfort for all its consumers and employees: “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all” stated Katie Young, Senior Vice President of Store Operations.

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One of the first Starbucks customers based on the Inclusive Spaces Framework/Starbucks

Starbucks’s Inclusive Spaces Framework has been developed by a distinctive community of customers, workers, partners, and accessibility experts, with the primary goal of providing scalable accessibility solutions for all commercial spaces. This concept began to take shape during the Covid-19 pandemic, where social distancing and the risk of contracting the disease prompted some branches to create specific time blocks. During these blocks, immunocompromised, elderly, and disabled customers could shop in a less crowded environment.

Starbucks inaugurates its first café supported by the principles of the Inclusive Spaces Framework

On February 16th, Washington, D.C. became the first city to open a Starbucks designed to provide accessible service for everyone. These innovations include a multitude of improvements, both physical and digital, that streamline the entire customer interaction process with the establishment and staff, enabling unrestricted access.

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A new employee at the Washington D.C. Starbucks showcasing the facilities/Starbucks

Among these novelties, the coffee company has highlighted updates to the point-of-sale (POS) systems, which have been transformed into portable devices, making it easier for customers to make purchases and acquire products. Through an intuitive design, supported by a voice assistant and accompanied by visual confirmations, this setup caters to the needs of all customers without any distinction.

On the other hand, this revamped store features new lighting and an improved sound system, both designed to offer a more inclusive experience by avoiding glare and reverberations. Additionally, the order tracking panels in this store have been updated, allowing customers to easily and instantly know which stage of preparation their purchase is in. Furthermore, multiple communication channels have been enabled to notify the customer when their order is ready.

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Finally, the store has been designed to ensure the complete independence of people with disabilities when accessing and placing their orders. This is achieved through electric doors, which can be activated by a button at different heights and angles, reducing the effort required to open them. Additionally, continuous, and obstacle-free pedestrian pathways have been created, and the counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchairs, making interaction with employees and the store more accessible.

Starbucks

The new staff at Starbucks in Washington D.C./Starbucks

However, for most retail centers, remodelling their premises to comply with ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations poses a significant challenge. That’s why Starbucks will not only begin remodelling its establishments but also ensure that its framework of inclusion is accessible to everyone, just like its stores. This framework will provide a gradual program for designing inclusive spaces that enhance the retail environment, surpassing the requirements of the ADA.

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By: Álvaro Lago

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Aarti Sahgal: Creating A World In Which People With Disabilities Belong

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Disabilities

Aarti Sahgal is a woman with a mission. She is the founder and CEO of Synergies Work, a non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs with disabilities develop sustainable enterprises. She is also a mother to two kids, one of whom has Down syndrome. She understands directly the obstacles and opportunities that individuals with disabilities experience in society, and she is committed to creating a world in which they belong.

Sahgal’s work grew out of her personal experience parenting a disabled child and discovering a lack of inclusivity and assistance in the education and employment systems. She recognized that people with disabilities possess special skills and capabilities that are frequently overlooked or underestimated by others. She chose to leave her corporate position and devote herself to enabling people with disabilities to achieve their hobbies and goals.

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Disabilities

Synergies work provides end-to-end business solutions, bridging the opportunity gap between the disability and business sectors. It provides training, mentoring, funding, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs with disabilities, as well as access to a varied and supportive community. It also collaborates with businesses and groups to increase disability inclusion and diversity in the workplace and marketplace.

Since its establishment in 2016, Synergies Work has assisted over 200 entrepreneurs, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color. The company aims to empower 1 million new entrepreneurs with disabilities by 2027 by collaborating with disability organizations and businesses that prioritize creating an inclusive ecosystem.

Sahgal aims to represent and reflect the different communities in which she works, as well as to foster a workplace climate in which everyone has the opportunity to participate, grow, belong, and succeed. Sahgal’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan aims to promote inclusivity and diversity as a source of strength and value.

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By- Rowland Obiosah

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