At Direct Access, we create opportunities for disabled people, and our senior directors are disabled themselves. Our Access Consultancy team are all disabled people, and at Direct Access, we embrace life experience as a valuable asset that offers insight and motivation. During our career as access consultants, we have met and worked with numerous professionals, and it soon becomes apparent that there are a higher proportion of disabled people working in the accessibility sector than there are in other areas. This led us to question why this is this case and what that says about employment and in particular the attitudes of employers towards disabled people.
So, why are there so many disabled people working in the accessibility sector? The first reason seems obvious at first as alluded to earlier, disabled people have experience which gives them insight and motivation. On the surface this is true and whilst life experience does offer insight it inevitably offers more insight into the particular disability experienced by an individual. This can lead to a bias in particular areas, particularly with an unqualified or untrained person. A professional access consultant will be qualified and registered with the National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) and this will ensure that bias is avoided, and the access requirements of sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities are addressed.
There is a further issue with disabled people and employment that leads to disabled people working in the accessibility and disability sectors. This is certainly down to a lack of opportunities in other employment sectors. Disabled people face numerous access barriers when seeking employment ranging from physical access to buildings to general attitudes and a lack of accessible practices. Research carried out by Opinium commissioned by Scope found that disabled people need to apply for 60% more jobs than their non-disabled peers with only 51% of applications resulting in interviews compared to 69% for non-disabled applicants. A 2019 report by Leonard Cheshire found that 24% of employers would be less likely to offer employment to a disabled person with 60% of employers concerned that disabled people would struggle with the job and 66% concerned about the cost of workplace adjustments.
The statistics paint a discouraging picture for disabled people seeking employment. With this in mind is it any surprise that disabled people are employed in sectors that are more likely to understand and appreciate their skills and requirements. To summarise it appears that a higher proportion of disabled people are employed in the accessibility sector because: (a) life experience of disability is an applicable skill, (b) employer attitudes outside the sector are discouraging, (c) a better understanding of disabled in the accessibility sector. Direct Access has achieved success because of these reasons. The challenge now is for other employers to create opportunities for disabled people and emulate the success of Direct Access.
Why is an access audit important? An access audit will help your organisation change attitudes and become a more inclusive employer that can benefit from employing disabled people.
Written by Tom Morgan (Senior Access Consultant)
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