The zeitgeist of our post-pandemic existence is in many ways complex and has yet to truly be determined. The value of hiring disabled employees is one of the few changes in the past few years that has been an unambiguously positive result of an otherwise incredibly trying time.
When people remember this period in human history, even in just a decade’s time, we don’t believe anyone will deny that the immediate years succeeding 2020 were an incredibly testing period, as the consequences of Covid-19 and a potential war with Russia are likely to be still perpetuating a ripple effect socially and economically that each of us will experience in some capacity for years. From individuals and businesses to our culture, habits, and attitudes as people, things are changing, and not all for the better.
There is, however, a silver lining, which is that when it comes to our attitudes and perceptions of disabled people, or anyone for that matter who has been less fortunate during the past few years, our values have shifted, albeit only slightly, for the better.
Direct Access recently completed a video interview with Fred Maahs Jr of Maahs Travels. Fred, and his company, provide tailored accessible holiday experiences to disabled people that are guaranteed to be barrier-free. Fred himself is a wheelchair user, due to an accident in his youth which made him paralysed from the waist down. The incident happened long before passing a law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, was even a concept.
After leaving college, Fred took a corporate position at a company and was required to travel the world, long before the wonders of Zoom or Skype simplified interaction with people living miles away from us. To make matters worse, wheelchair ramps were still, at this stage, a novel concept. When at home, Fred had to be carried up and down staircases, most often at his office, where he worked on the second floor.
We’ve no doubt that many of us would have felt similarly to Fred during the peak of the pandemic. COVID-19 forced everyone indoors and consequently stripped us of our liberties and freedoms. For most of us, it was the first time many of us truly understood what it means to be a disabled person. To have our freedom of movement around the built environment at the mercy of the world around us.
At Direct Access, we have always made it a point to prioritise hiring disabled employees. Of course, we have non-disabled employees, as we do not like to discriminate either, but we ultimately pride ourselves on offering opportunities where possible to disabled people that otherwise might not have received them. We are also a disability organisation, and to not hire disabled people would be hypocritical on all kinds of levels.
However, we must acknowledge that disabled people deserve and actively desire job opportunities in sectors outside of industries catered to them. According to one statistic, there are currently 1.2 million disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work.
Thankfully, due to increased awareness about false perceptions regarding hiring disabled employees, this mindset is now changing readily. Employers that were forced to send their staff home to work during the pandemic have now learned that people can do their jobs without ever coming to the office. This shift in perception is not only favourable for disabled individuals, but also beneficial for their employers, and non-disabled people. Many of us no longer worry about our work commute, regardless of whether that was an easy task.
A study was carried out recently by Accenture in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. This study showed that not only does having disabled people on your team increase profit margins, net incomes and revenues, but also exemplified that disabled employees tend to outperform their non-disabled counterparts. Having disabled people on your team increases diversity, and as a result, increases morale and individuality within teams as a whole.
What this proves is that it is an undeniable falsehood that a good employee is somehow determined by their abilities as a human being. The fact is that when employers do make the effort to consider the individual needs of their staff, their performance is comparable, if not even better.
When it comes to making adaptations to the workplace in order to meet the needs of your disabled staff, with a small handful of exceptions, most changes to the work environment will cost employers considerably less than the long-term gains to inclusion and accessibility. If nothing else, paying attention to your service’s accessibility and inclusion increases the respectability of your image and brand, and is likely to increase loyalty among disabled customers, (of which there are approximately one billion worldwide).
So, what can you do to support disabled employment? It all comes down to that word, support. Support applications from disabled people in all positions within your business, and help them at work. Facilitate changes that allow mobility, sensory or mentally impaired disabled people within your workforce. Then, advertise this fact, as it will then allow you to market your business as inclusive, and reap the social and financial rewards that come from that.
If you own a facility or are part of an organisation that wishes to meet best practice obligations under the Equality Act, why not get in touch with us today? Our Consultancy team will ensure that you take the steps to not only do the right thing with your budget but open the door to the social and financial benefits that come only as a result of creating an accessible and inclusive environment for disabled people.
Get in contact today. We are here to help. Because for us, access is personal.