“Disability is the inability to see ability.”
This is the first part of a three-part blog series that explores disability inclusion: key concepts, facts, barriers and enablers. I’m focusing on what you need to know and to do in order to increase the well-being, engagement, and productivity of people with disabilities in your team, while improving the work environment for non-disabled people.
Today, we’re looking at key concepts and facts about disability.
People with disabilities are the fastest growing minority group
People’s attitudes towards disability inclusion can be inconsistent. Some people feel sorry for people with disabilities and admire them for their courage. They see their inclusion as a charitable act and a moral imperative. However, they fail to see the abilities disabled people bring to the workplace.
Disability inclusion can also generate anxiety. On the one hand, the sight and thought of disabilities remind some people of their fragile condition, of the fact that anything can happen to anyone at any time. On the other hand, they don’t know how to behave in the presence of people with disabilities. So, they prefer to avoid the topic, consciously or unconsciously.
But this isn’t a topic you can afford to ignore: people with disabilities are said to be the fastest-growing minority group.[i] This is due to the aging societies as well as improved medical treatment helping babies to survive and people to live with long-term health problems. Right now, many of your customers and employees already have some form of disability.
Several countries have also established quotas to encourage companies to employee people with disabilities (Germany, Spain, Brazil, France, etc.) and penalize financially organisations who fail to reach such quotas.
Key disability concepts
A disability is an impairment that has a substantial effect on a person’s ability to do normal daily activities.[ii]A disability can be:
- Physical (for example, missing limbs), sensory (for example, hearing loss), intellectual (for example, Down syndrome), mental (for example, schizophrenia), learning (for example, dyslexia) or a health condition (for example, severe diabetes).
- Permanent or temporary (for example, a temporary impairment that is the result of an accident).
- Visible (for example, using a wheelchair) or invisible (for example, epilepsy). Eighty percent of disabilities are invisible.[iii]
- Of high, medium or low severity.
- Congenital or not. 78 percent of people acquire their impairment after they were born.[iv]
The main barrier to performance at work is not the disability itself, but certain features of the work that could otherwise be modified. A “reasonable adjustment” or “accommodation” is a change or adaptation to the working environment that has the effect of removing or minimising the impact of the individual’s impairment. Examples: flexible working patterns, extra time during selection tests, ergonomic seating, anti-glare screens, ramps and rails, adapted telephones for hearing impairment. Although eighty percent of companies fear the costs related to reasonable adjustments, most accommodations can be made at low or no cost.[v] In the UK, the most common accommodation is modified working hours.[vi] Often adjustments for one individual can benefit whole teams. I’ve seen a company that soundproofed an open space to improve the working environment for one employee who had a hearing impairment. The other 200 employees working in the open space appreciated the change.
Key disability facts
The proportion of people with disabilities
Twenty percent of people in America and 26 percent of people in Europe experience some form of disability.[vii] The prevalence of disability rises with age: for example, in the UK, seven percent of children are disabled compared to sixteen percent of adults of working age (16−64 years), and 42 percent of adults over 65.[viii]
In Europe, twenty percent of people with disabilities feel unfairly treated because of their disability.[ix] Only 47 percent of disabled people are employed compared to 72 percent of non-disabled people.[x] The top three types of workplace discrimination identified by employed adults with a disability are: being given fewer responsibilities, not being promoted, and being refused a job.[xi]
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!
This is an excerpt from one of the chapters of my book “Succeed as an inclusive leader – Winning leadership habits in a diverse world”. You can download for free the sample chapter “Supporting work-life integration” by clicking here. This article was published on my blog and on Huffington Post. To get my articles and updates directly in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
THAIS COMPOINT is a multiple award-winning author, speaker, trainer and consultant specialising in inclusion and diversity for the past 18 years. She helps organisations build inclusive cultures and diverse teams so that they can increase engagement, productivity, innovation and sales. She is the CEO of Déclic International, a global consultancy that she created in 2016, after having led the inclusion and diversity strategies of three Fortune 500 companies. She’s also the author of the book “Succeed as an inclusive leader”, a TEDx speaker, the founder of the 1s Inclusive Leadership Global Conference, and a regular Huffington Post contributor.
[i] Kate Vernon, Towards Disability Confidence – a resource guide to employers in Hong Kong and Singapore, Community Business, April 2011.
[ii] This definition is a simplified version of the World Health Organisation’s definition that can be found in this link http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/
[iii] Les stéréotypes sur les personnes handicapées, IMS, April 2011.
[iv] Kate Vernon, Towards Disability Confidence – a resource guide to employers in Hong Kong and Singapore, Community Business, April 2011.
[v] Carmen Slatton, Why Not Hiring People with Disabilities is Costing You Money and customers, November, 2016.
[vi] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[vii] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[viii] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[ix] Disability statistics – barriers to social integration – Statistics Explained, Eurostat, November 2015.
[x] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[xi] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[xii] Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 facts and figures, Papworth Trust, 2016.
[xiii] Mathias Lebouf, Quand le Handicap se cache, Le Parisien, November 2016