There are approximately 14.1 million disabled people in the UK
There’s a saying that diversity is a fact, and inclusion is an act. While a diverse organisation attracts people of all backgrounds, inclusion is crucial to keeping them, as well as enabling them to fulfil their potential and maximise their contribution to the company. Investigo held a disability awareness workshop on Wednesday 14th July to build on our understanding of disability and provide practical ideas for further embedding disability confidence into our ways of working. It was hosted by leading disability consultant Nick Goss of Goss Consultancy Ltd.
The case for disability confidence
Disability itself does not discriminate. Disabled people represent every type of person and come from all backgrounds and abilities. Anyone can become disabled at any time. This makes it an area relevant to all and disability confidence is a mission critical success criteria for any organisation. As a business, being disability confident indicates a desire to:
Recruit a diverse workforce
Provide an inclusive service
Make everyone feel welcome
Provide an inclusive working environment
Make workplace adjustment
Increase disability confidence among the workforce
Increase its profile as an accessible and inclusive organisation
Champion best practice
A model approach
Approximately 3% of people who are blind or have a visual impairment read braille
The way in which disability is perceived in the UK has changed drastically in recent years, switching from the medical model to the social model.
The medical model
Dominant until the 1980s, the medical model was based on the idea that the problem was a defective person. There was an emphasis on how to fix and rehabilitate the person, how to get them to fit into what we regard as normal society. The language was very much around what the person couldn’t do, whether they were: housebound; unable to use their hands, walk or get up steps; needed help; were sick; couldn’t think, hear or see; or needed doctors.
The social model
From the 1980s onwards, we moved to the social model. Driven by disabled people themselves, the social model views the problem as a disabling world. It focuses on what we need to do as a society to identify and eliminate physical, attitudinal or educational barriers. As such, the language is about social barriers rather than the person themselves. The model is embedded in the Equality Act 2010 and we need to adopt and promote this model as part of our compliance with the act.
Through the social model, the challenges facing disabled people are: poor job prospects; segregated education; prejudiced attitudes; isolation; lack of accessible communication systems; badly designed buildings; few sign language interpreters; poverty/low incomes; no lifts; and inaccessible transport.
Disability etiquette, language and behaviour
87% of disabled people surveyed said that they feared social distancing wouldn’t be respected and that this would impact on their health
The language used in reference to disability has moved over time and the kind of terminology you use will indicate your level of disability confidence.
Disabled person – In a social model context, people are disabled by society.
A person who has a learning disability / A person who has a spinal cord injury / A person who has multiple sclerosis – Never define someone by their disability. Use the phrase ‘a person’ before referring to the disability. Statements such as these are factual, not making any assumptions, not emotive in any way.
Accessible parking / Accessible blue badge parking / Accessible toilets
Not accepted language
Deaf and dumb
Moron, idiot, retard, imbecile – The older generation, educated when the medical model was in operation, might be more likely to use this language. Different demographics will have different levels of knowledge and confidence in this area.
Handicapped – No longer used in the UK but used in America. It’s important to have the right terminology standards for where you’re working and who you’re working with.
Suffers from a learning disability / Suffers from a spinal cord injury / Suffers from multiple sclerosis.
It’s all about intent and understanding impact – we don’t want to get to the point where we’re so scared of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing at all. It’s really important that we relax. If we get our intent right and understand the impact, it’s very hard to get it wrong.
Speak directly to the disabled person.
Say hello and introduce yourself – within context.
Concentrate on listening to what the person is saying, rather than how they’re saying it.
Complete a sentence for a person with a speech impairment – Instead think about how you can make the environment easier for that person. Is it quiet or busy? If you don’t catch what they say, make it your issue – “I didn’t quite get that. Could you repeat it please?”
Impose help – Instead, offer help.
Speak through the companion to the disabled person – Always speak directly to the disabled person.
Grab a person who has a visual impairment before you speak – Say hello and introduce yourself. Say goodbye at the end of the conversation, as having that signoff is really important. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Putting theory into practice
It’s important that organisations and their employees know what adjustments and facilities they provide. They need to understand both the customer and employee journey, and how they might impact on disabled people in different ways and at different stages. Being clear what facilities are available and providing the right information and support at the right time and in the right way is, again, critical to being a disability confident organisation.
Here are some top tips for organising an accessible event:
Planning the event
It is important to be clear about the required access standard and ensure that the venue chosen, format and delivery of the event meet this. Agree roles and responsibilities in meeting and responding to access needs. Ensure that those running and supporting the event have had disability confidence and awareness training.
Have an event plan, covering how you collate and respond to delegate access requirements.
Provide presenters with accessibility guidelines about presentations and provide presentations in advance when requested.
Promoting the event
Have an event access profile, detailing the access provision for the venue, the schedule (including start, finish and break times), the format of the event, refreshment and meal arrangement, and any other relevant information. e.g. nearby accessible stations.
Have clear policies and practices that ensure disabled delegates are not placed at a disadvantage. e.g. provision for delegates to bring support workers or companions free of charge if needed.
Ensure that facilities are in place throughout the booking process for disabled people to inform you of access adjustment needs, and that these can be responded to and confirmed back to the delegates in a timely and accessible manner. Remember all booking systems and processes need to be accessible and inclusive, accommodating disability related adjustment needs.
It is important to think about where and how the event will be promoted. Good event promotional materials are accessible and inclusive promotional materials. If you do want to target a particular group, think why, think how, think where and think when. Your promotional activity needs to be targeted and accessible, for example to people who may not have access to the internet. If someone can’t get online, make sure you provide an alternative. The information you’re providing needs to be written in a way that’s compliant and disability confident.
Delivering the event
On the day, ensure all facilities are in place and in working order, and that signage is effective and accessible.
Always include access in the event brief and pre-event briefing, ensuring everyone is aware of the facilities, escalation process and point of contact for access issues on the day. Remember access issues need to be managed proactively, professionally and discreetly.
Always remember the more a disabled person knows about the event, the more they can tell you what they might need.
Disability confidence needs to be seen as a key success criteria for any modern business. There is a clear moral, legal and business case for getting it right, and a corresponding risk in getting it wrong.
Investigo adopts a ‘compliance plus’ approach, meaning that we ensure legal / regulatory compliance but always strive for best practice. It’s not all about policies and procedures. It’s about ensuring that at an individual, departmental and organisational level, we are being as accessible and inclusive as possible – all the time, everywhere and for everybody. Find out more about Investigo’s commitment to D&I.
Nick Goss is Manging Director of Goss Consultancy Ltd, which works with organisations to ensure they are as diverse, accessible and inclusive as possible in the way they engage with people, develop policies and practices, and deliver services.