How Do Companies Remove Barriers to Their Workplace?
Written by Tom Casson – How Do I?
At How Do I? we believe in people and their differences — Our app is a resolution to workplace barriers and makes workplaces more accessible through mobile technology.
As a company that wants to change the narrative around disability and employment, it’s important for us to be an example of best practice — We have to practice what we preach.
Why hire people with disabilities specifically in mind? Well, why not? Research shows people with learning disabilities performed as well as their counterparts, have less sick days and stay with a company on average 3 times longer.
So if it makes business sense and there is an amazing talent pool, as 94% are not in work – What’s stopping companies from tapping into this market of undervalued and underutilised people?
Firstly, a crucial thing is a company’s attitude to disability.
The majority of workforces are already neurodiverse (neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation) – It’s just most people haven’t ‘disclosed’ personal information to their employers yet.
This is probably due to not feeling they are in a safe enough culture to do so. Alternatively, they don’t see the benefit of doing so.
An interesting read on this topic of ‘declaration’ and ‘disclosure’ of disability in the workplace is Secrets and Big News by Kate Nash OBE.
Based on a two-year research project, the book details the reasons why people find it hard to share information and offers ideas for both employers and employees alike.
If you’d like to encourage your employees to tell you any personal information around disability you need to be transparent in why you’d like the information. Especially with the current spotlight on data — people are more protective of their information.
But this gives you an opportunity to create a safe sharing environment. Let your employees know why you want more information: What’s in it for them? What will be done with the data?
Of course, smaller organisations that are beginning to grow like ourselves, have the chance to get things right from the beginning. Meaning we have the chance to avoid creating workplace barriers.
Instead, we can embed an inclusive ethos into our companies’ culture from day 1. But that doesn’t mean large corporates cannot adapt.
Microsoft has begun hiring people on the autistic spectrum based on their relevant strengths.
A key thing for larger businesses is to involve people with disabilities in any process change. Do not make assumptions.
Another workplace barrier is the job application process itself. From finding the job listings themselves completing an application to interviewing.
We found lots of jargon-filled job applications, with lots of essential requirements for entry-level jobs.
Because of the stage, we are at — we decided against writing a formal job description — instead, we opted for a video that lets people know who we are, what we do and what the role is.
This would allow prospective employees not to be put off by a title. Likewise, it’d also attract people who were interested in the company and our work.
We then invited the majority of applicants to meet us for tea or coffee rather than a formal interview.
This created a less formal interview environment and fewer workplace barriers. This allowed us to naturally get to know our applicants better.
We were very fortunate to have a lot of people interested; also because we found 2 outstanding applicants who joined the team last year.
Once you have hired somebody you need to support them.
Graeme Whippy MBE, a Disability specialist working at Channel 4, recently said: “Inclusion means to create a friction-free workplace”.
Many people will be aware of the phrase — ‘reasonable workplace adjustments’ but Graeme spoke about workplace adjustments.
In dropping the word ‘reasonable’ we would also drop the stigma attached to disability. Additionally, we’d drop the stigma attached to somebody for requiring an adjustment to their workplace.
If you are inclusive, you are able to accommodate all. A great example of how effective this is Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit.
In the toolkit, Microsoft says “Designing for inclusivity not only opens up our products and experiences to more people with a wider range of abilities. It also reflects how people really are. All humans are growing, changing, and adapting to the world around them every day. We want our designs to reflect that diversity.”
Applying this to our lives means we will be able to change the narrative on disability and we need to – because let’s face it whether a disability or impairment is permanent, temporary or situational, we’re all likely to experience one.
Much like How Do I, we’re passionate about accessibility. Whether it’s personal or workplace barriers we’re happy to help.