Attitudes to disability need to be changed

On the surface, employers are more open than ever to disabled workers. They’ve installed ramps for wheelchair users, and made their websites clearer for the visually impaired, for example. Yet under this veneer, is this really anything more than simply complying with the law?

This week, our exclusive survey in conjunction with the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability reveals that despite accommodating disabled people in the workplace, prejudice is rife.

A massive 92% of respondents said they felt there was still prejudice around disabled people in employment, while 86% believed recruiters would be more likely to choose a non-disabled candidate over a disabled one.

Given that only 50% of disabled people of working age are in employment, compared with 81% of non-disabled people (according to figures from the former Disability Rights Commission) we are missing out on a wealth of talent by ignoring those with disabilities.

But it’s not all the fault of employers.

There is a huge lack of clarity around the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and what it covers.

There are many ‘invisible’ disabilities that can affect employees, such as depression, dyslexia or mental illness, which are covered by the DDA. Employers could be liable under the legislation without even realising it until they are hauled up before an employment tribunal.

What’s more, many organisations do not realise that they could be eligible for financial assistance to adapt their work environments under the government’s Access to Work scheme.

More clarity is needed, but complying with the law is not enough. There needs to be a fundamental change in attitudes towards how we employ people with disabilities, and that change needs to start with HR.

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