1. Be aware that not everyone identifies with the term disability
The language that we use to identify ourselves is personal, not everyone identifies with the term disability. Many people may have a ‘disability’ in the eyes of the law but may not want to use that language. So in order to understand would benefit from more accessibility in your charity, it can be more helpful to ask people about their adjustment or accessibility needs. That way, you can understand how best you can support people to do their jobs and feel included.
2. People know their abilities and needs best
Many charities enact occupational health assessments or equivalent when asked for a reasonable adjustment by an employee. This can be helpful if someone has a new disability and is getting to know their own needs at work, but most of the time it wastes time, money and trust. Most people will know the adaptions they need to do their job, so the best option for productivity and trust is to ask and believe them.
3. Volunteers deserve disability inclusion too
Charities often fail to implement reasonable adjustments for volunteers because they don’t ‘have to’ under employment law. This is one of the reasons that disabled volunteers are underrepresented and tend to have a much less positive volunteer experience. If your charity has volunteers that dedicate time to your cause, they deserve adjustments to be implemented to be the best volunteer they can be – after all, most adjustments cost nothing.
4. Benevolent bias can act as a barrier to people with disabilities feeling included
One of the main reasons that people with disabilities feel excluded from the workplace is due to the attitudes and behaviours of others. These unhelpful attitudes do not necessarily reflect negative intent. Often they come from a desire to look after and protect people, for example not wanting to give a promotion to someone due to a belief that the extra pressure would be too much for them.
5. Managers need to know about accessibility but don’t need to be disability experts
It’s important that managers understand how to create an accessible and inclusive environment for their team. However, pressure for them to be aware of the needs of different disabilities can lead to some managers feeling overwhelmed and avoiding hiring people with disabilities or telling people that they know their disabilities better than them. It’s better for both the manager and the employee / volunteer if they understand their responsibilities to create an accessible environment and know where to find out information about different disabilities when they need it.
The most important thing for charities to remember is that we are all individuals, when in doubt, don’t make an assumption on someone’s behalf, ask them the question and listen to the answer