Disability Inclusion: Championing the Social Model of Disability

Steven Taylor, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant at Inclusive Employers, explains the importance of disability inclusion and why Inclusive Employers are championing the social model of disability

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Hi everyone, my name is Steven and I am one of the newer consultants and team members here at Inclusive Employers. We have been working hard behind the scenes and we are really excited to be launching our Disability Resource Package this month! This package comprises 10 in-depth documents to assist employers to offer the best support to employees with disability inclusion across all considerations of the employee experience.

Why is disability inclusion important?

For context, there are nearly 14 million disabled people in the UK, which is approximately one in five of us. Disabilities can take many different guises, whether they present as visible or non-visible, physical or neurological, lifetime or acquired; disabilities can and may have an influence on us all in some way throughout our lives. It could be ourselves, our friends and family or our colleagues.

In the workplace, UK statistics show that 53.6% of disabled people were in employment, in comparison to 81.7% of non-disabled people (Disabled People in the Workplace, House of Commons, 2020). While the number of people with disabilities in employment has been increasing since 2013 and initiatives have been introduced (such as Access to Work and Disability Confidence), we still have a long way to go to lower the disparity between these figures and decrease the disability employment gap. As a nation, we could be doing much more to attract, retain and develop disabled employees.

Understanding the social model of disability

Here at Inclusive Employers, we believe that focussing on the social model of disability rather than the medical model of disability is key to championing disability inclusion within the workplace. The social model states that people are disabled by barriers created within society such as inaccessible buildings or uneducated attitudes towards disability, not by the disability itself. We believe that employers therefore have a responsibility to recognise, understand and reduce these challenges within the workplace and create more inclusive workplaces for all.

Overcoming barriers to disability representation

When I reflect on my own personal experiences over the years, I see that the representation of disabled employees in my previous workplaces were rather small.  Having worked in different sectors and businesses, I believe representation is a challenge that all employers face. Some possible reasons for this may include lack of knowledge, unconscious bias, uncertainty regarding reasonable adjustments and/or challenges with communications to name a few. However these potential barriers can be easily overcome with the right training, support, and consideration.  

When an employee did have a visible disability or shared that they had a non-visible disability, other employees often did not know how to offer support or even just act without feeling uncomfortable or for fear of offending. What was apparent however was that once the disabled employee became an established member of the team and was offered the appropriate support needed to flourish in their role, their input and feedback to the team was invaluable and a learning opportunity for all. It is therefore imperative that we continue to strive to make changes within society and the workplace, with the hope of eventually eradicating prejudice and discrimination for disabled people.   

There is a huge pool of untapped talent within society and for those employers who get it right, they reap the rewards of a more productive, creative, open-minded, and forward-thinking workforce.

If you want to find out more information, or want to know how to bring this or any of the content in our Disability Package to life in a meaningful way within your organisation, please speak to your Inclusive Employers account manager or email [email protected]

Resources:

People with disabilities in employment – House of Commons Library

Access to Work

Disability Confident