As a trainer for Enhance the UK, I am lucky enough to be able to train people from lots of different organisations and walks of life. This is what makes my job so interesting; no two groups are the same. One thing that the delegates often have in common though is that they are customer facing staff. Now you might say ‘that makes sense’ and I totally agree that customer facing staff having disability awareness training is a good place to start, but it shouldn’t end there.
Often accessibility and disability are considered as an after thought, a bolt on exercise, if you like. One person in the organisation takes responsibility for all things access and any enquiries, difficulties or issues are passed on to said person. Now this quite simply doesn’t work. Usually this person is super busy and up to their eyeballs and things get missed. But actually, believe it or not this isn’t the main issue. For an organisation to be truly accessible, inclusion needs to be considered by everyone as part of their standard working practices. Media and PR teams need to be confident in promoting the inclusive practices of the organisation and discussing disability. The HR team need to fully understand how to actively recruit disabled people and furthermore value a diverse workforce. Managers need to be confident discussing disability with any employees and understand reasonable adjustments and Access to Work. Events teams need to be confident planning inclusive events and know how to ask someone about any access needs they may have. And so, the list goes on.
Often businesses will state that they do not currently employ any disabled people. I always find this hard to believe and statistically this is highly unlikely considering nearly 1 in 5 people in the UK are disabled. More often than not, there are disabled people working for the organisation, but they have not disclosed their disability, often due to fear of negative repercussions. Once inclusive practice is fully integrated within an organisation, the ethos of the organisation changes in a positive way. Disability is no longer seen as something which is difficult to deal with and a ‘can of worms’ or something that another person in the organisation has to ‘deal with’ and instead becomes positive and normal.
I have seen too many times organisations which are truly trying to be inclusive making costly or damaging mistakes when it comes to inclusion simply because the majority of staff do not understand it. Don’t make this mistake yourself. Next time you consider disability awareness training for staff make sure that you think about all staff.