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Disability in the Workplace

14 August 2018

Contrary to many assumptions, disabled people comes in all stripes and shapes. Disabilities have long been seen as a fate worse than death for those affected: disabled veterans of both World Wars had trouble finding work after losing limbs or even parts of their face, with only primitive plastic surgery or prosthetics to replace them. Anyone that showed signs of mental disability such as a mood disorder were carted off to psychiatric institutions or workhouses, to be hid from the world in terrible conditions until massive reforms in the developed world allowed these people to reclaim their humanity in the eyes of society.

It’s fair to say that we’ve moved past the age of treating disabled people like they’re not human, but discrimination against disabled people, particularly when it comes to employment, continues to this day. Some employees will refuse to hire people with amputated limbs, even for sedentary work like office work, and others will refuse to hire people with chronic conditions like Diabetes Mellitus or Addison’s Disease, due to the higher health insurance costs associated with them.

Other conditions are less obvious and can lead to bullying and harassment in the event of these conditions being ‘outed’. Conditions like Major Depressive Disorder and other mood disorders may only show themselves occasionally, but it has a clear effect on productivity when it manifests and can cause other problems at work, such as workmate relationships and overall job security.

Less than 5 out of 10 disabled people were employed in 2016, and the effects of benefit reforms have left many disabled people destitute and reliant on their family or friends to make ends meet. Despite this, disabled people frequently have great qualifications and can contribute to the workplace as much as any able-bodied member of society.

Accomodation isn’t just about making the entrance of your building wheelchair-accessible. It’s about allowing disabled people to work without placing undue weight on their conditions. Disabled people frequently suffer from higher levels of stress, particularly those who feel they have to hide their conditions, but this only seems to happen in toxic workplace cultures which consider fellow employees to be competition. If a worker talks about their condition to their boss, confidentiality is one of the most important factors in accommodating them. Unless the employee brings up their condition with other employees of their own volition, make sure their conditions aren’t ‘outed’ to employees.

Accommodating disabled people may seem like more hassle when compared to hiring able-bodied people, but the simple truth is that anybody could develop these conditions at any time, and you will lose employees if you won’t make basic accommodations for them. At the Change Consultancy, we’re excited about taking new technology, methods and workplace philosophy to reinvigorate companies and get them running at maximum efficiency in an age where change is fast and confusing.

Ryan Shotton