Give me access | The disabled workforce and upward mobility

The disabled workforce and upward mobility

Deep Dive

With only 27% of offices being wheelchair accessible and the gap between employed disabled people and their non-disabled peers still around 28%, the question must be asked: why aren’t we getting better, and how can we remove barriers to success?

“I was so excited to get the award, and as soon as I told my partner about it, we began planning the trip to accept it. It took us a week of scheming, revising, calling Transport for London, looking at alternate routes, asking friends and family for help and ultimately, realising there just was no way to get there that wouldn’t take at least half a day.”

This anecdote – from a businesswoman who was given an industry award for her success and dedication in her field and was ultimately unable to attend the award event because of access issues – is all too common for disabled people in the UK. Whether their disability is physical or not, hidden or visible, severe or moderate, barriers to access, and thus, success, for people living with disabilities are a serious problem.

Unfortunately, many times this means that some disabled people report that they chose to stay home, rather than face the prospect of being literally stuck when outside the home. And this isn’t just a social problem – it extends immediately to the world of work.

What does that mean? It means companies are missing out on talented people who could be innovating at their business, instead of being prevented from success by a lack of access.

While acknowledgement of these issues is growing and more Brits are reporting their disabilities and asking for help with them, the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled Brits is still vast.

Recent research from access and mobility experts Middletons (partially taken from Government figures) estimates that 53.5% of disabled people aged between 16 and 64 years are currently in employment, versus the 81.6% of non-disabled people of the same age.

With a recent YouGov poll showing that only 27% of professional offices are wheelchair accessible (and that’s only one area of disability access), it’s not hard to draw a correlation between a lack of access and the 28% of disabled Brits not in work. Of course, many of those people will be either physically or mentally incapacitated to a level that they are unable to work, require full-time care or simply find the idea of working outside the home too daunting (who doesn’t, these days!).

Verity Kick, Marketing Director at Middletons, spoke to HR Grapevine about what’s needed to remove barriers to literal physical access, but also to success.

“While there is currently government support available for eligible disabled employees to provide support in the workplace, there are many ways individual businesses can help their disabled workforce,” she says. “From simply revising policies to ensure they are inclusive of all staff, to providing education around certain disabilities that impact teams within the business, employers must be aware of and provide assistance for the barriers that disabled people face at work.”

Companies are missing out on talented people who could be innovating at their business, instead of being prevented from success by a lack of access.

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