How to be a disabled friendly business

Last week I wrote about a negative experience I had in my job-hunting experience, where I was discriminated against because of my disability.

If you’re an employer who would like to have a diverse workplace, or you would like to have a disabled friendly business, or you have a colleague that has a disability and you’re a little unsure about what to do, it’s really easy. Don’t worry. I have come to your rescue.

I have created this list based on zero academic evidence. This is just a compilation of my experiences and what I really wished people knew.

 

  1. Don’t claim to be disabled friendly if you’re not

If you don’t know what I mean, see Exhibit A.

13-11-16
Misleading signage

I’ve seen this so many times. Some businesses will have a disability sticker outside their store, even when it is blatantly not accessible. I understand from the window coverings that it looks as if they were undergoing renovations and becoming accessible is in the plans, which is great. But it is still a head scratcher and pointless until the changes are actually made.

I’ve seen shops open for business that had a sticker and a step to get in, or a table right in front of the ramp. You are literally wasting your time.

 

  1. Use your common sense 

Sometimes common sense really isn’t that common. The above scenario is an example of that.

We’re not stupid and we know when we’re being singled out or tokenised. Put yourself in the shoes of a disabled customer or colleague and act according to how you would like things to be, or how you would like to be treated.

Don’t make an issue where there isn’t one. Don’t move things out of the way that don’t need moving. It is so annoying.

 

  1. Ask and listen 

We are perfectly capable of expressing ourselves. If you know extra assistance is required but you genuinely don’t know how to help, just ask. And when they have told you, actually listen.

Don’t try to be smarter than they are. By all means, offer another solution if you have one – perhaps you have access to equipment they don’t know about – but if they assess the situation and say no, it’s a no. Respect the experiences and insight we already have. We’ve been doing this a really long time. We know what works and what our limitations are.

 

  1. Educate yourself

Be up-to-date with issues about diversity and tell people what you’ve learnt. Create a work environment that celebrates difference rather than stomping it down. There are constant studies showing the value of a diverse workplace in all definitions of the word.

This isn’t just good for business; it’s good for the world. We all live according to our own realities and world views. If we don’t challenge our perspectives and opinions, we create a world where communities are divided, most of us get left out and we get stuck in a time warp. Let’s not stay stagnant.

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