Driving Inclusive Practice and Navigating the Potholes

The journey to create an accessible and inclusive workplace for neurodiverse and disabled employees is often not a straight road, but the views you’ll see and the things you’ll learn along the way will be invaluable. There will be potholes to navigate, such as change management, institutional caution, company culture, uniting disparate departments and enabling organisation wide shifts, but the end result will be an inclusive environment that works for everyone.

Office for National Statistics. Labour Force Survey, Q2 2016; 2016

We are currently faced with a substantial disability employment gap in the UK (sitting at 32% between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in employment), which employers, big and small, have a responsibility to reduce. We are in a stage of transition where, by and large, the issues that marginalised disabled people face are recognised and we are now trying to build solutions that minimise this exclusion.

However, when we talk about inclusion and making employment opportunities accessible to a range of differently abled people, we must be careful by what we mean by this. Lots of well-meaning initiatives to try and get more disabled people into work, by providing ‘special programmes for special people’, run the risk of othering. This doesn’t create the integrated and inclusive environment we are ultimately seeking to build, where differences are normalised and viewed as valuable, diverse skill sets.

To create lasting shifts where diversity is valued and celebrated, everyone must ‘own it’ on their own terms and not simply for top-down bureaucratic reasons. The legal requirements shouldn’t be the limit to what, and why, this work is done. The positives need to be clear from the outset and adopted at every level of the organisation. Objectives need to be shared, with engagement from the entire cross-section of the organisation in order to be sustainable. This is not without its challenges, particularly when organisations are large with disjointed departments and siloed approaches.

When talking about inclusion we must consider things like widening participation, breaking down barriers, changing perceptions, job satisfaction, retention and attainment. So, when devising and implementing equality, inclusion and diversity policy we need to think about factors such as accessibility, functionality, usability, and affordability. Above all, the following two things need to happen in tandem- instilling a culture of openness and celebration of diversity whilst providing clear outlets for people to assess their needs and subsequently access the right support.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) teamed up with Diversity and Ability (DnA) to drive their Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) agenda forward. DnA is a disabled-led social enterprise that brings lived experience and an expertise in assistive technologies to the table when talking about policy change and inclusion mandates. DnA ensures that organisations can roll out culture shifts that are end-user driven, relevant and measured, steering away from tokenistic approaches that turn into legal tick-box exercises. DnA was built on the premise that every person learns and works differently — that we are all neurodiverse and this brings much-needed diversity to our society.

Pam Blackhurst, Head of Equality, Inclusion and Well-being at The Office for National Statistics will be sharing alongside Atif Choudhury, CEO of Diversity and Ability (DnA) at the Global Equality and Diversity Conference (GED) about the collaborative effort to ensure the ONS is a centre of excellence in terms of D&I. They will be discussing the lessons learnt, challenges and successes they have encountered on this ongoing journey, and to share the message that it’s ok to not know what you don’t know, but having the aspiration to do better is the important thing.

Join Atif and Pam on the main stage at 16.15 to find out more about ‘Driving inclusive practice and navigating the potholes’ in your organisation.

If you’re as excited as ONS is to combine assistive technology with equality policy, send us a message and we’ll arrange a coffee chat at GED and beyond!

Twitter: @DnA_matters

Email: mail@diversityandability.com