Deciding you want your business to be more disability-friendly is the first step to creating a more diverse and fair workplace environment. There are practical steps you can take to create an ethos and atmosphere that is welcoming and accessible to disabled people.

Many people have misconceptions about disability and believe that they can recognise disabilities from merely looking at people. This is wrong; many visible and invisible disabilities manifest in a variety of ways.

An excellent place to start when becoming a disability-friendly employer is by educating yourself. Do your research to equip yourself to feel more confident in conversations about disability and employment. For information on types of disabilities, visit our pages on invisible disabilities and visible disabilities.

Here are five ways to become disability-friendly:

Adapt your environment

If you are going to encourage disabled people to come and work for you, you must have an accessible environment and be flexible to adapt to each employer. As an essential, make sure you have wheelchair access via a ramp and lift. Beyond this you might want to consider how you lay out your office, what equipment you use, whether these work for a variety of needs, and how you could adapt your technology for hearing and visual impairments.

Such adaptations can seem daunting, especially if you are an SME that has few funds. Luckily, the government will fund all and any necessary adaptations to your workplace through the Access to Work fund. To find out more about this, visit our dedicated page on funding and discover for what you may be eligible.

Become a Disability Confident Employer

‘Disability Confident’ is a government scheme that helps empower employers to take active steps in encouraging disability in their workforce. The aim is to improve how businesses recruit, retain and develop disabled staff. Disabled employers and employees developed the scheme and can help your business lead the way in disability equality while opening your doors to a larger talent pool.

People with disabilities look out for the ‘Disability Confident’ logo, so they know this is a company that will treat them fairly and does what they can to cater to their needs. For more information about becoming a Disability Confident Employer, visit the government website.

Hire disabled people!

This is relatively self-explanatory; if you want to be a welcoming company to disabled people, then put your money where your mouth is and take active steps to hire disabled people. This not only creates an environment within the workplace which shows you are committed to equal opportunity, but it will also encourage other disabled candidates to work for you.

Furthermore, it is rare that an employer will know exactly what each individual disabled person needs. The best way to find out how to become more accessible is to hire disabled people and ask what they think is best.

Training

If you feel like you and your staff could benefit from learning more about disability in the workplace, consider offering some training and guidance. You might want to cover more general topics such as discrimination, equality and unconscious bias; this will help to establish and foster a culture of inclusivity in your company. The more people learn about disabilities and how they manifest, the more accepting, understanding, and accommodating you can be.

Focus on mental health and wellbeing

It’s easy to forget that disabilities are not just physical. Many people’s daily lives are impacted and sometimes debilitated by their mental health. To become a disability-friendly employer, you should make sure you are creating a workplace where wellbeing is encouraged and discussed.

The more services and information you provide around mental health, the more likely all your employees will feel comfortable reaching out when they need support. Some easy ways to support mental health in the workplace include:

  • Providing staff with free therapy and counselling if they need it
  • Prioritising the wellbeing of staff by encouraging breaks and time off. As well as offering flexible working hours to suit each staff member.
  • Host regular one-on-one meetings with employees to discuss how they are getting on at work and any problems they might have.

For more information on employing a disabled person, read about the benefits, potential funding and the different types of disabilities.