Disabled employees are a vital part of any workplace. Like any employees, they have valuable skills and knowledge to offer, and their experience can help your business grow. It is important to use disability-inclusive language to create an inclusive workplace environment. This means using words that are not discriminatory and foster a safe and welcoming environment for all.
With over 14.1 million people living with a disability, long-term health condition or illness in the UK, your company must be using inclusive language. Not only will these create a safe place for people to work, but it will also ensure that disabled employees do not feel ‘othered’ by inappropriate language.
This blog post will discuss some of the best ways to use disability-inclusive language in the workplace. We will also explain why it is so important for businesses to make disabled employees feel welcome!
Othering and Disabled Employees
Othering refers to the act of making someone feel like they do not belong. This can happen in many ways, but one way it commonly manifests is through language. When disabled employees are othered, they may feel like their colleagues see them as different and not part of the team. This can lead to social isolation, lower morale, and a feeling of being devalued. Inclusive language is one way to prevent this from happening.
So, what are some of the best ways to use inclusive language in the workplace?
- Use person-first language: This means putting the person before the disability. For example, saying “a person with a disability” instead of “a disabled person.” This may seem like a small change, but it makes a big difference. It places the focus on the person, not the disability.
- Avoid using ableist language: Ableist language is any language that reinforces negative stereotypes about disabled people. For example, words like “lazy,” “erratic,” or “dumb.” These words can be hurtful and make disabled employees feel like they are not valued.
- Be mindful of able-bodied privilege: Able-bodied privilege is the set of advantages that people who do not have a disability enjoy—for example, not having to worry about accessibility issues. It’s important to be aware of this privilege so that disabled employees don’t feel like their concerns are being ignored.
Adopting inclusive language in the workplace is important for many reasons. It shows disabled employees that they are valued, creating a more welcoming environment for everyone. By using person-first language, avoiding ableist language, and being aware of able-bodied privilege, you can make disabled employees feel at home in the workplace!
Accessible Communication Formats
Another way to make sure disabled employees feel included in the workplace is to provide accessible communication formats. This means making sure that all communication, whether it be memos, emails, or presentations, can be accessed by everyone. There are a few ways to do this:
- Use clear and simple language: Avoiding unnecessary jargon will ensure that everyone can understand the communicated information.
- Use alt text: This is a text description of an image that can be read by screen readers. This ensures that disabled employees who are blind or have low vision can still access the information.
- Use automated subtitles and transcriptions: When conducting business remotely, ensure that team meetings online contain automated subtitles and transcriptions. This will make meetings inclusive to employees and accessible afterward.
- Use captioning wherever possible: This is a way to provide a written transcript of audio information. This ensures that disabled employees who are deaf or hard of hearing can still access the information.
By providing accessible communication formats, you can ensure that disabled employees are not left out of important workplace communications. This will help them feel included and valued!
An inclusive workplace is a workplace that includes disabled employees at all levels. This means ensuring that disabled people are represented in management, as well as in entry-level positions. It’s important to have disabled voices represented in decision-making so that the workplace can be designed with everyone in mind.
Inclusivity also means going beyond tokenism. Tokenism is the practice of making a deliberate effort to include a marginalized group without actually changing the way things are done. For example, having one disabled person on a team of ten able-bodied people. This does not create an inclusive environment.
True inclusivity means disabled employees are given the same opportunities as everyone else. They should be treated with respect and their voices should be heard. By creating a truly inclusive workplace, disabled employees will feel valued and respected! Having disabled employees at all levels makes you more likely to create a workplace that adopts inclusive language, ensuring everyone feels welcome.
Inclusive language, communication formats, and equal representation are just a few ways to make disabled employees feel welcome in the workplace. By adopting these practices, you can create a more inclusive environment for everyone! Take a look at our full guide for employers hiring disabled workers, or, if you’re a disabled jobseeker, take a look at our inclusive jobs board for live opportunities!