3 December 2022 marks the 30th year of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) celebration. Having first been proclaimed by the UN in 1992, the day aims to bring attention to the issues faced by disabled individuals across the globe and encourage support for their dignity, rights and wellbeing. This year, the theme is “transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world”.
Innovation for disability-inclusive development in employment
One of the primary purposes of IDPD is to highlight the actions we should all take to create more accessible environments. However, this year there is a particular focus on the importance of the work that employers can do to achieve accessibility in the workplace. This aligns with the UN’s objective to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
The knowledge and skills required to access employment are shifting and employers are being encouraged to consider how technological advances and changes might present an obstacle to disabled persons accessing employment. Conversely, they are also being asked to consider how assistive technologies could be mainstreamed to allow for greater diversity in employment.
Assistive technology encompasses a wide variety of programmes and aids for daily living, such as technology to assist the visually impaired with reading documents. The all-party parliamentary group for assistive technology published guidance in November 2021 which emphasised a lack of awareness of this support in the UK, as well as the positive impact this technology can have on disabled employees. A proactive approach from employers was highlighted as being important to combat issues faced by disabled workers by, for example, ensuring their support needs are met from the outset, thus minimising transition periods when starting a new role. Employers are encouraged to consider what barriers disabled people may face and what technologies could help to overcome these barriers. Having the assistive technology in place and an individual within the company trained to implement it can be a valuable step in ensuring that your workplace is more accessible. This topic and related themes will be discussed at the commemorative event hosted by the UN on Monday 5 December 2022.
How can employers facilitate disability-inclusive development?
Aside from this year’s focus on assistive technology, employers are also encouraged to think more broadly about how the workplace can be made more inclusive for disabled individuals. The Equality Act 2010 imposes obligations on employers to ensure that disabled individuals are not discriminated against, and to make reasonable adjustments when they are aware or ought reasonably to be aware that an employee is disabled. This can include allowing absences for medical appointments, amending an employee’s duties temporarily or permanently, or making physical adjustments to the workplace to allow access for disabled employees.
Acas has also produced “Supporting disabled people at work” guidance on making the workplace accessible. It also covers educating employees and managers on the support they can provide to disabled colleagues, as well as on how to be sensitive to individual needs. Employers may also wish to make employees aware of the Access to Work programme and the assistance it can offer to disabled people in the workforce.
If you have any questions or would benefit from guidance in supporting disabled employees, please reach out to our PRM team.