While becoming Disability Confident should be a badge worn with pride by any organisation, it is how the organisations actually gain the Disability Confident status that I want to explore.
It is easy enough for any organisation to become Disability Confident. The pathway to doing this is just signing up and by accepting the commitments, you will then achieve the first step of the Disability Confident journey.
The commitments are:
inclusive and accessible recruitment,
offering an interview to disabled people,
providing reasonable adjustments and supporting existing employees.
The activities you can include in order to turn this process into reality are:
sector-based work academy placements.
There are ways that you could make the recruitment of your organisation inclusive and accessible right from the get-go. And you may not like this and see it removing the buzzwords and removing a reason for people to choose you, but I and many other disabled people see it completely the opposite. This method, does in fact, include removing the words “busy and fast-paced” from your job specification or advertisement. Of all the disabled people I have met in my life, none of them would feel comfortable accessing a job that involved “busy and fast-paced” environments. These are strange buzzwords to use in my head because I have seen evidence to the contrary even just walking through a town centre. And whilst it is currently Stress Awareness Month also, I find it quite a backwards thought process, claiming to help people relieve stress, and particularly disabled people at that, by throwing them into a “busy and fast-paced” environment. But like I say, the very places I have walked past that could put these such words on their job advertisements are not portraying this, in reality, quite a bit of the time.
One of the most concerning things I have heard about in the disabled community is when a disabled person meets the essential criteria for a job they have applied for, but they have not been communicated to with regards to an interview. One person I met who like me, has Dyspraxia, told the stories of multiple times he has been in a situation where he has taken organisations to an employment tribunal because he received no communication about jobs he had applied for and met the essential criteria to be in with a chance of being recruited. Even if there is an automated message ready for unsuccessful applicants that stated a valid reason why they were turned down, this would provide peace of mind. And with technology such as Chat-GPT available, this is even simpler than it used to be.
When it comes to reasonable adjustments, it can be quite a challenging question for someone with a disability to answer. While many individuals, once they have clarity about their position, can fulfil their job role more than adequately, there can be issues which arise. This could be something for example such as team members being out of the office and the person with the additional support needs not knowing what to do beyond tasks given to them. Many individuals, and I have to say from personal experience, particularly individuals with neurodivergent conditions, are highly driven individuals who always want to be doing something, and not staring into space. It is understanding what the average working practices are which can provide a challenge.
Like everyone, I am fully aware of and an advocate of having breaks from computer screens. But it’s what you do during that break from a computer screen that can define things for a disabled person. For me, one activity I love to do to take a break from a computer screen is a crossword. But I have never seen anybody else engrossed in a crossword/word search/word puzzle of some kind at work. Maybe I could be the pioneer of this. It just provides relief from saying something where I have had to exercise a lot of thought. And that’s not to say crosswords and word puzzles require no thought. But I would describe myself as a word puzzle maverick. I’ve done many of them since a young age, I rattle through them at a fairly rapid pace. The numerous pens that have run out would be able to tell you that.
I truly believe that disabled people should be consulted about the working practices where they are employed. Because they are the best person to decide whether the organisation is “Disability Confident” through their eyes. They would know. They don’t need a government branch to set the criteria of what defines it.
The three steps (or the first two I should say) are also in the wrong order to me. The current order is: Disability Confident Committed, Disability Confident Employer, Disability Confident Leader. I believe the first two should be switched around. This is because to me, from the beginning, an organisation that has met the criteria should be classed as a Disability Confident Employer. Then the next step for them should be Disability Confident Committed, which would demonstrate further activities they are going to do to make a more inclusive environment for disabled people to work, and how they will be retained beyond their contract (if they are not on a rolling contract).
It would be great as well to see the Disability Confident status visible on the website of all the organisations with the certification. Because then people are aware of the sort of organisations that may be the right fit for them and have a job role that would suit them very well. I find it very difficult currently to find the Disability Confident badge linked to all the organisations listed on the government website. Some of the organisations look like they don’t even exist anymore. One thing I would then be in favour of as a plan of action is for someone within the relevant government department to update the section of the website with the up-to-date list of Disability Confident organisations.
The last part of this new framework I would like to see, would be having each county in the UK with one organisation classed as a Disability Confident Leader, or maybe even one Disability Confident Leader per sector. I understand that, if every person or every organisation was a leader, there would be no people or organisations left to be led. But I think having either one organisation per county or one organisation per employment sector per county classed as a Disability Confident Leader would prove to be hugely beneficial. It would allow those organisations who are being led, to be trained and taught, preferably by disabled people themselves, to explain the steps taken to not just help them stay fulfilled in work and be retained, but to have their talent developed further as well.
This is just my perception of things. I love to speak about the Disability Confident Scheme because I am hugely passionate about it and it is something I feel needs a certain amount of reform to give it more purpose and to make sure that it is not just a tick-box type of exercise to please government officials.