5 Benefits Your Business Gains by Hiring Disabled People

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Around 1 in 10 people have a disability. That’s 1 billion people in the world, myself included, who have valuable lived experience and irreplaceable transferable skills. Bua’s primary mission is to increase disability employment rates in the creative industry. One way to help achieve this is by offering consultancy sessions with companies like yours.

Being proactive about hiring disabled and neurodiverse people is fantastic. It’s always great to diversify your talent, but it can be daunting. You may even question if you’re making the right decision.

Don’t worry, you are.

Still unsure? Listed below are some of the best reasons you could have for hiring people from the disabled and neurodiverse communities.

  1. Untapped Potential  

There is this wild misconception that disabled people don’t want to work. When in fact, many of us do. What we lack in opportunities, we make up in experience, qualifications, and transferable skills.  

As a business, if you hire a disabled worker, you get to train someone who’s essentially a blank slate. You train your new hires anyway, regardless of their experience. That’s because every business works slightly differently.

What’s the harm in starting from scratch with a person you know is motivated, passionate and eager to contribute?

2. It’s Not That Expensive

I think there’s this misconception that if you hire a disabled person, you have to pay all these extra costs. Insurance, adaptations, paying for additional sick leave. This is mainly unfounded and is used as an excuse not to hire disabled people. This study found that the costs of employing disabled people were minimal.

3. Fresh Perspective

Continuing my previous point, according to some reports, disabled candidates were less likely to get hired due to reluctance on management’s part.

Hiring disabled workers promotes fresh thinking, empathy in the workplace and increased happiness of workers overall. (deloitte.com).

4. Reduce Turnover

I didn’t get my first job until I was twenty. I stayed with that company for six years. Disabled people value job security because we don’t know when we’ll be lucky enough to get hired again. Yes, I said lucky enough.

It stands to reason then that if you hire a disabled or neurodiverse person, you’re gaining a loyal worker while minimising turnover and future hiring costs.

5. Company Image

As a business, your image is everything. Show you care about who you’re hiring. Your consumers will thank you for it. As a disabled person, I always notice when I see another disabled person working. More importantly for you, I notice where they’re working. I’m always happy to be a repeat customer for companies trying to hire more diversely.

These are just a few reasons I can think of that can benefit you as a business. From what I’ve seen and experienced, companies that have hired disabled and neurodiverse people before are willing to do it again.

Disabled people aren’t asking you to overturn your whole workforce. We’re just asking you to consider us as serious, worthwhile candidates.

About Bua

Bua was founded to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity workshops for organisations seeking to change their culture. Get in touch to book yours.

About the Author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

Remote and Hybrid Working: Why it’s a Benefit Disabled Workers

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As a disabled person, I’ve found that the pandemic has done a lot to hinder daily living. There’s no part of life covid hasn’t influenced. Everything from medical care, socialising, and even work has been affected. Of course, you can say the same of everyone, but in my experience, people rarely stop to think about the impact on those of us with disabilities.

I recently read a report, ‘Disabled workers’ experience during the pandemic’. It concluded that disabled people often face a “negative workplace culture”. During the report’s breakdown, TUC also stated that “many disabled people report that they experienced significant barriers in the workplace before the pandemic and that Covid-19 has made things worse for them.”

Barriers and discriminatory attitudes might go some way to explaining the disability employment gap. As of May 2021, only 52% of disabled people are employed in the UK. (Gov.co.uk). Did you know from July to November 2020, over 20% of people made redundant were disabled workers? (Statistics supplied by ONS).

It’s a bleak picture, to be sure. However, what if the very problem causing so many issues also yielded a solution? Arguably one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic is the practice of remote working.

Now, remote working isn’t something new. However, people are now practising it in mass, and I think it may be part of the answer to the disability employment gap. Below I’ve compiled a list of the benefits of remote and hybrid working for disabled workers and their employers.

Benefits of remote working for employers and disabled workers

  • Flexibility – Remote and hybrid working are far more flexible and more sustainable. It means that we can fit other vital things around work easier. For example, we can take longer breaks or schedule time for a doctor’s appointment. Remote working lets us put our needs first in a more realistic way and helps break down barriers.
  • Creative workers – Disabled people are creative problem solvers. We always need to adapt to our surroundings and situation. Imagine that level of problem-solving ability entering the workforce? Honestly, disabled employees will likely flag problems you didn’t realise were an issue. This can include everything from hot-desking not suiting everyone to your marketing messaging not appealing to its target audience.
  • Lower employee turnover – Offering remote opportunities is an affirmative action, which means fewer barriers for disabled people and more opportunities to succeed. A company working like this is more likely to appeal to disabled job seekers. Disabled workers are more likely to stay under your employee as we value security and career progression.

Did you know?

Autism at Work reports a 90% retention rate of hires they’ve helped, because of offered support networks.

  • Higher productivity and better accountability – Remote working means your workers have to be accountable for themselves, rather than having management checking in constantly. A workers’ mood, level of productiveness and sense of worth are interconnected. Show that you trust your employees by allowing remote and hybrid work to continue.
  • More job opportunities – I’ve noticed an increase in remote working opportunities. This is great for disabled people that need work but can’t make it to an office every day. It also goes a long way to decreasing the disability employment gap, which is currently just over 50%.
  • No physical workplace barriers – All businesses must make reasonable adjustments for their disabled staff. However, working from home removes even more obstacles. We don’t have to worry about mobility around the office. We don’t need to struggle with pain management because we feel self-conscious. Working from home can also decrease overstimulation. There’s also a shortened commute for everyone, meaning more time spent with friends and family or at home.

Working from home needs to continue because it’s beneficial to everyone. As it becomes the norm, I believe that it’ll play a significant role in shrinking the disability employment gap. It’s more flexible and less stressful and removes barriers for the disabled workforce.

Is it the perfect solution? No, everything has its drawbacks. People argue it increases social isolation and difficulty separating work and home life. Remote working may not be for everyone. We’re all different, but the benefit of remote working for the disabled community is enormous, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

About Bua

Bua was founded to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity workshops for organisations seeking to change their culture. Get in touch to book yours.

About the Author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

I’m Glad the National Disability Strategy is “Unlawful”

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When it comes to improving the lives of disabled and neurodiverse people, the UK government says a lot but does very little. They seem to be making an effort trying to shrink the disability employment gap. However, their progress is sluggish at best. I understand negative opinions and reluctance can slow progress, but the government could be doing more. They should be leading by example.

With that in mind, you can imagine my reaction when I saw this BBC headline circulating back in late January: “Government ‘consultation’ on disability strategy unlawful, High Court rules”.

I felt a lot of emotion towards this headline and others like it. Mostly sadness, but also exhaustion. Even, dare I say it, a bit of hope.

So, what makes this newsworthy? Well, that’ll be because four disabled people took the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to court.

And they won.

I need to give some context to emphasise why this is such a win for the disabled community.

The background:

The government has been preparing a highly anticipated document called the ‘National Disability Strategy’. It’s a strategy outlining steps to improve access to education and work opportunities for the disabled community. It also emphasises that the government’s goal is to improve disabled people’s daily lives. 

All seems good so far—nothing we haven’t seen before. Every government has plans like these. The strategy used a survey as its basis. Over 100 multiple choice and some open-ended questions went into forming it. However, claimants, Jean Eveleigh, Victoria Hon, Doug Paulley and Miriam Binder, say that the survey’s lack of clarity potentially caused answers to be vague. They say if they had known how their answers would inform the strategy, they would have given more in-depth answers. Bear in mind that these aren’t isolated opinions and that the strategy generated mixed reviews.

It’s worth mentioning whilst the survey was live for 14 weeks, it only gathered 16,000 responses. Of those, only 14,000 responses informed the survey. This, in my opinion, is a low number considering there are an estimated 14 million disabled people in the UK. Also, the survey was open to “[D]isabled people, people with caring responsibilities (including carers) and members of the general public with interest in disability.” See the UK Disability Survey research report for more details and a breakdown of the survey.

Therese Coffey, the Secretary of State, argued. She claimed that the survey only gathered opinions. That it wasn’t intended to be a consultation. However, in a press release related to the survey, it was said that “your views will inform the development of the National Strategy for Disabled People.” The closing also stated that, “your views will be used to inform the delivery of the plans we set out.”

The judge took the wording of the press release and other information into consideration before reaching his opinion. His ultimate ruling was that the nature of the survey meant it was a consultation. By extension, Coffey had a duty to fulfil and did not do so correctly, which was to the detriment of all involved.

As a result, the survey and the document created from it are “unlawful”.

Eveleigh and the other claimants were happy about the result. The government was disheartened and said they would evaluate their next steps carefully.

Click here to see the original tweet

My thoughts on the matter:

I’m always disappointed when something meant to help the disabled community backfires. It happens so much I often feel like we’re in a one step forward, three steps back scenario.

I’m saddened because the government isn’t doing as much as it could. They have so much time and ample resources to make effective change. Yet, we’ve seen little progress. Yes, you could argue that the pandemic has slowed progress. However, that excuse can only carry so much weight.

Mostly, I feel that their actual goal is to appease with goodwill. We see the government rolling out plans and improving disability statistics, but it feels empty. They may be pushing for better disability employment rates but are doing little to set an example.

They’re pushing for businesses to be more disability-inclusive, which is excellent. At the same time, they’re manipulating and gaslighting the disabled community.

You can’t ask for a disabled person’s opinion based on creating change, then say it’s not a consultation. That’s precisely what it is.

On a more positive note!

I’m glad that the claimants got to go to the High Court for this. Do I think it will change much? No, not immediately. However, it shows accountability levelled against the government that rarely gets seen. More importantly, it’s a minority getting the chance to defend themselves.

It lets others know that disabled people can and will stand up for themselves. I hope the government is genuine when they say they’ll carefully consider their next steps. They should use this opportunity as a learning experience.

At the very least, the following survey should be better circulated. Also, the disabled community need more in-depth participation. After all, change for disabled people needs to come from the opinions of the disabled community. Anything less is a failure. If the government disagrees, they need to re-evaluate themselves.

About Bua

Bua was founded to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity workshops for organisations seeking to change their culture. Get in touch to book yours.

About the Author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

Why it’s challenging to get a job as a disabled person

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I don’t know a single person that enjoys the task of job hunting. With the work climate being what it is, job openings seem few and far between. When a position does open up, dozens of candidates apply. It seems an impossible task for anyone. Now, think about what would happen if you couldn’t fill in the application form because it overwhelms you. Or if the place that’s interviewing isn’t that accessible. Or, recruiters tell you they’ve found a more suitable candidate even though you know you can do the job.  

This is the reality for most disabled and neurodiverse job seekers, and it plays a significant factor in why disability employment in the UK is so low. It’s not that the entire community doesn’t want to work; it’s that companies are unwilling to take the risk of hiring someone with a disability. Though, they like to pretend otherwise.

So, what’s the issue?

The disability employment gap refers to the gap in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people. According to official numbers published by the Department of Work and Pensions, only 52% of disabled people are currently employed, versus 81% of non-disabled people.

It’s worth noting the 52% mentioned in the report are people that the government recognise as having a disability. That is to mean anyone that has been able to get medically diagnosed with their disability. The government aims to increase the percentage of disabled people working every quarter, but progress is slow.

Disabled and neurodiverse people are protected against discrimination by the Equality Act (2010), which succeeded the Disability Discrimination Act (2005). This protection allows the disabled community access to work and education and public services without fear of prejudice.

That doesn’t stop it from happening.

Many disabled people who job hunt can’t even get past the recruitment process. That can be for several reasons, such as inaccessible job applications, gatekeeping the position through needed experience, and the location being inaccessible. And this is before a person even makes it to interview.

Now, there is an option on most job applications that give you a choice to declare your disability. With some companies going as far as to say by ticking the box, you’re guaranteed an interview. You’re left with the internal battle of deciding whether declaring your disability will help or hinder you here.

Whilst deciding to declare your disability may make you feel uncomfortable, it may make you feel better to know many companies go as far as to guarantee minority applicants an interview. This is known as positive action and it’s when employers take steps to compensate for a disadvantage faced by people in a group protected by the Equality Act.

But, against all odds, what happens if we get hired? Well, in my experience, I’ve noticed a trend. Disabled people are far less likely to job hop when they are employed because it can take so long to get hired in the first place. I’ve also noticed that those with disabilities tend to gravitate towards desk jobs because it can cut out some barriers, or they stick in jobs that are perhaps not ideal for their disability but offer them security. For example, the SAP Autism at Work programme has a reported 90% retention rate.

Given the undercurrent of discrimination and ableism still prevalent in the hiring process, it’s a wonder how the disability employment gap will ever shrink, which is a shame because disabled and neurodiverse candidates are some of the most driven, creative people.

What’s the solution?

The problem boils down to preconceptions, stereotypes and good old-fashioned lack of communication. So, here are some solutions.

  • The best way forward is raising awareness and communicating with one another. Listen to disabled candidates. They’ll tell you exactly what they want and need.
  • Most companies need to have their, hiring, retention and inclusion processes overhauled. When this happens, they need to make sure people the changes will affect i.e. minorities are part of the discussion.
  • Companies should look at their entire infrastructure whilst asking how they can improve. This can include things like making sure their website is accessible and that office spaces are designed with mobility in mind.
  • Make it clear that as a company you’re happy to hire a person with a disability or neurodivergence. Then prove it by signing up for courses or show how you’re willing to adapt for someone.
  • If you interview someone with a disability, don’t shy away from the topic of disability. Ask active questions. See if their disability will impact the way they do the job. If it will, work on a plan that lessens the impact.

All of these points are about gaining and retaining disabled workers and all of them can be achieved by open communication and a willingness to adapt.

Where to start

Change can be tricky, so here’s a list of organisations dedicated to breaking down barriers for those who want to hire more disabled people and those who want to get hired.

For companies that want to hire disabled people

  • The ‘Disability Confident’ scheme: Nearly twenty thousand companies across the UK have already joined. The aim is to encourage employers to think differently about disability. The course disabled people developed focuses on improving the recruitment, retention, and development of disabled employees.
  • The ‘Access to Work’ scheme is a grant that can be applied for if you’re looking to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace on behalf of a disabled employee.  
  • Bua Consultancy aims to increase levels of disabled and neurodiverse employment. They do this by providing talks, training and tips for employers.

For disabled or neurodiverse job seekers

  • Scope offers a ‘Support to Work’ scheme, a free online program aimed at helping those with disabilities get paid work. They offer help with CV writing mock interviews and tell you where’s best to look for jobs and much more.  
  • The jobcentre is currently undergoing accessibility training to improve the service’s experience for those with autism and other disabilities. Twenty-six thousand employees are presently being coached through this new program.

Companies that help disabled job seekers and employers

  • Evenbreak is dedicated to bridging the gap between disabled candidates and employers by using their accessible job board. Where companies can post jobs, already knowing the candidates are disabled. Evenbreak also offers events through their career hive to help companies improve their accessibility.
  • Bua also offers individual training for disabled candidates who want to break into the creative industry.

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

Bua Consultancy: A company of creative change

Listen to the author of this article read out the interview by clicking play above

The disabled community is incredibly skilled and diverse. We navigate the world differently. We have to think of creative solutions for issues we face because the world wasn’t built with us in mind. We constantly have to learn and adapt to best navigate our environments, which has led to many disabled and neurodiverse people being extremely creative, out of the box thinkers.

Yet the number of disabled and neurodiverse people currently employed in the UK is incredibly low. Those who find employment are pushed into menial, hourly paid jobs that offer little to no enrichment or diversity. The job market needs to be adapted to accommodate some genuinely unique talent that will otherwise go to waste.

Today, I sat down with Caitriona Snell, the founder and CEO of Bua Consultancy. Caitriona is determined to use her experience and knowledge to help create work environments where disabled people don’t just work, but thrive.

Lauren: Can you tell me a bit about your company Bua?                           

Caitriona: My name is Caitriona, and I’m the founder and director at Bua, a consultancy that aims to support more disabled and neurodiverse talent into salaried employment. We do that in two ways. For individuals, we offer free training, which currently focuses on the creative space. On the other side of the business, we support them to be more inclusive, specifically to disabled and neurodiverse talent. We work with them to identify problem areas for existing employees or candidates.

We’re working at a systematic level, changing what companies are doing and the culture that companies have. We help companies to be more inclusive, so that they will have all the tools they need to succeed. So, when disabled and neurodiverse talent enters into a company, it’s going to be retained by that business and that person is actually going to thrive.

We’re also supporting individuals, maybe if they had a barrier to education or weren’t able to get a tangible qualification, we can help with that by offering free training.

At Bua, we always try and exclusively work with either first-hand or second-hand lived experience people.  

What made you want to create Bua?                                   

I know there’s debate around what lived experience is for disability and neurodiversity. I have two autistic brothers, and I consider that to be lived experience, although I would never say I have first-hand lived experience. I’ve watched both of them, who are both so different, navigate education and the world. It’s a driving force for me. It’s a mission for me to support the disabled and neurodiverse community.

I also completed a post graduate course in social innovation and entrepreneurship and then specialised in disabled and neurodiverse inclusion. I worked at a ‘special educational needs and disability’ (SEND) college and I helped set up more work experience for their students. That was really fun, and the students were really cool. Then I also worked on a different project where we supported young people in east London to access employment in the city. So yeah, both of those things drove me towards looking at employment inclusion and then with my personal experience, I ended up forming Bua.

Woman with mask, goggles and apron preparing her woodworking equipment at a standing table
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

What is the company’s ethos or goals?

We specifically have a mission that drives towards social inclusion and equality. The primary goal is to have an equal percentage of disabled and neurodiverse people to non-disabled and neurotypical people working in salaried employment. In the UK the stats are so ridiculously low at the moment, that I think the only way is up really.  

What I didn’t see was support for disabled and neurodiverse candidates into salaried employment outside of tech and consultancy. I felt like that was really unfair because neurodiverse and disabled people are still a diverse group. Not everyone is interested in tech and coding and maths.

The creative industries are very famously not diverse especially for disabled and neurodiverse people. I love creative projects and exploring creativity, and I was interested in the hypothesis of teaching creativity.

The salaried and creative work all ties together to drive Bua’s mission. With salaried work its more supportive for people who have medical conditions, or you have other commitments, salaried employment is more stable for those people.

The mission statement is ultimately supporting people into sustainable long-term employment.

Why do you think having a company like Bua is important?                     

Bua’s vital because at the moment I hope, and I predict, that we’re at the beginning of an uptick in interest in disabled and neurodiverse talent. In the same way that the Black Lives Matter movement drove racial representation and diversities in business and the trend of that, I hope that that will be the same for the disabled and neurodiverse talents.

One person wearing heels and crouching on the left, speaking passionately and looking up to someone else in a wheelchair. Both are smiling and laughing
Photo by Judita Tamošiūnaitė from Pexels

How did you get Bua started?

We’re a social enterprise, which is defined as a company that makes a profit but is socially minded.

If anybody’s listening and is thinking about starting a social enterprise, the reality is that you don’t need that much capital to start it. Especially if you already have a laptop. I think the biggest thing is time. But, you have to consider if you can afford not to be paid for your own working time for a while, especially if you’re not going to be selling immediately. Bua was lucky because I applied very early on after thinking of the concept to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Ideas and Pioneers Fund, which has a really fantastic fund that supports early-stage research and ideas. They were able to help fund us to develop the training courses and website.

Then additionally, I was also lucky to be part of the Year Here incubator, during which I did a crowd backer round. That’s when I pitched to a group of friends and families and people from the ecosystem to help Bua in its initial stages.

I’ve also been able to do a bit of consultancy, which has helped fund Bua. I’m hoping that will build up. I’ve had to focus a lot of my time on developing and setting up the development of the initial training to start with.

Ultimately, my aim will be to run a profitable consultancy business with other companies to improve their inclusion. Also, I am offering free training for individuals. I hope eventually that will link up so I will be able to have businesses saying we need more talent and I’ll say I have some talent here lets link you all up.

What’s your vision for Bua’s future?  

Becoming a sustainable business. I don’t want to run on grants and donations, I’d rather run as a profitable business: that’s super important.

I think it would be fantastic to get to a point where 90 plus percent of employees have disabled and neurodiverse lived experience and preferably first-hand lived experience.

I would also love to have a pipeline of talent coming through Bua’s training and people using that to get into work. I’m really hoping that free training will be supportive to people.

In your opinion, how can companies be more inclusive towards the disabled community?

I think there’s some easy places to start. My first recommendation for any company would be to assess who you have. Put out an anonymous survey, make sure people feel safe to answer it. Try and run some focus groups; you can hire agencies or hire Bua to do that for you. Make sure people can talk honestly about what their experiences are. You might be surprised, either in a good or a bad way, what kind of experiences individuals have had.

Focus on talent you have already and how you can nurture and support them and not lose them. Everybody knows that it costs more to hire new people than it does to keep your existing people.

There’s a number of different ways to improve recruitment processes and a number of different ways to improve your digital processes. You know, your website, you can make sure that’s accessible. If you have stores, make sure those are accessible. Loads of people offer accessibility audits to figure out how you can do that.

The last thing I’d say if you’re not aware, the UK Government has the ‘Access to Work’ scheme, which allows for reasonable accommodations for disabled or neurodiverse candidates or employees. So, for example, if you have a new hire and they use a wheelchair, you might want to consider making a new desk for them at an appropriate height or even lowering the reception desk or having a ramp put into the building.

Why do you think companies should employ more disabled people?

Really, the disabled and neurodiverse community is full of talent. You’ll really benefit from diversifying your talent. A famous McKinsey report from a couple of years ago states that your financial bottom line will increase if you employ more diverse people, especially at senior leadership levels.

Aside from that, you know it’s a great opportunity to improve innovation. It’s good PR for you and good representation for your customers. So, if your customers identify similarly to your employees, that’s a great thing.

I think it’s a really exciting time. I think there’s so much talent out there. Thinking outside the box as a company and thinking about how you can support that talent will only benefit you in the long run. I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it.

Are you a company that could benefit from Bua’s help? Visit Bua’s website or contact the company directly here.

Do you identify as disabled or neurodiverse? Bua offers free training here. Finally, Bua has an Instagram page @BuaInclusion.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is a group that focuses on “social change, working towards a just and equitable society”. The foundation is one of the biggest independent grant providers in the UK. The Ideas and Pioneers fund that was mentioned in this article closed for new applicants in November 2021. However, take a look at the other grants on website here.

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

Why equity is just as crucial as equality

Press play above to listen to the audio version of this blog by its author, Lauren Coulson

When we discuss issues surrounding disability, the word ‘equality’ is used a lot. Equality ensures that every person has an equal opportunity to make the most of their life, regardless of circumstance.

To look at equality vs equity in the UK, we first need to know some background: those with disabilities are protected against discrimination thanks to the Equality Act (2010). We have equal rights to work, education and the right to use goods and services without the fear of being judged or refused access. This act also allows us to pursue legal action if we feel we have been mistreated because of our disability.

The Equality Act does much more than allow us rights to exist in a space safely, it also includes measures to allow ‘equity’ to be practised. I feel that equity is just as crucial as equality; however, it’s talked about far less frequently.

What is equity?

If equality for all is a society’s true goal, then equity is how we achieve that goal. Being treated equally may grant those of us with disabilities access to spaces and facilities. But equity ensures that we can utilise those spaces.

Equity is all about levelling the playing field by adapting it to every individual’s needs. One of its definitions is simply the ‘quality of being fair and impartial.’

There are those in the disabled community, myself included, that hate the idea of being treated differently. In society, being different is other and to be other is bad. However, in the case of equity, being treated differently, as long as it is for positive and fair gain, means we reach equality. Practising equity does not mean one person gains an advantage. It simply means that a person is able to have similar experiences to those around them.

Equity with visuals

The lack of discussion around equity leads to a misunderstanding of its purpose. So, when I talk about equity to a person, I have a couple of allegories I like to use to foster the discussion.

Imagine you’re in a butterfly field with rolling hills of different heights. You and your friends each get a net. However, you’re all standing on different hills, so your distance to the butterflies varies, impacting your ability to catch them.

The hills and nets represent everybody’s natural starting point. It factors in a person’s ability, the resources they have, and the opportunities available to them. Many factors can influence these elements. Some of them can include access to education, financial status, race and ethnicity, and disability.

The height of the hill determines the length of the net. Imagine that every person in the group gets a longer net, like in the second image. Everyone can catch butterflies now, regardless of the individual starting point.

This is equality in action. It allows everyone the opportunity to be treated the same.

However, you’ll notice that the longer the net is, the harder it is to use, which will impact a person’s ability to catch butterflies. Equality allows everybody to do things, such as work and receive an education, but it doesn’t make it automatically easy to do so. This is because background and circumstance can still affect a person’s progress.  

The solution to this problem is to practise equity. In the final image, a bridge has been built. The supports for the bridge are all different heights, factoring in the sizes of each hill, which truly levels out the bridge. So, no matter which hill each friend started on, they can all catch butterflies without struggling.

Everyone’s way of using equity will be different, but the outcome will always be the same. Using equity means a person can overcome any other barriers that equality may be unable to reduce, which means that everyone will have as equal experience as possible.

Disability equity in the workplace

Equity can be hard to notice sometimes because if it’s done right, its integration into a system should be near seamless. That way, it’s less likely that a person benefiting from equity will feel like they’re being treated differently.

Having disabled representation in the workspace is a natural starting point, as it allows for those with different experiences and viewpoints to shape the way people can approach work. Once that is established then companies can practise equity. For example, the environment should be accessible and where possible, it should also be adapted to suit the need of an individual.

I’ve seen companies that have started using accessible job applications. The ones I’ve seen are available in different colours and fonts. I’ve even seen one example of a company offering to provide an audio file for a candidate if needed.

One thing I wish employers would do more, especially for disabled candidates, is to hire based on their skills. Many disabled and neurodiverse people struggle to get job interviews. Not everyone can build up the years of experience to do a job due to intrinsic bias or inequalities, but they know they have the skills to do it.

Carers in the work environment are also a fantastic example of equity. If a disabled person can bring a carer to work with them, they don’t have to worry about their needs. If the obstacle of navigating care is removed, that person can get on with their workday.

Final thoughts on equity

Whilst I’m always grateful for the practice of equality, I know true equality will never be reached without equity. Equality and equity should always be mentioned together. The difference between the two may seem subtle, but the impact that both have when used in tandem has the potential to be immeasurable.

Remember, chances to use equity don’t just reside in the workplace. They’re everywhere. Make sure you’re always looking out for ways to level those butterfly hills, even if it’s just in a small way.

Equity doesn’t just benefit those of us with disabilities, but everyone that chooses to use it. It can be trickier to implement sometimes, as it requires people to start discussions about the lack of equity and then decide to do something about it actively. However, anyone can start those discussions.

I think it’s also important to say that the path to equity isn’t a straight line. As equity starts being used more, mistakes will happen. Just make sure to keep communicating with everyone involved in the process.

Special thanks to Olivia Wright for drawing the pictures used in this article. To see more of her work, find her on Instagram @basket_of_mushrooms.

How is Bua working to embrace equity?

Bua was founded with equity in mind, with its aim to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion in the workspace. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity workshops for organisations seeking to change their culture. Get in touch to book yours.

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

The Importance of Independence: An Interview with Active8’s Lindsey Cooper

Listen to an audio version of this interview by clicking play above

The idea of becoming independent is something we encounter early as children. We’re taught that we’re meant to go to school, get a job and then move out to start our own lives. Gaining independence can seem difficult if you’re disabled. However, whilst there may be some extra factors to consider, independence should never be out of the question for those of us with disabilities.

Active8 is a Cornish based charity that Liz Olive founded in 1990, to bring like-minded disabled young people together so they could bond and share experiences while completing residential weekends. In its 30-year history, the charity has grown into a hub that helps foster autonomy and independence in all disabled young people they encounter.

I took the time to sit down with one of the charities youth workers, Lindsey Cooper, to ask her some questions about her job and Active8 as a whole.  

Lauren: Lindsay, thank you for coming to talk to me today about independence and autonomy for disabled people. I appreciate it. We’re here to talk about Active8, a charity that we’re both affiliated with. You’re a youth worker, and I’m a trustee. So I thought, let’s start with something easy, who are Active8? What do they do? What’s their mission?

Lindsey: So, Active8 is a Cornwall-based charity for people with physical disabilities. They champion independence, autonomy and give experiences to young people aged 13 to 30 with physical disabilities. My job as a youth worker and project coordinator is to find activities for people to do, particularly activities that they thought they couldn’t participate in because of their disability. Or perhaps at some point in their life, they’ve been told they can’t do. Our job as a charity is to find ways to make those things accessible. So, we will always tell people that there isn’t anything they can’t do; they just may have to do things slightly differently to achieve that.

What’s it like working with disabled young people?

For me personally, it is like working with any youth group. When [young people] come on Active8 weekends, they are a typical group of 13 to 18-year-olds. Quite often they tell me that they couldn’t possibly because of their disability do the dishes [for example], and I am more than happy to find ways to make that accessible for them. So, for me, it is just like working with any other youth group.

On the whole, what do you think the charity offers most for young people?

Active8 gives young people the opportunity to challenge themselves, try new things, and gain life experience to help them live a more independent life. We believe at the charity that it is up to the individual how they would like to live independently. Interestingly, independence is being self-governed and making your own decisions.

We give people the opportunity to start doing that through their Active8 life, starting from little things like choosing where they would like to go on trips, choosing what they would like to have for dinner, choosing what they would like to cook, [and choosing] what skills they would like to develop.

We work with each individual throughout the project to set their own goals and targets because we know as a charity, independence will look completely different from person to person. Independence itself is about self-governed. It’s about being free from external control.

You can live at home with your parents and be completely independent if that is your choice. Likewise, you can live on your own and have support from carers and still be independent. As long as you are involved in the decisions around your housing, your care, and what you do as a career or as an education.

Okay, so if Active8 is the overall charity, what are the independent projects you run within that?

Active8 has two main projects. We have our Acceler8 group for young people aged 13 to 18. We see them once a month for a residential, and we run that over two years with the same group. So that’s ten young people coming together every month. Over that time, they really get to know each other as a group, and they get to take part in a huge variety of different activities together.

It’s really nice to see the transformation of people from the beginning of the project right through, building their confidence, their independence and challenging what they think they are able to do for themselves. Seeing the people that you get at the end of that project is hugely rewarding.

We also have our Illumin8 project that runs for people aged 18 to 30. We accept referrals up to age 25 for that one. As the Acceler8 group graduate, they automatically join the older group, which is more about friendship, about independence, and trying to give people the skills, knowledge, and experience to live as independently as they would like to.

As part of Illumin8, we are currently in the process of developing a peer mentoring project. [This] involves training up some of our Illumin8 members to buddy with someone in the younger group to share experiences, both good and bad and how they overcame challenges as part of having a disability.

What’s the most important impact you think Active8 has?

I think the biggest impact we have on people is giving them an opportunity to meet other people with disabilities. Cornwall, being a very rural place for some of our members, it’s the first time that they’ve ever met other people who may use a wheelchair the same as them. Or for people who don’t use a wheelchair, it may be a chance to meet other people with hidden disabilities.

Although they all have friends outside of Active8, I think what Active8 offers them is the chance to really relate to others. Everyone in the group will know what it’s like to take a few months out of school to do surgeries and trips to hospital. They’ll know what it’s like to have battles with PIP [Personal Independence Payment – UK government support for disabled people] and benefits. All of those challenges that people face as a disabled young person can really be shared experiences.

What’s some of the challenges that the charity faces?

Recently, the biggest challenge to the charity has to be the COVID pandemic. For most of our members, medical advice during that time was to shield at home and it’s caused a lot of isolation for our members. For some of them, it has really knocked their confidence back. The charity has been working with them more over the last few months since lockdown has started to lift about building their confidence and trying to get them out and about again, in a safe way.

The charity generally has many challenges, particularly when it comes to activities and events. I tend to find as a project coordinator that a lot of places are geared up for potentially one wheelchair user. But obviously, we have a group of ten young people that we work with every month. Of those, six regularly use a wheelchair. Not many places that we go tend to be geared up towards supporting six wheelchair users.

[We] do have to do more research to make sure we are going places that are suitable for the group and to make sure we are meeting everybody’s needs. Whether that’s accommodation, travel arrangements, or the sort of activities that we take part in, we tend to try and do a site visit before every activity. Just so that we can double-check that everything is right for the group before we go.

Where are some of the Active8 alumni now?

[As a charity Active8] will instil in you the ethos that you can do anything you would like to do, and our members do go on to do all sorts of different things. We’ve got some [members] that are currently at university, we’ve got some that have graduated, some that have gone on to college, to teacher training or training to become nursery school nurses. We’ve got some members who have gone into employment and some searching for employment. It really depends on the person. I think it’s important to say that everyone’s journey after Active8 is different. Everyone has different goals, different ambitions.

You said you’ve been with Active8 for about two years. What’s been your favourite memory?

That’s a really hard question because there are so many great moments. For me personally, it’s the little things that have been the best. The groups that we have generally have a wicked sense of humour. The best memory has to be with our last Acceler8 group when they were taking part in their Duke of Edinburgh [Award]. We set them off on their expedition, and as members of staff, we were tasked with letting them go off independently, but for health and safety reasons, we had to be nearby in case they needed anything, but obviously, we didn’t want them to know that we were there.

I remember [being] with the care staff literally hiding in a bush on the expedition and running behind tree to tree in like a stealth ninja attempt. I think they were completely oblivious to us being there, even when I tripped over a tree and ended up yelping. But for me, that was just hilarious. Literally, commando rolling across the path just to entertain ourselves while we were hiding under hedges.

What’s the one thing you wish people understood more about disability?

For me personally, I would like people to understand that disability is different for every person. You may have ten people in a room, all with the same medical condition, and it may affect them all completely differently. Some people are really open and happy to talk about their disability to other people. Some people prefer to be more private about it.

When it comes to talking about disability to people with a disability, I would like people to be very much led by that individual in terms of their attitude and the language they use because it will vary from person to person.

To find out more about Active8 and the fantastic work they do, click through to their website.

How is Bua working to foster independence?

A large part of Bua’s mission is to get disabled and neurodiverse people recognised as valuable contributors and help companies integrate them into their workforces. Being employed is a huge step in independence and helps increase autonomy. Get in touch to find out more.

About the Author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

The Trials and Tribulations of a Diagnosis Journey: An Interview with Rhi Saunders

As someone who was born with a disability and subsequently received my diagnosis when I was about 18 months old, I was mercifully unaware of my diagnosis journey. For as long as I can remember, I have always been disabled. What’s more, the validity of my disability, from a medical stance at least, has never been questioned. Honestly, I’m a pretty cookie-cutter case from a doctor’s perspective: one disability, no complications, just one massive tick box.

It’s not so simple for a lot of people, though. When it comes to being diagnosed later on in life, whether that’s as a young person or an adult, the experience is fraught with complications. Any disability that doesn’t seem to impact the person outwardly can go undiagnosed for years. Neurodiversity and hidden disabilities seem to slip under the radar, excused as misbehaviour, laziness or, in the case of Rhi, even clumsiness.

I first met Rhi at university whilst she was in the middle of their diagnosis journey. I didn’t know what she was going through then, I just knew it had a terrible impact on their mental health. So, I asked them some questions to better understand their diagnosis journey.

So tell me a bit about you, Rhi. What do you do, and what disabilities do you have?

I’m a 25-year-old queer, chronically ill and disabled entity with a real mixed bag of interests. I currently work two jobs as a Personal Assistant for an amazing autistic person, and the other as the social director of a board game studio my partner and I set up during lockdown!

To answer your question about my disabilities: after a horrifically long diagnosis journey, I have finally been diagnosed with: Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD), widespread chronic pain, a dyslexia and dyspraxia combo, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and C-PTSD.

That’s a lot of hidden disabilities to try and deal with. When did you notice something was wrong?

Looking back at it now, I should have known something was wrong at a much earlier age! But for me, it wasn’t until I was 16 that I started to investigate my health further. I’d always been the clumsy kid, the one who was covered in bruises and had zero coordination. I was bendy and never broke a bone, even when I was sure I should have, but I did dislocate joints and sprain a lot more than most.

When would you say your diagnosis journey properly started?

From there, the journey was really chaotic for me and very traumatic. I just remember the pain getting worse.

By the time I was 18, a doctor had managed to get me seen by a chiropractor who told me I likely had permanent damage to my spine and that I just had to “deal” with being in pain for the rest of my life. When I was 23, I managed to secure the diagnosis of “widespread chronic pain” from my GP, which is an empty diagnosis that led nowhere.

That same year I requested my medical history and was horrified to discover that I’d been diagnosed with hypermobility when I was 14 and not been told. This broke me because not one doctor thought to mention it in the ten years I’d spent looking for answers. If I’d had that diagnosis sooner, it could have saved me literal years of pain.

How did gaining your diagnosis of Hypermobility Syndrome help you?

Hypermobility is the kind of disorder that requires careful upkeep and understanding of one’s body, which is essential to know. At the same time, loads of my other symptoms clicked. I’d suffered from dizziness, fatigue, poor gut health, bladder issues, migraines and was generally susceptible to getting sick.

I threw myself into research, and I realised that my hypermobility and the other symptoms I was having could be signs of Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome (EDS). I went back to my GP and pushed for a rheumatologist appointment, and I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder.

To say I was ecstatic to finally have answers for my health problems was an understatement.

Diagram showing hypermobility side effects, including chronic pain and gastrointestinal dysfunction

You mention feeling ecstatic when you got diagnosed, but what was the overall emotional impact like for you?

I was gaslit, ignored, and laughed at by my GPs. All because I was ‘too young’ to have chronic pain.

As great as it was getting my diagnosis, I was still dealing with medical trauma. Within a week, I’d gone from ecstatic and feeling empowered to horrifically depressed. It was affirming to have my diagnosis, but then I had to deal with the emotions I’d been suppressing for eleven years.

Using your experience, why do you think it may be unrealistic to expect everyone to have a diagnosis for a medical condition?

Getting a diagnosis should be a right – but it’s not. In this current system, diagnosis is a privilege. Your financial and social standing play a significant factor in whether you get diagnosed, which can have such a terrible impact on a person. Gender, sexuality, race, neurodivergence, even diagnoses you may already have can impact your ability to be diagnosed – especially if you have a mental illness.

It all comes down to time, money and resources. I wish I could say my story is rare, but most chronically ill and disabled friends I have had very similar experiences. 

What do you think could change to make getting diagnosed with a medical condition a better experience?

Something that would have the most significant impact on getting a diagnosis would be acceptance and removal of the stigma around labels. Labels are just an easy way in identifying needs and making sure they’re met. If we viewed them as such rather than a stigma, getting diagnosed and getting referrals would be easier.

Another important one would be to have fewer judgmental medical professionals. We all have easy access to information. I’m not saying I know better than my doctor, but if I go to a doctors appointment with some ideas of where my symptoms may lead, they judge me. Almost like they think I want to be diagnosed with something because I think it might be fun.

There will be people reading at the start of their diagnosis journey. Do you have any advice you’d like to give them?

Keep a record of everything. Note your symptoms and when they flare up, take notes before and after every appointment with your GP or medical professional, and know your rights. Don’t be afraid to ask a loved one to come with you or contact a charity that can provide an advocate. [Editor’s note: The Prince’s Trust has a comprehensive list of supporting charities based in the UK, click here to open the link]

I wish I could say it won’t be a fight to get the diagnosis you need, but the harsh truth is that it will be for most of us.

If you think you know what diagnosis you’re likely to get, join support groups for it online. Don’t be afraid to research because even if it takes years to get the official diagnosis, you’ll have the toolbox needed to care for your body and condition in the meantime.

You can follow Rhi on Twitter their handle is @Rhisilient or you can follow this link to their profile.

How is Bua Helping?

Bua works hard to ensure that everyone feels validated; one way it does this is to not perpetuate the medical model by asking for proof of disability from its workers. Instead, Bua asks whether a worker identifies as disabled or neurodivergent. This is to eliminate stigma by removing labels whilst also empowering staff.

Bua offers disability and neurodiversity inclusion services for organisations seeking to change. Get in touch to book yours.

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

We need to talk about ableism (featuring Rosie Jones)

Listen to an audio version of this article by pressing play above

Rosie Jones is a comedian, actor and writer who has cerebral palsy. Her condition affects her ability to move and her speech. She is incredibly witty and uses her platform to advocate for disability and LGBTQ+ awareness and rights.

In October 2021, Rosie made her second appearance on the political talk show, Question Time, wherein politicians and prominent figures discuss topical issues in front of a studio audience.

Rosie engaged with eloquent, passionate answers across a range of topics. She gave insight into thoughts and opinions that resonated more with those of the typical viewer. The one that stood out the most was her statement about not feeling safe on the street as a disabled woman.

“As a woman, but also a disabled woman, I don’t feel safe at night. I don’t feel safe with police officers. We need to get to a place where women, but also any minority: if you are a woman, if you’re disabled, if you’re in the LGBT spectrum and if you’re a person of colour (sic). The fact is right now in the UK, they don’t feel safe at home at night and that is a scary place to live in.”

Rosie Jones, BBC Question Time 2021

However, despite her enlightening contribution about woman’s safety, Rosie was subjected to ableist abuse online after the episode aired. Rosie took to Twitter later that evening to address the situation:

Rosie Jones on Twitter on 8 October 2021 said: "The sad thing is that I'm not surprised at the ableist abuse I've received tonight regarding my appearance on Question Time. It's indicative of the country we live in right now. I will keep on speaking up, in my wonderful voice, for what I believe in."

So, what is ableism, and how did we get to this point?

In its simplest form, ableism is an act of discrimination in favour of non-disabled people. It is a reflection of the attitudes of those who see those with disabilities as ‘other’. The incident with Rosie Jones is not an isolated one. However, it serves as an excellent microcosm to see a vast array of attitudes towards disability displayed on the internet.

We’ve made significant progress in the UK since the Disability Act was passed in 1995, giving those with disabilities the rights to work and have an education (later seceded by the Equality Act 2010). We’ve gotten better public access and we can pursue careers and receive education in mainstream schools. However, we still have far to go, and this is evident in the undercurrent of ableist attitudes displayed after Rosie’s appearance on Question Time.

Attitudes, it’s safe to say, are slower to change. While there was an outpour of love and support for Rosie to push back any negative comments, it’s led me to think about why such opinions exist about the disabled community.

I’m convinced it’s down to a lack of education. No one talks about disability unless they are disabled or know someone who is. It’s one of the least talked about minorities, and I believe it’s because it makes people uncomfortable. The greater public doesn’t want to acknowledge that those with disabilities get treated so poorly because if they did, they’d have to recognise that we’re people, with thoughts and feelings, and not just poorly projected stereotypes and benefit scroungers.

To admit fault in attitudes is to realise there is a flaw in a system that currently unfairly benefits the non-disabled.

So, where do we go from here?

Education and visibility is the short answer.

In my opinion, it shouldn’t be just up to the disabled community to raise disability awareness. The sooner we become aware of disability as an issue, the sooner people realise it’s not an issue at all. Education preaches that being different is okay, but aside from the odd off-handed comment about wheelchair users in school, there doesn’t seem to be much push towards proper awareness and acceptance.

I’m not saying a whole subject needs to be created to accommodate, but a few dedicated lessons during PSHE or General Studies centred around disabilities, awareness, attitudes and advocacy, wouldn’t go amiss.

Then we have the issue of visibility. Though Rosie faced backlash for her appearance on Question Time, she is doing the right thing. She’s using her platform to advocate and educate, and she’s hitting back at those who would criticise her:

@PackedLunchC4 tweeted: "'It's made me more determined to get out there, be myself and speak for people like me'. @JosieRones tells @StephLunch about why she decided to appear on @BBCQuestionTime and how she felt about the subsequent trolling she received #BBCQT #StephsPackedLunch @Channel4"

We don’t just need representation in the media, though, but throughout everyday life. For example, there needs to be a more significant push to see those with all types of disabilities in the workplace, from desk jobs to manual labour. Those with disabilities, whether physical or neurodiverse, shouldn’t be excluded from the work environment. As long as people can work to the requirements of a job, they should be included.

Like any form of discrimination, ableism must be fought against, but it’s tough doing it alone. That’s why we need as many people as possible to join the push to end disability discrimination. We need to recognise that looking after our most vulnerable people ensures that we look after ourselves in the future. We all get sick; we all age. The sooner we understand that, the sooner we can start to break down attitudes and the barriers they cause.

That’s why allyship and advocacy are essential when we’re fighting ableism. As impactful as it is to have those with disabilities take a stand for themselves, it’s also crucial that those who are not disabled take part in the movement. It can be as simple as talking to disabled people to learn about their experience or speaking up in a situation where a disabled person may feel vulnerable or unsafe.

When it comes to fighting ableism, it takes everyone, not just those of us that have lived experience. We all need to act and advocate on behalf of disabilities and neurodiverse people.

How is Bua working to tackle ableism?

Bua was founded to increase disabled and neurodiverse employment and inclusion. Bua offers disability and neurodiversity inclusion and accessibility services for organisations seeking to change. Get in touch to book yours.

About the Author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.

Acknowledging disability in the workplace: An interview with Martin Townsend

Navigating the workspace can be a challenge, irrespective of ability. Long hours, repetitive tasks and fatigue get to the best of us. The challenge only gets worse. The reality is that working as a disabled person can be a gauntlet, especially when the environment and the tasks of the job aren’t suited to your ability.

Today I sit down with Martin to discuss how he navigates the workplace as a person with Cerebral Palsy. Martin has had many jobs, from working in the service industry, to being a DJ, he loves trying his hand at everything. He’s currently working as a freelance graphic designer.

Martin’s experience with poor communication

Thank you for coming to talk to me today, Martin. I appreciate it. I’m interested to learn about your experiences of working as a disabled person. I think we should start off with an easy question: what’s your disability and how does that affect you?

“I have Hemiplegia [a type of cerebral palsy]. My right limbs are affected, mostly my right arm and hand. That would make anything that’s dextrous difficult for me, for example, I’d find it hard to pick up and hold objects in my right hand.”

What are some of the struggles you encounter in the workspace?

“The biggest struggle I have in a workplace is often my colleagues and bosses lack of communication and general understanding. It’s my main issue. Often communication is stifled by the lack of understanding of my disability; people tend to have this perception of my ability, and they’re almost always wrong.”

Martin and I worked together for a little while and because I was hired first, I found that co-workers would come up to me and ask about Martin’s ability level and what type of jobs he might be able to do. People were under the assumption, that because we both have cerebral palsy, both of us experienced it in the same way. Which isn’t true at all.

“Another thing that makes communication difficult is politeness. People feel the need to tip-toe around the topic of my disability because they think they might offend me. When actually, a proactive chat about my needs and limitations is exactly what we should be doing. People don’t want to have that talk though; they think it’s awkward. So, I often get too much help, because people assume I can’t do something, or less help when I speak up, because people think I don’t need help at all. Because of this, time and witnessing my struggles is often the best way people have learnt about my limitations.”

This has been similar to my experience in the workplace as well. I’ve found people get used to the idea of having a disabled employee eventually, but I’m often the one that has to start those awkward conversations.

Martin’s experience of accommodation and adaption in the workplace

Martin has worked a load of different jobs, from creative ones to labour-intensive ones, and I wanted to know what his experience of accommodation and adaptation was like across the board.

You’ve worked so many jobs: in your opinion, how accommodating have your different employers been?

“I’d say all my employers have been rather accepting of me and my disability, but accommodation has come at different levels. Most of the jobs I’ve done haven’t needed any real accommodation for me. My current job doesn’t allow me to work any of the party shifts – I work in a bar, which are the busiest and need the faster workers, which I’m not, so that is great for me.”

Did anything need to be adapted for you in your previous jobs? If so, how was that handled by your employers?

“Working in the service industry was the only place where I needed something changed or adapted. Working in a kitchen was a problem for me, as most of the tools and official procedures are designed to be used with both hands. Obviously, I struggled with that part, but with some changes I felt I could have been fairly good at kitchen work.”

I think one of the worst things to encounter as a disabled worker is not having your needs met, or even feeling discriminated against. It’s a tricky subject to navigate, because it relies heavily on clear and honest communication from both parties.

Were there any cases where you felt your needs weren’t being met or your disability not being taken into consideration?

“Using that service job as an example, in the kitchen everything moved quick, and communication was equally as fast. I found it hard to ask for new tools in kitchen so I could do my job better. I was always told people would look into it, but they never did. With the nature and speed of the job, it was easier for staff to place me on a station that I could do and because of that, my request about kitchen tools was forgotten.”

Would you say you’ve felt yourself be discriminated against in the workplace?

“I would say never purposefully, but by situations, yes. Again, I’m thinking about the service industry. There was a round of promotions coming up and I asked one of my bosses, “what would I need to do to get promoted?” They responded with “get better in the kitchen.” I pointed out where I needed help with tools, but we both agreed to give me more opportunities in the kitchen, but when the restaurant wasn’t as busy, so my speed didn’t affect my productivity. My first shift back in kitchen was during a busy lunch period, with that same boss as my trainer. They weren’t prepared to train me and I struggled as I wasn’t prepared to train and work at that speed, as we’d agreed I’d work in a quiet period. When I brought it up in conversation I was told “maybe it’s not meant to be”. I never fully learned kitchen, I never got new tools and I never got promoted.”

I moved us along to a more positive topic, one that I know Martin was excited to discuss and we started to talk about his work, as a freelance graphic designer. I wondered what the difference in his experience was like, as I’m a freelancer myself and I know it’s changed things for me, drastically.

You’re currently self-employed, so you’re in charge of your own work environment, how has that changed things for you?

“I can work from where I want at my own pace. My clients don’t have any issues and sometimes no knowledge of my disability. My freelance work is often done on my own and I work to a pre-set deadline. So, my disability has no effect on the outcome.”

In terms of work for others vs working for yourself, which do you prefer and why?

“I would say I prefer working for myself overall. I mean growing up me and my other disabled friends, we were never really encouraged to have a vocation. We all sort of fell into our own vocations without being pushed into them. Most of us have been creatives, or have desk jobs. I’m into graphic design, I’ve got other friends that work in IT. It’s all desk work, you know? But society never really pushed us into a vocation, we had to find our own and by finding and making our own, we can work on our own time, using our own methods. When you’re employed you’re always working to the strict rules of that business and sometimes, that’s hard to adapt for those with disabilities. So, for me, working for myself is a better thing.”

What’s your dream job and why?

“My current freelance work but more regular and successful. I gain the most satisfaction out of life when I’m being creative. This job, using my creativity to help business’s flourish, is overwhelmingly joyous for me.”

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, Martin. It’s been great. Just a final question for you: Drawing on your own experience, what advice would you give employers to help improve the work environment for disabled people?

“Actually spend time solely focused on the employee’s disability. Talk and observe what their needs are. Look into and enquire about how something affects them in this workplace. Look at how other staff members act with a person and their needs. Work together to find solutions to any struggles that arise. Ultimately be open and forthright at all times, yet keep it in that zone between overly polite and being rude. Remember, we’re just people, at the end of the day.”

Need some help?

Knowing your rights is important. Make sure you know what you’re entitled to in the work place.

Your rights in the UK as a disabled employee

How to ask for changes at work as a disabled employee

About the author

Lauren is a freelance writer from Falmouth. After graduating from university, she took a keen interest in writing about disability, so her story and others like it could be told with passion and conviction.