At the bottom of many issues is fear of the unknown, because disabled people still aren’t visible enough in society and because of that, people are afraid of what to say. Let disabled people just be people too – good or bad!
There are over 12 million disabled people in Britain today, with an estimated spending power of over £200bn. Yet the reality is that many disabled people still face hurdles and barriers in their everyday lives.
This makes it very difficult for them to become full and active members of their community or attain prominent roles in the workplace. Although legislation has helped to some extent, many barriers are often inadvertent and exist out of ignorance, fear, and unconscious bias. Removing the obstacles that disabled people face is key to creating a more inclusive working environment.
Alice believes that if you get the building blocks right, such as housing and transport, then everything else will fall into place, allowing people with disabilities to have a full and active role in society.
The Built Environment Professional Education Project, which aims to make inclusive design central to the education and training of building professionals, is already having a positive effect on infrastructure, as architects, construction and facilities managers become more aware.
Alice advises many businesses and has found that many behaviours are driven by fear of the unknown.
Disabled people are still relatively rare in corporate environments and so non-disabled people can feel uncomfortable and sometimes overcompensate. She has also found that disabled individuals are often not managed effectively and their ability to find creative solutions to challenges is overlooked.
She emphasises that disabled people are really like everyone else, just a bit different. The key to it all is communication – everyone is an individual and should be treated like one. In the case of wheelchair users, if you are not sure whether to stand, lean down, kneel or squat, just ask! Alice’s best example of an inclusive environment was at Lotus Development.
Lotus were very aware of her individual needs - from the moment they provided help to get out of her car for the interview, to when her boss swapped hotel rooms and took the bathroom door off to give her a better functioning room – inclusiveness was achieved.
In terms of the interview process, the groundwork needs to be done so that the individual can enter the building with ease. Don’t be afraid of probing different areas of experience, as the route to the role may well have been different.
It is unlikely the individual would have put themselves forward if they couldn’t do the job. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask how they think they can do it. Their response is likely to show how well this has been thought through, their strengths, and how creative they can be.
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