Disability: What’s the problem?

Esi HardyAttitudes, InclusionLeave a Comment

Blurry Paralympion Cyclists

According to statistics,

1.3 million disabled people in the UK are available and willing to work.

Only half of disabled people in the UK of working age are in work compared to 80% of non disabled people in the UK

These figures are staggering when you consider that only 50% of disabled people of working age are in employment. That’s 650,000 people. This figure may not seem so bad until you consider that that there are 63.6 million people in the UK.

Why is this? Why are these statistics so staggering? And why is it that in 2017, disabled people are the fastest growing minority but still the most under represented?

And the rate of growth and the under representation are linked: I would like to spend the next few minutes of your time explaining to you how I think these are related.

1. Role models.

Or lack thereof. Take a couple of minutes if you will to think about people in the public sphere that can be thought of as people to look look up to,  to think “if they can do it, so can I”, “that person inspires me”. There maybe several areas you can draw upon:

  • The business world,

  • The entertainment sector,

  • The sporting world,

  • Your personal life.

Thinking back over people who sprung to mind, how many of those are disabled? Now obviously there may be a few:

  • Richard Branson,

  • Stephen Hawking,

  • Ade Adepitan.

Hold that thought for a minute.

2. Opportunities to succeed.

Due to the nature of disability, it can seem to some as though the opportunities and privileges that the majority take for granted, i.e. mainstream education, work experience, travel experience and the social skills that are a natural add-on, are intangible to disabled people. If a disabled person is raised with the idea that the above is not possible for them, an individual will never be exposed to the experiences that help us to develop.

Similarly, if access requirements cannot or are not met for a person to be able to access these opportunities, a similar situation will occur.

I still come across people all the time who have never encountered a disabled person. A few weeks ago I posted about a situation where I walked past an older lady on the street who said as we passed “Well done.” I can only assume that she was congratulating me on breathing. I wanted to turn round and say “I run my own consultancy you know.”

My point is that we develop our opinions and make our choices on experiences presented to us but we can’t make choices or develop opinions without those experiences. The older lady made snap judgements about me based on, very likely, extremely little experience of the situation. As I approached her, her face was a picture of sheer dread. Now, you have to ask people that know me but I don’t think I’m that scary. In her eyes, what was probably scary was a situation that she hadn’t come across before and didn’t know how to handle. She simply was trying to get away as fast as possible.

If generally,

  • disabled people haven’t had the opportunity to succeed,

  • if there are no (or very few) role models available for disabled people to inspire ambitions,

  • and if those public representations don’t exist for non disabled people to gain knowledge and experience from,

how are we as disabled people ever going to succeed?

3. Awareness of support.

My third and final point is less of a point and more of an ask: to change these statistics and to ensure that disabled people are represented in all areas of life from employment, to education, to travel and leisure.

The only way that this is going to happen is if we become more aware as a society of the issues facing disabled people. A lot of the issues can be overcome by support. There is a lot of support available for disabled people but it is quite often hidden away because people do not know about it or do not share the information that they have.

Many of my enquiries to my website are from disabled people who would like some information about where to go to find help with a certain issue. Time and time again, people have told me about organisations who haven’t been able or have been disinclined to offer the information the person needs. Half the time, this takes 5 minutes for me to tell them about the service I already know or Google something on the Internet. If we all did this, people would be able to get on with the things they wanted to do in the first place.

If you would like to have a chat about any of the issues raised on this blog, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to support you and your organisation to become confident around language.

Esi (pronounced SE) set up Celebrating Disability in 2017; offering training, consulting and auditing to support businesses attract, engage and retain disabled people. Having the opportunity to support businesses to see the wealth of benefits that disabled people can bring to business, either as customers or employees is a privilege. She is passionate about disability equality and inclusion and loves nothing more than that “Ah ha” moment with a client when they see what disability equality and inclusion can do for them.

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