Eliminating the stigma surrounding disability

The concern about employing someone with a disability is a stigma that my generation seems to have cultivated. When I was still working in the corporate world, the number of instances (even after the Disability Discrimination Act came into being) that arose where there was reluctance to employ a person with any form of disability was nothing short of unbelievable.

When a recruiter expresses concern over hiring someone with a disability, I tell them to look at the skills, knowledge and experience of all the candidates – consider all of those who offer the right mix for the role in question. There are masses of potential employees out there that are classed as “disabled”; disabled does not mean unemployable.

Employment based on skills & merit

Some potential employees may feel uncomfortable disclosing their situation – if their disability is not obvious and there are no special needs, there is no reason why they should. Unless employers can demonstrate that the skills, knowledge and experience of another far surpassed those of the candidate with disabilities, the obvious question asked of the employer would be: “Have you discriminated against me on account of my disability?” The candidate seeking employment wants to be employed on the basis of their merit – their skills, their knowledge, their ability to actually meet the requirements of the particular role in question.

Making adaptations in the workplace

The idea that it costs tons of money to make adaptations to the workplace for a disabled employee is skewed. A few simple things like changing the computer screen’s background colour and/or colour of the typeface can make a huge difference to those with dyslexic characteristics. The provision of coloured plastic folders that paper can easily be read through can make a world of difference.

Small enterprises with relatively few employees on their staff might find it more difficult to be all-embracing when it comes to recruitment; in certain circumstances, the employer may be compensated for any adjustments or adaptations to the workplace either partially or in full.

Public service employers appear to be more adapted to the multi-ability staffing structure in a similar vein to education. Perhaps there is more of a requirement to do so as employment information must be published.

Accepting others as they come

Each person is individual and quite unique. Why not celebrate that fact and embrace individuality? We are all individuals, so it is about understanding every individual’s need. What we actually need to fulfil designated tasks might vary from person to person, but rarely are these insurmountable. When you recruit, you’re looking for a person with a particular set of skills, knowledge, understanding, experience and set of qualifications. Whatever else they come with is what makes them who they are.

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Written by Nicky Hillier, independent HR consultant, Nicky Hillier: Human Resources and Coaching Ltd

I work as an independent HR consultant providing HR information, advice, guidance and hands on support for small businesses within my home area but also through a subscription organisation to their members. I run my own limited company, Nicky Hillier: Human Resources and Coaching Ltd, and have been trading two years come October 2012. I have spent the almost all of my working life within HR and have seen so many changes over the years – I first started in what was then Personnel and Welfare in 1975 with Metal Box and then across a variety of different sectors.

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