Supporting disabled employees

1. Supporting Remote Workers

Remote working can bring a lot of benefits to employers and employees alike, widening the pool for employees, reduced office costs, and bringing extra skills. It can also bring challenges but the right adaptions and support can make all the difference. 
As an employer you are responsible for employee’s health and safety, whether they have an impairment or not. Extra steps may need to be taken to ensure disabled workers are not disadvantaged or excluded due to their impairment.  

  • Never assume what a disabled employee can or cannot do, communication is key and it is very important to include the employee in all conversations relating to their impairment, as they are best placed to explain what they require in relation to their impairment and needed adjustments. 
  • Adjustments are made to provide disabled people the same access to everything that is involved in doing, and keeping a job, that a non- disabled person would have. This may include the use of specialist equipment and support to ensure a person with impairments can work happily.
  • Try to provide as much notice as possible for interviews and meetings, whether face to face or virtually.  This allows time to prepare aids and support, such as booking a BSL interpreter or Palantypist. 

Access to work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to support disabled people to start of stay in work, providing a range of practical and financial support for employees with a long term physical or mental health conditions.
Including:

  • Aids and equipment 
  • Adapting equipment to make it easier to use
  • An interpreter, including a BSL interpreter. 
  • Other practical help such as a note -taker or lip speaker. 
  • Mental health support

Keep conversation going with disabled workers as their needs may change, which may lead to adjustments or additional equipment being required. More information on access to work including how to apply can be found at https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

Working remotely can lead to employees not feeling included as they would if working in an office.

  • There are steps you can take to ensure remote workers feel as included as office-based staff. 
    • Hold regular virtual meetings ensuring all staff are involved, including proving accessible options for remote workers to join face to face meetings, such as virtually. 
    • Conduct daily check-ins, these help the employee feel included, these don’t need to be done virtually, a daily email to check how a worker is doing helps the employee to feel included.
  • Provide space for regular non-formal conversation, like you would have over a coffee in the office.
  • Social meetings help staff to feel more part of a team, a virtual ‘coffee and chat’ can provide a space for employees to talk, check on staff wellbeing and discuss any issues they have experienced.

Where possible, be flexible about hours and days worked. A worker may wish to compress their hours over fewer days, or spread their hours over more days so their working day is shorter, providing them with flexibility. 

  • Set expectations with employees, don’t be tempted to micromanage, 
  • Focus on results rather than the activity to reach the end result. 

2. Technology and Software

Technology is helping to reduce some barriers disabled people face, including those faced when using computers. 
There 5 main types of assistive software

  • Screen readers; Software used by visually impaired people to read the content of the computer’s screen.
  • Screen magnification software; allows the users to control the size of text and graphics on the screen. Unlike zoom these applications allow users to have the ability to see enlarged text in relation to the rest of the screen. 
  • Text Readers; Software used by with learning difficulties that affect their ability to read text, by reading text with a synthesized voice and may have a highlighter to emphasize the word being spoken. 
  • Speech input software; provides people with difficulty in typing an alternative way to type text and also control the computer as well as providing limited commands to preform mouse actions. 
  • Alternative input devices; some users may not be able to use a mouse or keyboard to work on a computer. 

Allow time for employees to become familiar with software

  • Support system
    • Another staff member to show disabled workers how to use software/ equipment and answer questions they may have. 
  • Talk to a charity that can provide assistance

3. Language

Language is important when talking to disabled people, whether about their impairment or about adjustments. How a person is described, referred to and represented can have a considerable impact on how they feel about themselves, but also how they are perceived by the public and co-workers. This leads in to the employee feeling committed to their employer and producing work to their full potential. 
Most disabled people are comfortable with words used to describe daily living. People who use wheelchairs “go for a walk” and people with visual impairments can still be pleased to “see you”. Associating impairments with negative things should try to be avoided, such as “blind drunk”. 

  • Use a normal tone of voice, don’t patronise or talk down.
  • Never attempt to speak or finish a sentence for the disabled person you are talking to. 
  • Address disabled people in the same way you would talk to everyone else. 
  • Speak directly to the disabled person, even if they have an interpreter or companion with them

When discussing disability and disabled people language should be based on the social model of disability which you will find on Disability Wales website (www.disabilitywales.org