How can we, as employers, colleagues and friends, be better allies to disabled people? To mark the International Day of People with Disabilities (3 December 2021), our IP Ability community have some suggestions…
Allyship is about working to support, champion and protect the interests of a marginalised group of people. And the power of a good ally should not be underestimated – having someone in your corner, even if they don’t share your particular characteristics or experiences. The question for many is, practically speaking, how do I go about it?
We have summarised a few “quick win” suggestions below, inspired by some of the great discussions, comments and suggestions shared at the joint coffee date between IP Ability and Women in IP back in May 2021:
- Believe in other’s experiences. Try not to assume or judge – for example how much effort a task or situation requires of someone – based on your own experience: listen to and consider their situation and perspective.
- Normalise reasonable adjustment conversations. Foster a culture where people feel able to say they may need something done differently in order to work to the best of their ability, so those requests and needs are not seen as a negative or sub-optimal. Include reasonable adjustment discussions as a standard part of staff induction processes, so you start as you mean to go on.
- Make your toilets truly accessible. Consider, can someone in a wheelchair open all the doors to get to the toilet? Can they reach any pass scanners from their wheelchair or are they too high up? Are the doors too heavy for someone with muscle weakness to use readily? Is there an accessible toilet on every floor?
- Put accessibility information on your website. Does your website mention that your offices are accessible? If so, in what way are they accessible? (Note: “fully accessible” is not as helpful as it may sound.) Does your website provide contact details for accessibility questions or requests? Your website is often the first port of call for prospective clients and staff: if accessibility is clearly mentioned, it sends an inclusive message.
- Provide education and training. Give staff the tools to get disability confident. This is especially important for anyone with line management responsibility, including partners and senior leaders. Perhaps make a certain number of hours of diversity and inclusivity training a part of your staff’s core annual learning and development requirement?
- Protect existing partners if they become disabled, and enable disabled staff to become partners. Partners who are not employees lose employment law protections. Don’t make it hard (or impossible) for disabled employees to become partners – get a policy in place to ensure partners can obtain reasonable adjustments without fear of discrimination. Otherwise, as well as being unfair, you will lose out on getting the best from good people.
- Embrace and support remote working. Hopefully the past year or so will have demonstrated the workability of (and business case for) working from home, and helped to make it a much more readily accepted adjustment. If some team members are working from home and some office working, care needs to be taken not to unduly penalise those at home (especially trainees) in terms of the type of work and training being given.
- Continue running virtual and hybrid events. Hybrid meetings, where some people are in the room in person and others dialled in remotely, need to be considered carefully from an IT and chairing point of view, to make sure everyone is heard and included properly no matter where their location. For example, consider if the office microphone is picking up on side chat that might be preventing remote participants from hearing the meeting content.
- Encourage allyship. Make conversations and events as wide as possible – invite colleagues to attend diversity and inclusivity events that they might not otherwise have attended.
- Use social media. Share and comment on relevant diversity- and inclusivity-related content on LinkedIn and Twitter. That way your colleagues and contacts will see these issues are important to you and you will be raising their awareness by “osmosis”.
As always, if you have any suggestions, questions or comments for IP Ability, please get in touch at [email protected], or join the conversations on Twitter (@IP_Ability) or LinkedIn (IP Inclusive: IP Ability).