How the other 1% live – what we must do as business owners, communities, and employees to support a truly inclusive workforce and society

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By Kemi Madumere, Director of Brighter Futures Project

Brighter Futures Project is a South London-based initiative for adults with learning disabilities, predominately working with adults who have autism; and a specialist skills hub providing unique support programmes which help improve the quality life of adults with learning disabilities.

Currently there are 700,000 people in the UK with autism – that’s around 1% of the population – and of these individuals just 2 in 10 are in employment, a stark difference when you consider that over 8 in ten non-disabled people have work!

This is a gap we must bridge, particularly now with so many of us are struggling with inflation and the cost-of-living crisis – because this problem is further exacerbated for adults with autism struggling to find work. While every individual is different, this problem is especially true for those who can work but are coming up against barriers to employment because as a nation, and a workforce, we are nowhere near as inclusive as we could and should be.

Diversity vs inclusion: Is there a difference?

Yes! Before we get into why we should be creating a more inclusive workplace, it’s important to fully grasp its definition. Often the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are used interchangeably or are seen as synonyms of each other. However, there are important nuances which set them apart – and to understand what is means to be inclusive, is to do a better job of it – for everyone.

While ‘diversity’ refers to the differences and similarities between people, ‘inclusion’ focuses on embracing and celebrating said differences. – And both are needed to create a positive work environment. Why? Well, to humanise society and the workplace, we should always be supporting each other. Support, communication, and an open-minded approach only leads to positive and forward-looking connections.

But that’s not all – Inclusion and diversity are also advantageous business-wise:

With that in mind, here are four ways that you can make your workplace a more inclusive place.

Support your employees’ differences

Being seen and heard is great but being celebrated is even better. Why not invite your employees to share their traditions with the rest of the team to help create a culturally diverse calendar in the office. 

Create ‘safe spaces’ and have a designated person to discuss and support on individual challenges: Considering how spaces in the office, and alternative communication tactics might be better suited for more introverted, non-verbal, or socially anxious employees, such as larger signs in an accessible and easy-to-read format.

Implement an open-door policy so that people know they can talk to you whenever they have any concerns they might wish to raise

Provide information about the differences (e.g autism) and related support services so that all workers can access the help and advice they need to support the individual.

Don’t make inclusion a taboo subject: We should be speaking up and supporting each other. Here are some ways that you can do that, with some helpful language tips.

The skills taught through Brighter Futures Project mean its individuals can enjoy a healthier and safer lifestyle, with enhanced personal support networks, meaning they can be socially included within their local communities within their chosen way of life.

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