Many employers are confused about the equality act, about how to employ a person with a disability and an alarming number of employers do not understand their legal obligations. Read on to find out more about disability in the workplace. 
What is the Equality Act? 
The Equality Act 2010 defines ‘disability’ as a person with a physical or mental impairment which impacts their ability to perform daily activities. In the UK, 7.6 million people of working age (16-64) identify as having a disability or health condition and only half of them are in employment. 
The government has promised to halve disability unemployment numbers by 2020. So what is causing this divide and what can be done to make employment more accessible for all? 
Prejudice still exsists. 
Scope, the disability and equality charity in England Wales, reported that 33% of disabled people felt there was still a huge amount of prejudice surrounding disability. An assumption reinforced in a report by Learning and Works which identified that 45% of employers were concerned it would be difficult for customers to engage with disabled employees. As a result, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed. 
Practical issues 
Research by Barclays also identified several practical issues preventing many UK business from employing people with disabilities; 91% do not have a lift, 74% do not have a ramp or accessible toilets and 81% do not have disabled parking. It also highlighted that only 1 in 10 businesses provide written communication in braille or audio; despite it being a legal obligation to do so. However, with the right guidance, 77% of businesses stated they would adopt a more inclusive workforce. 
Companies are missing out on high calibre staff 
People with disabilities have a combined spend of around £212 billion, a substantial portion of the consumer market. Adopting a pool of high-calibre candidates who reflect the diversity of potential customer could ensure your business succeeds over your competitors. 
More education is needed 
For employment to be more accessible for people with disabilities a huge amount of work needs to be done to educate everyone; employers need to be made aware of the huge benefits adopting a diverse workforce can bring to their business, they need guidance on exactly how they can make their businesses more accessible and disabled people need to be supported and given a voice to be able to feel empowered. 
You have a legal obligation to employ a diverse workforce 
The government and various organisations have been working hard to raise awareness of disabilities and breakdown prejudices, but it’s important to remember that as an employer you have a legal obligation to employ a diverse workforce and make reasonable workplace adjustments to enable an employee to complete their role. As stated in Able magazine, discriminating against a candidate based on their disability is unlawful and it applies to the whole recruitment process.  
The Business Disability Forum works closely with employers to educate them on how to make their business more inclusive. Their toolkits are designed to share expert advice across various areas of the business. Sense provides valuable resources for employers to help support sensory impaired employers in the workplace and the Independent and Work Ready CIC help people with disabilities and learning difficulties live more independently. 
Financial Support for Employers is available. 
For employers struggling with the financial strain of making necessary workplace adjustments, there is financial support available through the government's Access to Work programme. This programme is designed to remove any potential barriers disability may pose and can help with the costs associated with equipment, transport to work or support workers. 
Technology can play a vital role. 
Adaptive technology also plays a vital role in breaking down barriers to employment. Computers, smartphones and specialist software is being used to bridge the gap between ostracization and inclusion. It also gives employers the confidence to employ a diverse workforce. There are endless ways technology can be used to help people with disabilities gain greater independence in all areas of their life.  
Here you’ll find some examples of how technology has helped in the workplace. 
Make this a priority in your business  
Various forces are working together to close the opportunity divide and educate on the importance of inclusion. It’s no longer ok to ill-afford a large proportion of people the same opportunities as those deemed more able. Organisations who recognise the potential of disabled people across their business will thrive. It should be your priority to thrive.  
If you’re unsure where to start, do your research, speak to people or seek advice and remember the most important thing you can do is recognise that you need to start. We can also offer help and advice  
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