By Helen Needham
How would you respond if someone asked you - are you accepted or are you merely tolerated?
This was a question posed to me by a client a couple of years ago when I told them that I was autistic, and talked about what Capco was doing to embrace Neurodiversity inclusion. At first, I didn’t know how to respond and it took me a few moments to find the words “what do you think, based on the work that I have done for you”.
I am always cautious about telling people that I am autistic when I start working with them, as I can never be certain about how they might respond. I am not alone in my hesitation, 79% of people with disabilities do not disclose their condition because of a fear of discrimination. People with a disability are 30% more likely to be unemployed, and their career progression is often hampered as a result of barriers in the workplace. Barriers which people seldom stop to consider, and are effectively hidden unless you are impacted by them.
No one should have their ability questioned - especially as a result of a lack of understanding or misguided stigmas and stereotypes. Today is International Day of People with Disabilities, and Capco is going Purple on social media channels in support. A day for us to reflect on what can we do to ensure greater disability inclusion.
We need to find a way to become comfortable talking about disability and help to create an environment where people with disabilities are not afraid to talk about their disability. We also need to take the time to think about the experiences of employees with disabilities, so that we can identify potential barriers along with ways to address them.
For the past year I have been part of a working group focused on doing this, with representatives from the Ability and Neurodiversity network, HR, Recruitment and L&D. Most of the changes made to date are small and will go unnoticed by most – like the reference to reasonable adjustments in job postings and the recently ordered hearing loops which are due to be installed in the office - however these small changes can make a big difference in tackling the hidden challenges.
The biggest change that I have noticed is the number of people who are regularly talking about disability and the number of people who have been coming forward to share their experiences and insights, often for the first time. I have seen the difference this made to each of them, and am excited about the changes that we can bring about together.
I don’t want to be tolerated or accepted. I want to be valued. Valued for the work that I do, and be empowered to succeed with the support and understanding of the people around me. Isn’t that what all of us want?