How to support people with disabilities in the workplace

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Health Assured team

06 November 2023

It is extremely important to make sure all disabled colleagues have everything they need to be comfortable and able to succeed in their roles.

It is equally as important to think about these challenges for disabled customers and how you can make improvements to make their experience with your organisation positive.

Purple Tuesday notes that 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a business because of poor accessibility or customer service. Clearly, there is a demand for better accessibility and inclusivity in organisations.

What is Purple Tuesday?

Purple Tuesday is a globally celebrated day that aims to improve the experience of disabled customers and colleagues. The date is always the first Tuesday in November, and their main aim is to raise awareness for disabled customers and colleagues globally.

The day encourages organisations to think about the ways in which they can create a more inclusive and accessible environment for people with a disability and highlights how important the disabled community is.

Purple Tuesday’s intentions are to support disabled people regardless of their disability, this could be regardless of whether they have a physical disability, such as using a wheelchair, or an invisible disability like PTSD.

Here are some of the ways in which you can make your workplace inclusive to disabled people:

  1. Do not generalize disability.

Disabled customers and colleagues will all have different needs, and it is important to understand those specific needs.

There are many unique disabilities, such as deaf, blind, ADHD, dyslexia and cerebral palsy. All disabilities require different support methods and types of support, it is essential that you are aware of them.

For example, if two people have Autism Spectrum Disorder they may have different triggers. For colleagues, it is important to fully understand the individual’s disability and the best ways in which to support that person in their role and the workplace. Discuss their needs with them in an open and honest way and adjust the workspace to support them.

  1. Training

Providing employees with specific training to be able to give the best customer service for disabled customers is crucial.

Disability awareness training is a really positive way to strengthen knowledge of how to provide the best customer service, how to break down barriers and raise awareness of all disabilities. This will give colleagues the confidence and understanding to be able to support customers and colleagues with disabilities where needed.

Tip: Make sure all co-workers know the sunflower lanyard that is a way to know if a customer has an invisible disability.

  1. Make adjustments

Making adjustments in your organisation is detrimental to disabled colleagues and customers. Without the necessary adjustments, many disabled people will not be able to utilize the workplace.

For colleagues, the best way to approach this is by understanding their disability and their needs. For example, do they need ramps to get into the workplace? Do they require accessible bathrooms? Accessible parking?

If your organisation is customer-facing, such as retail or hospitality, disabled access is fundamental. If your customer cannot access your organisation, you are excluding many people who could use your business. Think about your digital inclusivity, how can blind people use your website? Is there an alternative? Think about each disability carefully and ask yourself how you can make adjustments for them.

  1. Establish an inclusive community and advocate for inclusivity

Establishing an inclusive community is key when creating a more disabled-friendly workplace. 

Encourage the team to discuss their questions about how to best support disabled colleagues and customers.

Openly supporting ally movements, such as Purple Tuesday, can be an extremely effective way to make disabled customers and employees feel liberated and supported.

Signpost to movements and organisations that support disability rights and provide useful information about disabled people’s lived experiences. This could be in common areas for colleagues and in point-of-sale areas for customers.

  1. Nominate a disability champion

Choosing one person within the organisation to be the disability champion will allow that person to focus on the needs of disabled colleagues and customers. The champion does not have to have lived experiences, however, if they do not, they should have guidance from disabled colleagues and listen to their needs and experiences very carefully.

They will need the correct training in order to develop their understanding when it comes to supporting disabled colleagues and customers.

The champion’s ultimate aims are to increase accessibility within the workplace for colleagues and customers, increase awareness, help managers carry out action to create a more inclusive workplace and be a diligent listening ear to those who need it.

How can you support your employees mental health?

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and in life. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs



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