Companies, and society in general, are perceiving disabled workers in terms of what they can’t do rather than looking at their potential.
Ali Jawad, former paralympic power lifter and crohn’s disease sufferer, said that people are too quick to dismiss the capabilities of the disabled community.
Speaking at The Watercooler wellbeing event in London, Jawad said companies were not doing enough to include people with disabilities in the workforce, particularly at higher levels.
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He said: “I’m getting sick and tired of seeing disabled people struggle in low paid jobs because they’re disabled, because people don’t think they’re capable. You need to be able to give them the opportunity to demonstrate the skills that can give them jobs in senior positions, but they never get the opportunity.”
Employers need to be truly honest about whether they’re an accessible employer, Jawad continued, and they should appoint a dedicated staff member to hold them accountable.
“Businesses need to start off by being critical of themselves. Lots of companies like a tick box without actually doing something. They need to be critical about whether or not they’re truly accessible.”
Having dipped during Covid-19, the proportion of disabled people in work has risen back to pre-pandemic levels, yet many of these are in low paid roles.
Jawad added: “I always challenge corporate companies by asking them ‘how many disabled people do you have in senior positions?’ and their response is usually ‘oh no’. It’s not enough to employ disabled people in low skilled jobs just for a tick box exercise. You need disabled people in senior management to be truly inclusive.
“Unfortunately not many companies want to be honest with themselves. You need someone in the company that makes them accountable on a daily basis in order for them to get better.”
Jawad argued everyone is disabled in their own way, but might not know it.
He added: “A disability is just a weakness in your ability – nobody has the ability to do everything.
“Why can’t you allow disabled people to demonstrate what they’re capable of? Disabled people want to contribute equally to society, so why would you look at somebody’s inabilities rather than someone’s potential?”