Along with most strands of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it can be difficult to know where to start, with fear of making the wrong moves often leading to inertia. Research from Mencap, the voice of learning disabilities, supports this lack of development, stating that out of 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK, only around a fifth are currently in employment.
Supporting learning differences and making reasonable adjustments to the workplace is imperative to tackling unemployment levels, but the first step should be identifying what a business is trying to achieve, what goals they have and what is preventing them (or what concerns are there) from reaching them.
Regardless of what stage a business is at in their diversity and inclusion plans, time and resource will ultimately need to be invested, and continually invested, to make sure inclusive processes and environments are in place from the top of the recruitment funnel, right through to the onboarding stages and day-to-day.
A learning disability, is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities like household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life, for example, Down’s Syndrome. Learning difficulties, can act as a barrier to learning, but do not necessarily impact intellect, for example, Autism, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia.
Most learning difficulties or forms of neurodiversity as a whole, are experienced as part of a spectrum, where the characteristics or traits vary for every individual. These differences can present themselves in numerous syndromes, disorders, or conditions, but in many cases, they may not be noticeably present at all, but exist in a mild or hidden form.
1. Don’t fall into myths and stereotypes
Thinking differently from the ‘norm’ and diversifying from the masses is something that should be celebrated not feared. Everyone is different and no two minds are the same, so it is important to be open minded and not to fall into myths and stereotypes.
Autistic professor and researcher of special education at Adelphi University Stephen Shore, highlighted this truth by saying: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
2. Awareness education for all
Embracing all spectrums of learning abilities is a fantastic opportunity that gives businesses a competitive advantage, attracts new talents and brings new creative ideas to the table, which is why everyone within the organisation should be educated on how to be inclusive in this space.
Awareness shouldn’t start and stop at a senior level. Businesses should invest in education for all employees, and inclusion training, showing colleagues how to support one another’s abilities, hone skills and adapt to create successful, diverse teams.
3. Create accessible recruitment processes
If businesses aren’t inclusive of neurodiverse candidates, they could be missing out on 20% of top talent in the market, therefore it is crucial to ensure recruitment processes are accessible. For example, removing lengthy application forms which automatically act as a barrier for those with reading and processing difficulties, and adapting interview spaces to environments that allow candidates to feel comfortable.
‘By welcoming candidates with a learning disability, you will be tapping into a pool of talent that you are unlikely to have reached before. Most people with a learning disability face multiple barriers to finding employment. Overcoming challenges to find work is a huge achievement and this is often reflected in the positive attitudes they bring to the workplace as a result.’
– Mencap, Factsheet: Learning disability
With every learning disability or difficulty there is an ability, for example, someone with a developmental disability like Autism, may only be able to focus on one task at a time, or need to work in a quieter environment, but they will be highly specialised and consistent in their work. Equally, a person with a learning difficulty like Dyslexia, may struggle to write a lengthy article, but can present an engaging, passionate webinar to hundreds of people.
By focusing and encouraging broader skills and abilities in the workplace, instead of focusing on potential inabilities, a business will grow in a direction that attracts a much broader range of audiences, clients, and customers.
Further information and advice for individuals and employers can be found at Mencap employment services
For businesses unsure on how to move forward with their wider Diversity & Inclusion strategy, RTM’s white paper is now available with practical, tangible steps towards creating meaningful change in the workplace.
Take the step today towards creating an inclusive and culturally diverse workforce – for all.