Tuesday 6 May 2014

It's about ability, AND disability

A message that keeps being recycled at every Disability Confident event (See 'So What's Wrong with Disability Confident?' here) is that 'It's about ability, not disability', this is the kind of half-cocked phrase that sounds like a good thing from the non-disability perspective, but promises to be a nightmare for actual disabled people. It is right to a very limited degree, you shouldn't be looking at my disability during recruitment, in fact you are legally obligated under the Equality Act 2010 not to consider my disability until after you offer me a job. But once we pass that stage it is very much about both my ability and my disability, because my disability brings obligations and entitlements. I, and every other disabled person, need to know that the particular needs we have around our disabilities, whether that be an individually fitted chair, the ability to take a break as needed, or whatever, will be addressed without negative consequences, and our rights to these 'reasonable adjustments' are enshrined in the Equality Act. Unless I know these needs are addressed, I can't have any confidence in you as an employer; and in any case making reasonable adjustments is good business sense, it allows your workforce to perform at their peak. But 'It's about ability, not disability', tells companies that if they focus on my disability, at any time, then they are doing it wrong. The difference is only a word, but 'It's about ability, and disability', together with a careful explanation of obligations under the law, would transform the message of Disability Confident into something far more useful.

(This is broken out from my larger essay 'So What's Wrong with Disability Confident?' for ease in pointing it out to the people who come out of Disability Confident events twittering that 'It's about ability, not disability' that no matter how much DWP may be pushing that tag line, it actually isn't remotely helpful to disabled people. It isn't their fault they're being misled, but someone has to tell them, and seeing as 'Nothing for us, Without us' is anathema to the DWP we're forced to do it ourselves.)

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