Monday, 9 February 2015

None So Blind as Those Who Refuse to See Disability

Regular readers will know I'm not a fan of Disability Confident, the DWP-run government scheme that tries to address the 2 million disabled people who should be in work, but are denied jobs by institutional discrimination in recruitment and the workplace, by desperately claiming that employers are just a little awkward about disability, not actively discriminatory.

One of Disability Confident's slogans is 'See the Person, not the disability' (a variation on the widely used, and equally problematical, 'See the ability, not the disability'), which is problematical at any time, but even more so when we're dealing with entrenched institutional discrimination, where it becomes an invitation to ignore everything that is wrong and needs to change. A recent Twitter exchange with a supposedly pro-disability charity got me thinking about this.

Remember to see the person and NOT the disability. #disabilityconfident

@RedactedDiversity Remember to see the person, AND the disability, or you deny a huge part of us. That's #disabilityconfident

@WTBDavidG of course that goes without saying.

Then why say the exact opposite?

How do you make needed adjustments unless you SEE my disability?

How do you recognise when your standard procedures disadvantage disabled people unless you SEE our disability?

How do you recognise disabled people are being discriminated against unless you SEE our disability

How do you recognise your HR department selectively binning any application mentioning disability unless you SEE our disability?
How do you recognise managers who bully disabled staff unless you SEE our Disability?

How do you recognise when access or attitude makes disabled customers go elsewhere unless you SEE our disability?

Ultimately, how do you meet your legal obligations to your disabled staff and customers unless you SEE our disability?

And if so much of our equality depends on SEEING disability, then ask yourself why Disability Confident is so keen you close your eyes to it? Which approach is generally regarded in management circles as the more mature and professional? Discussing an issue such as disability before it becomes critical to your success and reputation, or pretending it doesn't exist? A five-year-old with fingers in ears chanting 'Nyah, nyah, nyah, I can't hear you!' is not perhaps the image of management you might best wish to cultivate. 

When Disability Confident urges you NOT to SEE our Disability, it couldn't get it more wrong, or be less disability confident.