A disability inclusive culture. Signpost representing different directions to reach different destinations

Disability Inclusive Cultures – Where To Start

A disability inclusive culture. Signpost representing different directions to reach different destinations
A disability inclusive culture. Signpost representing different directions to reach different destinations

Starting your disability inclusive culture as you mean to go on

When it comes to disability inclusion, it is important to have the right culture in place. This will support with organisational growth, a sense of belonging and true engagement and inclusion required for developing a disability inclusive culture.

Did you know, depending on where you look, it can take between 2 and 7 years to change a culture? This is mainly because when a culture is already embedded, it takes awhile for people to change behaviours, thought patterns and processes. Those inbuilt, systemic, learnt behaviours can be hard to break. However, whilst there are definitely no “quick fixes”, there are “quick wins” to make the journey a little less arduous.

Many organisations I work with through Celebrating Disability know that they want to be inclusive of disabled people and they want to develop the culture of inclusion for all, they’re just not sure where to start. The barrier that stops them knowing where to start is not really understanding why. Understanding why is the key fundamental to unlocking the how and the what. Because it’s how we drive forward as human beings to achieve anything. I know for a fact that I don’t do anything without a reason. That reason has to in one way or another, be meaningful for me or else it will not be achieved and it will definitely not be sustained for a long period.

I used to run drama workshops for adults with learning disabilities. I really enjoyed the time I spent doing this. One thing I learnt very quickly was that I needed to support them to understand why they would participate in such a workshop. For me, a person who is able to holistically think of the situation and the pros and cons of that situation, it was easy for me to think about why I was there and what I was getting out of it. But for the people I was working with, this was not as simple. Through a series of questions and answers and activities, I was able to support them to understand what was in it for them. After we did this, everybody enjoyed themselves and participated because they knew why they were there and more importantly, everyone wanted to be there.

For individuals to understand their why is slightly different to organisations understanding their why. The former relies on one person making a decision. The latter relies on a community making a decision. This, understandably, has its own complications. Let’s explore some of the areas that need to be considered:

Getting to grips with the fundamentals of your inclusive culture

There’s no point in doing anything unless you know why it needs to be done. As we have just explored. So, here are a few starter questions you may want to consider: Why is it important to be inclusive? Why do disabled people need to feel included? What are the ways that people don’t feel included? How are disabled people not included? What would need to happen for disabled people to feel included? What does this mean when disabled people don’t feel included?

Answering these questions will help you have a starting point.

Ensuring everyone can engage

Is not up to a small group of people to have all the answers. The more people involved in the conversation, the more representative of your community the outcome will be. The more stakeholders who can engage in the process, the more likely you will be to find a holistic solution that works for you, your organisation and other people interacting with your organisation. I.e., customers. Utilise many different tools and avenues to engage with as many people and stakeholders as possible. Celebrating Disability blogs cover many ways you can do this and many things you may like to think about. Try this blog and this blog for a start.

Removing systems that oppress

A person can only engage if they feel safe and welcomed to do so. For disability, a very simple visual representation of this is the following:

If a building has step free access meaning that a wheelchair user can enter but once inside the building, the staff and the other guests ignore that disabled person, then oppression has not been removed.

It is our responsibility as leaders and colleagues to support a disabled person to feel valued and included. How is your organisation supporting the celebration of difference and opinion?

A Member Community Solution

The Disability Inclusion Community is a business owned by Celebrating Disability designed to support people within the business to develop their culture of inclusion in a friendly, supportive environment.

As you know, for several years now Celebrating Disability has hosted bespoke training sessions and talks to companies and not-for-profit organisations who would like to be inclusive of disabled people.  And whilst these are really valuable and helpful services, sometimes what is needed is a bit more of a long-term approach  

Enter the Disability Inclusion Community.  

The Disability Inclusion Community is a place where businesses can come together to learn from each other in a community where everybody is working towards the same ultimate goal; to be inclusive of disabled people. Within the community, members will be able to access OnDemand content, live events and a community forum where all three cover the topics essential to understanding how to develop a culture of inclusion.  

To find out more about how your company can get involved and purchase an annual membership, click here to go to the Disability Inclusion Community homepage. (separate website)

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