Overview of Disabled Employment in the UK

According to the latest government statistics, there are 16 million disabled people in the UK, with 4.9 million of them employed. Despite this significant number, support for disabled employees remains limited. Although legal requirements are in place to protect their rights and mandate ‘reasonable adjustments,’ many disabled individuals still face challenges at work due to companies’ lack of knowledge, skills, and awareness of their needs.

Enhancing Staff Training and Awareness

Training employees on inclusion and disability awareness can help dispel bias and reduce stigma. Many companies already have programs and policies in place to address prejudice and discrimination; however, the effectiveness of these policies and programs has come into question. Developing an understanding in the office and fostering a supportive network between employees starts with practical conversations and exercises to challenge perceptions and promote empathy. Company leaders must be at the forefront of these changes and not leave it up to employees with disabilities to educate others. Policies should not generalise but rather meet the specific needs of every disabled employee.

Leveraging Technology for Support

While holistic training is important for shifting attitudes and fostering a progressive work culture, practical steps must also be taken. Using the latest technology to support disabled workers is an important way to achieve this. For example, tablets can enable deaf employees to communicate better with customers, leading to more autonomy in their work. Ergonomic keyboards and pointing devices can help people with ligament injuries or disorders by reducing strain. Screen readers assist those with sight loss, and remote working tools allow people with mobility issues to work more flexibly. Utilising technology is imperative to maintaining equality and making fair allowances for disabled employees. Managers must fully understand their employees’ needs and adapt the working day to prevent them from falling behind, which can cause friction or unease among the rest of the team.

Creating an Inclusive Built Environment

Ensuring the built and office environment is inclusive is critical. If someone using a mobility chair is prevented from getting through the front door, problems have already started with little hope of it being a viable workplace. Serious improvements have been made in creating environments that are more physically inclusive, such as changing spaces, automatic doors, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition), lifts, and fire evacuation plans (PEEPs). More focus is now moving towards sensory-inclusive environments that help people with hidden disabilities or neurodivergence. Regular accessibility audits and considering new standards for the built environment, such as PAS 6463, are helpful steps.

Promoting Diversity in Recruitment

For HR specifically, there are key actions that can and should be taken to facilitate diversity through the recruitment process. Actively seeking to include disabled individuals in the workforce promotes equal opportunities and enhances representation. Recruiting from diverse sources, such as job boards specifically targeting disabled candidates like Evenbreak’s Disability Job Board UK, or partnering with organisations focused on disability inclusion like Disability Rights UK and Humanity and Inclusion UK, can broaden the talent pool and challenge preconceived ideas. Facilitating online interviews as an option for those who prefer it can make for a more equitable and easier hiring process.

Supporting Career Progression for Disabled Employees

HR and managers should take a hard and in-depth look at how they can support their employees with disabilities to help them become leaders within businesses and organisations. This could involve mentorship programs, training, and succession planning strategies aimed at nurturing talent, recognising potential, and promoting fair and inclusive career progression. Valuing contributions and rewarding people with promotions are essential. Personal experiences, like working for a supportive manager who praised abilities and provided opportunities, highlight the positive impact of such support.


Creating an inclusive workplace that accommodates and supports disabled employees is not only the moral thing to do but also beneficial for everyone involved. By embracing diversity, companies will cultivate a more innovative, empathetic, and productive environment. Through awareness, accessibility, accommodation, and a commitment to diversity, companies can empower their entire workforce to thrive, contribute unique perspectives, and play an indispensable role in the success of the organisation. Ultimately, this approach leads to a society where all individuals are respected and treated equally, creating greater opportunities and better role models for future generations.

Joshua Wintersgill
Founder at AbleMove | Website | + posts

Joshua Wintersgill is an award-winning entrepreneur, technologist, and campaigner who founded easyTravelseat to improve travel for wheelchair users. His company, Able Move Ltd, designs and manufactures innovative products like the ableSling, enhancing the safety and comfort of physically reduced mobility travellers. Since 2018, Joshua has been instrumental in advocating for change in the aviation industry and is actively involved in the Rights on Flights Campaign. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 18 months, he collaborates with charities such as Leonard Cheshire, Disabled Living, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK.