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Inclusivity in the Workplace Q3 2023

Why disabled people need to get a fair shot in the workplace

woman learning and communicating in sign language online while sitting in the office
woman learning and communicating in sign language online while sitting in the office
iStock / Getty Images Plus / Yaroslav Astakhov

Sandi Wassmer

Chief Executive Officer, enei

Today, only 25% of blind and partially sighted people of working age are in employment, compared with over 80% of the general population. Similarly, very few blind and partially sighted people sit in leadership roles.


As the UK’s only blind female CEO, a position I hold with immense responsibility, it’s clear to me that something’s got to give. I registered blind in 2008. Shortly after, I was also diagnosed with ADHD, so my journey has been far from easy. However, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, as it has led me to the helm of an organisation doing the DEI work that will pave the way for disabled leaders to be the norm.

Going blind and the challenges it brings

Going from being a sighted person one day to a blind person the next naturally had its practical complexities, but I was overwhelmed by the psychological impact. The labels ‘blind’ and ‘disabled’ consumed my identity. When the discrimination began, it confirmed my worst fears. I was lucky enough to have a supportive network around me and the determination to go on, but it shouldn’t have been this way.

Only 50% of disabled people are in employment. That’s 4.79 million people employers are missing out on.

Time to close the disability employment gap

Currently, the disability employment gap in the UK is 30%, and it has been this way for over a decade. Only 50% of disabled people are in employment. That’s 4.79 million people employers are missing out on.

For those in employment, many organisations find it difficult to navigate the world of reasonable adjustments and on-boarding. They frequently find themselves in a dilemma about how to treat their disabled employees. Wanting to do the right thing, employers somehow forget that disabled people are just people trying to get on with their lives and be happy.

Having an inclusive strategy and culture

Of course, although the world of disability is complex — with a multitude of different disabilities, each falling within a spectrum — the place to start is always the same. See the person as an individual, and make sure that the culture, leadership and resources are in place for them to thrive. It should be no different than for any other employee.

A diverse workforce and inclusive culture, where everyone feels they’re contributing and have a true sense of belonging, is the goal of all DEI work. Employing disabled people will not only provide organisations with an untapped talent pool but it will also offer diversity of thinking and experiences.

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