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Acas guidance to support changes from 6th April 2024: Guidance for managers on employing disabled people

On 9th April 2024, the government published a guide for line managers on recruiting, managing, and developing disabled people, which was developed by Disability Confident and the Chartered Institute of Development.

Organisations with a positive and inclusive approach to managing disability can also reap the benefits of increased loyalty and commitment from staff.  Along with the moral and legal imperatives, it makes commercial sense for businesses to have a diverse workforce that reflects their consumer base.  The spending power of disabled customers and their families is £274bn annually.

What does it say?

The guide provides practical help with recruitment, retention, and supporting people with specific disabilities or long-term health conditions and gives useful advice on language and communication.

Language

The disability charity Scope found that two-thirds of people say they feel awkward when they meet disabled people.  Some may not know many disabled people, while others worry about saying or doing the wrong thing.  Disabled people often have different preferences on the language they find appropriate.  If you don't know, ask them.

Generally, you shouldn't worry about using common expressions, such as ‘see you later’ in front of someone who has a visual impairment or ‘I’ve got to run’ in front of someone using a wheelchair.

However:

  • Avoid saying someone is ‘suffering from’ as it encourages a view of that person as a ‘victim’.

  • Try not to use collective terms or labels like ‘the disabled’, ‘the deaf’, or ‘the blind’.

  • Refrain from describing people by their impairment; for example, instead of saying, ‘She is diabetic,’ it is better to say, ‘She has diabetes'.

  • Don’t describe people without a disability as ‘able-bodied’ or ‘normal’ – not all disability is physical, and not all people describe themselves as disabled.

Be respectful in the language you use about disability and expect the same from others, whether a disabled person is present or not.

Communication

 When considering how you communicate about disability at work, there are some simple principles you can bear in mind:

  • Talk to a disabled person as you would to anyone else.  Focus on a person’s ability rather than their disability.

  • How much someone wishes to talk about their disability depends on their individual preferences. Speak directly to the disabled person, not their support worker or interpreter.

  • If you are having trouble understanding someone’s speech, asking them to repeat themselves is okay.  Don’t pretend to understand or finish someone’s sentences.  Be patient.

 Offering assistance

  • Don’t assume a disabled person wants or needs your help.

  • As a basic courtesy, ask before you help and wait until the person accepts your offer.  Once they have accepted your offer, listen or ask for specific instructions.

  • Don’t worry if your offer is turned down.

More advice on language and behaviour is available at ‘End the Awkward’. The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) has also produced a video on How to use appropriate language.

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