It is well documented that employing disabled people has many benefits for the legal profession. One of the aspects that can put law firms off employing disabled people is the perception that costly adjustments will need to be made to buildings, and policies will need to be re-written. A common “reason” given for not employing disabled people is the lack of wheelchair access in older, perhaps listed, buildings. However, only around 5 percent of disabled people use wheelchairs, so this is more an excuse than a reason.
Offering workplace adjustments for disabled staff isn’t just a legal requirement, it enables you to help employees be as productive and engaged as possible.
The reality is that most disabled employees require very little in terms of adjustments, and those adjustments that are required are of low or no cost. The most common adjustment requested is flexible working arrangements. Good law firms will have this in place already for staff with childcare or eldercare responsibilities, for example. Sometimes an impairment can make travelling in the rush hour difficult, and they may prefer to arrive and leave early.
It may be that some employees can do all or part of their duties remotely from home. Agile working also gives staff the flexibility to manage their work-life balance, as the focus is on outputs rather than the time spent at work. This can help to reduce stress, which can cause long-term health conditions or exacerbate existing ones. Technology means that it is easier for people to work from home and interact with their team.
Technology can also help with accessibility in the office, and there are many experts available to advise on the most appropriate solutions. But often it is simple things – ensuring the walkways are clear of clutter for someone with sight impairment, for example, which is good practice anyway.
If there is a requirement for specific equipment Access to Work, a government-run organisation, can help to identify and pay for or towards the equipment.