ICAS marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities
This Friday, 3 December, marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), with the theme for 2021 being ‘Fighting for rights in the post-Covid era’.
This year’s theme is an acknowledgement that while the pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone, bringing about drastic political, economic and social changes, people with disabilities are among the populations most affected by the challenges raised by Covid.
Disability in the UK
There are 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK. Statistics compiled by disability equality charity Scope, showcase the myriad ways in which disabled people still face discrimination in their day-to-day lives. Life will cost you £583 more on average each month if you’re disabled. Families with a disabled child face, on average, an extra cost of £581 a month; for almost a quarter of those families, extra costs can amount to more than £1,000 a month.
In the UK, disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people and have a higher rate of poverty than non-disabled working adults.
Meanwhile, discriminatory attitudes about disability remain high. Scope’s own research in 2018 found that one in three disabled people felt that there is a lot of disability prejudice; yet only one in five non-disabled people agreed. There is a marked difference between the public perception of disability and the actual lived experience of those who are disabled. IDPD is a moment to reflect on achievements so far, but also on the work that still must be done to bridge that gap and improve accessibility and inclusion for disabled people.
EDI at ICAS
We launched our own Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) campaign “Championing Unique Perspectives" back in January this year. This was part of ICAS’ renewed focus on EDI following the creation of our EDI Committee in December 2019.
The campaign aims to profile the diversity of ICAS’ membership; raise awareness of the challenges faced on subjects such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and age; provide employers with ideas and insights on ways they can build open and inclusive workplaces; and provide a safe space for CAs to share ideas, experiences and views on EDI in general.
Throughout the year we have released a range of features, interviews, webinars and podcasts under our Championing Unique Perspectives banner. Included in this was our feature with Ronnie Jamieson CA, financial accountant at Marie Currie Investment Management, who spoke with us about what it means to be “diffabled” in the corporate world. He said:
It’s about having a conversation to start with. I think a lot of people are quite backward about coming forward and asking about disability. I think normalising it, rather than putting people up on pedestals, would then lead to having a positive conversation about disability.
Also included, was our interview with Kenneth Murray CA, Head of Forensic Accounting at Police Scotland, on his ADHD diagnosis at age 59 and what employers should be doing to destigmatise neurodiversity. He said:
Awareness, acceptance and accommodation of ADHD on the part of employers, especially the big influential ones, would be just about as powerful a statement on inclusivity that I can think of because a lot of people still struggle with neurodiversity.
ICAS Council Member Emily Cheyne spoke with us about her dyslexia and why it is time for leaders to get educated on how to bring out the strengths of those with neurodiversity. She said:
I think that companies are starting to realise that everyone is different, and everyone has different strengths. I think things are progressing because of EDI initiatives and people feel more comfortable speaking about it. I also think workplaces should ask more questions and work to peoples’ strengths more instead of thinking that one way of working is appropriate for everyone.
Our EDI focus was also reflected in the content throughout this year’s CA magazine, including Lysanne Currie’s interview with Charlotte Valeur, founder of Global Governance Group, about being diagnosed with autism in later life – and why neurodiversity is a boon for the boardroom. She said:
It’s about having different sets of eyes to see. Not seeing things broadly enough has huge implications for businesses around the world.
Also for CA Magazine, Lysanne interviewed Mike Adams, CEO of Purple, a disability charity-turned-commercial venture that aims to bridge the gap between disabled people and businesses.
Mike told Lysanne of his usual exercise for business leaders to try with their company websites; see how far they can navigate the site if they unplug their mouse.
It will give you a real indication of how accessible your online assets are. For example, do you have a sitemap? Do all your landing pages start stylistically with the first line all in caps? If you’re blind and using a screen reader, ‘WELCOME’ will read as an acronym.
With only 3% of the top one million websites worldwide meeting basic accessibility standards, Mike noted that the pandemic lockdowns will have disproportionately affected disabled people as the world shifted to an inaccessible virtual landscape.
What resources are there to help?
Under the Equality Act 2010, all those living in the UK with “a physical or mental impairment” that “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” are classed under the law as a disabled person.
If you meet the legal description, then you are protected under the Equality Act and cannot be discriminated against based on your disability. This has implications for education providers and employers – of which ICAS is both – who must ensure that they have made reasonable adjustments, provided support and made things accessible to disabled students and staff.
ICAS is continuing to embed EDI across the organisation and is producing resources and guidance for those living with disabilities, or those looking to improve access and inclusion for disabled employees at their own workplaces.
For our Student Members, ICAS recognises that some people will require reasonable adjustments during their CA learning journey due to disabilities or learning difficulties and we have compiled a how-to guide to applying for a reasonable adjustment.
For our Members who are employers, we have compiled a list of organisations, companies and additional resources that can help employers to better support their disabled employees.
For those interested in exploring further on the rights of disabled people and what you can do to help, ICAS has also compiled a range of additional resources that you can use to assist you when dealing with disability-related issues.