The importance of staff disability training and adequate facilitiesedit
Anyone who has a disability or knows someone who is disabled will understand how even the simplest of tasks can become much more complex and involved for disabled people. At the best of times, the extra difficulties that disabled people face are an inconvenience, but they also can make the most mundane of situations for most of us much more dangerous for disabled people.
For example, BBC News recently ran a story detailing the case of a disabled woman who fell in a hotel shower and was left stranded because someone had tied the cord for the emergency alarm out of reach. It took her 20 minutes to “wriggle” to another alarm and call for help. When staff arrived, they had no idea how to lift her safely.
It’s easy for most of us to write off stories like the one above as isolated incidents, but disabled people and campaigners who advocate for them know that these incidents are all too common. Every business has legal obligations to accommodate disabilities among their staff and customers, but companies should be looking to do more than the bare minimum. Installing suitable equipment and infrastructure for disabled people can make an enormous difference to their safety and comfort while also making your business feel much more welcoming. However, these measures should be coupled with appropriate staff training.
What is staff disability training?
Disability training aims to educate non-disabled people about the difficulties, dangers, and discrimination faced by disabled people. For most non-disabled people, unless they happen to have a friend or family member with a disability, it’s hard to imagine what life is like for people who are disabled. Even the most empathetic of us can overlook common problems for disabled people because we have such radically different experiences of the same situations. Through disability awareness training, businesses can help their staff be more aware of disabled customers and their needs.
How can disability training benefit businesses?
One of the main reasons so many businesses don’t even consider disability training for staff is that they don’t think it will provide many benefits from a business perspective. For hotels and other hospitality businesses, it’s easy to see the practical reasons for training staff to serve their disabled clientele better. Still, many other industries seem to find disability awareness training irrelevant to them. However, disability training providers work with companies throughout just about every sector and industry and can provide tangible benefits to them all.
For one thing, disabled people talk to one another and share their experiences. For example, when a disabled person has a bad experience with a business due to a lack of facilities or lack of understanding from staff, they will tell their friends. Equally, word spreads fast about the businesses that make an effort to cater to disabled customers.
How can businesses ensure their facilities are disability-friendly?
For many disabled people, using disability equipment makes a big difference to their independence and quality of life. There’s a range of equipment for disabled adults available, including general-purpose equipment like mobility aids, to more specialised equipment that helps disabled people with specific tasks. Obviously, it isn’t practical for any business to keep every type of disability equipment on hand just in case, but many businesses never consider investing in any equipment beyond what they’re legally required to provide.
The fact that wheelchair and disabled access to businesses is now commonplace is definitely a good sign, but wheelchair accessible hotels aren’t much help to their disabled guests if everything inside is designed for non-disabled people and the staff are clueless about disabled people’s needs. There are many hotels with disabled access that wouldn’t be considered disability-friendly by most disabled people. However, if the owners of these hotels invested in disability awareness training, they would have no trouble identifying potential hazards and obstacles for disabled people and making appropriate adjustments.
Most businesses could become more disability-friendly by making a small investment in equipment and minor tweaks to their existing facilities. Don’t underestimate the potential financial benefits of being the only business in your local area that’s disability-friendly. Investing in basic disabled equipment and designing your business facilities with disability awareness in mind makes good business sense and gives your disabled customers more independence and dignity when using your services. It also makes your business a much more attractive employer to disabled people looking for work. The UK government’s Access to Work program can provide funding for businesses that need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabilities among their staff. In many cases, these adjustments can benefit customers as well.
Even an hour of disability training for business owners and staff can be incredibly eye-opening. As well as leading to better customer service for disabled people, it also helps to highlight any areas where a business could be more disability-friendly. You might be surprised just how easy it is to outflank your competitors and develop a reputation amongst the disabled community as a business that cares.