How to tap into hidden talent with disability inclusion

Imagine your organisation has just developed a cutting-edge trading software solution. You’re confident it’s set to change the game, but there’s a problem – your team hasn’t considered accessibility features for blind and partially sighted users. Suddenly, you realise you’ve excluded a significant portion of your potential market, including disabled traders, analysts, and investors. This oversight will limit your product’s reach and expose your company to legal and reputational risks. The root cause? A lack of diversity in your team, stemming from a failure to prioritise disability inclusion in your workplace.

At Barclay Simpson, we’re committed to helping our clients navigate the challenges and opportunities of building inclusive workplaces. As part of our ongoing efforts to keep you informed and empowered, we recently hosted a disability masterclass led by our expert Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) consultant, Adam Tobias.

In this engaging and interactive session, Adam, who is disabled, shed light on the barriers disabled talent face in the workplace and offered practical strategies for creating a more inclusive environment. Based on the valuable lessons from the masterclass, here are five steps to help you unlock the potential of disabled talent and drive your business forward:

1. Understand why disability inclusion is important at work

Disability is a significant part of society, and businesses must recognise and harness the potential of disabled talent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1.3 billion disabled people worldwide, including 16 million in the UK. By actively seeking out and nurturing disabled talent, you’re not only fulfilling a moral corporate responsibility to integrate this sizable workforce, but you’re also tapping into a pool of highly skilled, innovative, and loyal employees who can help your organisation thrive.

Another commercial imperative is to serve the needs of disabled consumers. The Return on Disability Group estimates the global disability market to control more than $13 trillion of disposable income, and the estimated purchasing power of disabled households in the UK, also known as the ‘purple pound’, sits at £274 billion a year. Businesses that hire disabled talent and foster an inclusive culture are better prepared to meet the needs of this sizable group, ultimately leading to increased market share and profitability.

2. Debunk disability myths and biases

There’s still much bias and misconception surrounding disability in the workplace. Many employers worry that hiring disabled talent will be expensive, complicated, or even bad for business. Yet, research has consistently shown that these assumptions are simply untrue. In fact, Accenture reports that companies that actively hire disabled employees tend to outperform their competitors, with 30% higher profit margins and four times the likelihood of higher shareholder returns.

During the masterclass, participants were keen to learn more about creating an inclusive recruitment process, with many sharing their experiences and challenges in this area. Adam emphasised that disabled employees bring diverse skills, experiences, and perspectives. He said they’re often innovative problem-solvers, having had to navigate a world not always designed with their needs in mind. Plus, studies have found that disabled employees are exceptionally loyal, ambitious, and hardworking, with low absenteeism and a 72% higher retention rate than their non-disabled counterparts. Nothing short of a dream team!

‘The misconception that disabled people can’t perform as effectively ignores the unique skills, talents and experiences that disabled individuals bring to the workplace.’

3. Create an inclusive recruitment process

But where can businesses start when looking to hire disabled talent? The first step is to scrutinise your recruitment process. Are your job descriptions and adverts inclusive and accessible, or are they inadvertently excluding disabled candidates with unnecessary requirements? Consider alternative application methods, like video or audio submissions, to level the playing field for those who struggle with traditional formats.

When it comes to interviews, create a welcoming environment and provide reasonable accommodations. This could mean sharing questions in advance, providing visual aids, or conducting interviews in accessible locations. And here’s another tip from Adam: structured, behaviour-based interviews aren’t just more inclusive; they’re also better at assessing a candidate’s true potential and reducing unconscious bias.

Interestingly, disability is the only protected characteristic where recruiters can positively discriminate. As Adam explained, Section 13.3 of the Equality Act 2010 states that it’s not unlawful to treat disabled applicants or employees more favourably. This means employers could ring-fence jobs for disabled people – a possibility many employers are unaware of.

‘Disability disclosure is always about trust. Be clear about why you’re asking for the data, what you’re doing with it and how it will affect the person giving it.’

4. Build a disability-confident culture

If you are serious about disability inclusion, you should consider becoming a Disability Confident employer. This UK government scheme gives organisations guidance and recognition for improving their recruitment and retention of disabled employees. When you sign up for the scheme and work through its three levels, you send a clear message to disabled candidates (and existing employees!) of your commitment. You can also use a disability-aware recruitment partner such as Barclay Simpson.

Inclusivity doesn’t stop at recruitment, however. It’s an ongoing effort that requires education and engagement with employees at all levels to foster a culture of allyship and understanding. Consider providing training on disability awareness, inclusive communication, and unconscious bias to create a more supportive and empathetic environment for your disabled colleagues. And don’t forget to encourage open dialogue and feedback – it’s the best way to identify and address any barriers or challenges as they arise.

One of the most engaging moments of the session came when Adam shared his personal story of navigating the workplace as a disabled individual, emphasising the importance of open communication and reasonable accommodations. This brings us to our final step.

‘If you want to find out how best to support a disabled person, go and ask them. There’s nothing rude or wrong about it, if it’s done with the best intentions.’

5. Enable success with reasonable accommodations

Under the Equality Act 2010, UK employers must provide reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. These accommodations are there to remove or mitigate any disadvantages disabled individuals might face in the workplace so they can perform their roles to their full potential. And despite what you might have heard, the Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023 found that most adjustments are low or no cost, with an average one-off expenditure of just £75.

Reasonable accommodations can take many forms, from flexible working arrangements and assistive technology to modifications to the physical workspace. The key is to approach each case individually, having open and supportive conversations with your employee to understand their specific needs and preferences. By working together to find solutions, you’ll enable your disabled talent to thrive and create a more inclusive and productive work environment for everyone.

‘Treating people with kindness and compassion is so important. A willingness to learn and be better goes a long way.’

Final thoughts: The way forward

Embracing disability inclusion in the workplace is a business necessity as much as a moral imperative. When you tap into the vast pool of disabled talent, you gain a competitive edge, drive innovation, and build a culture of belonging that benefits everyone.

The great news is that you’re not alone. We at Barclay Simpson are here to support your inclusivity efforts. For more insights on inclusive recruitment practices and ongoing education and engagement, sign up for our upcoming masterclasses and roundtables, or send us a question on LinkedIn.

Building a more inclusive future starts with one hire at a time. So let’s do this together – your business, employees, and customers will thank you.



World Health Organization (2023) Disability and health

Department for Work and Pensions (2022) The employment of disabled people 2021 – GOV.UK

We Are Purple (2020)  The Purple Pound – Infographic

Return on Disability Group (2020) Annual Report 2020 | Insights | Return on Disability

Business Disability Forum (2022) What do we choose to buy and why?

Accenture (2023) The disability inclusion imperative – this it built on their 2018 Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage report.

Department for Work and Pensions (2024) Disability Confident scheme

Business Disability Forum (2023) The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023: What did people tell us?