Understanding the Importance of Disability Awareness Training

As we work towards a fully inclusive workplace for all, we must consider people working with disabilities, we must look at the challenges they may face on a daily basis, and we must raise awareness around these challenges. Employers can do this by providing disability awareness training for their employees.

We were recently contacted by a client to develop a Disability Awareness e-learning course for their employees. Their objective was to increase awareness amongst colleagues of the everyday experiences of disability and to ensure that upon completion all would have a better awareness, knowledge and understanding of disability, be able to identify different types of disabilities and understand how these can impact a person’s quality of life.

A Vitally Import Topic

As we began the process of developing this course, it became clear why the creation of this training was so important. There are so many facets to disability awareness that a structured and engaging online course was considered the best medium to educate colleagues.

We set the context for the course by exploring what disability means, we used statistics to establish better insights, looked at the barriers faced by people with disabilities and examined how they can be removed.

Understanding that there are many different forms of disability guided us in our approach to the course material and also allowed us to focus on the specific needs that would have to be met to ensure that the training was fully accessible to all.  These different forms include:

  • Physical (e.g. cerebral palsy)
  • Developmental (e.g. autism)
  • Sensory (e.g. hearing loss) and
  • Mental Health (e.g. anxiety)

Some conditions may be classified in several ways, for example, cerebral palsy is both a physical and developmental disability.

Examining the statistics around people living with disabilities provided great context and we learned that:

  • Only 17% of people with a disability are born with it and many disabilities such as auto-immune disease, are invisible
  • Approximately 3 out of 10 people in the workplace have a disability that cannot be seen
  • 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health over the course of their lifetime
  • 3 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability (at 17% of the global population, this is the largest minority group in the world. That figure is expected to double to 2 billion people by 2050)
  • In Ireland, according to the 2016 Census, there are 643,131 people living with a disability. (This is 13.5% of the Irish population and is up 8% since April 2011)

Disability Awareness E-learning Training for Employers

Looking at these statistics, we can see why it is so important for us to be more aware of the challenges facing people living with a disability. We know that accessibility and inclusion are fundamental rights for all people in society and to ensure equal rights and opportunities we must better understand these challenges and see how we can overcome them.

For employers, looking to overcome these challenges, they must take into account a number of factors including; creating workplaces to retain people who acquire a disability, attracting a wider pool of talent into organisations by ensuring all employees needs are being met, and planning for fully accessible buildings to avoid expensive retrofits. People living with disabilities face many barriers on a daily basis.  These include:

  • Physical barriers – e.g. accessing a building
  • Technological barriers – e.g. inaccessible websites or poorly designed apps
  • Access to products and services – e.g. poor customer service (due to a lack of understanding and adequate training)
  • Access to information – e.g. forms and leaflets should be offered in alternative formats, such as large print or plain English versions
  • Access to employment – shockingly most people with disabilities in Ireland are unemployed.

In many cases, a lack of disability awareness by employers together with a lack of understanding of how to make the workplace accessible and inclusive is a major roadblock to inclusivity. By providing disability awareness training for their employees, they are providing them with the tools and a vital understanding to allow them to ask pertinent questions. Employers need to ask themselves questions such as “Are there reasonable accommodation practices in place for people working with disabilities?” and “Would the working environment, the tasks, or the structure of a job be modified to facilitate a person with a disability?” The answers / solutions to these questions must be made clear for their employees, by ensuring they receive the training required to deal with these and many other challenges they may face.

E-learning Course Accessibility Features

Although this course was created for employees to raise their awareness of working with or interacting with people with disabilities in the workplace, we also ensured that the course was accessible and compliant for all. We did this by adding a number of features to the e-learning course including:

  • Text-to-speech (OCR) for compatible screen readers
  • Descriptive text for important graphical, navigational and/or functional elements
  • Clearly defined, intuitive navigation and control scheme
  • The restriction of any interactivity type not fully compatible with current accessibility standards
  • Subtitles (closed captions) available throughout where audio/video was to be used
  • Correct tagging and detailing of accompanying SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) system files

By providing alternative formats, choosing a design that was easy to navigate, avoiding using flashing or moving content, adding captions to allow learners with hearing impairments to fully access the content, using alt text and descriptive links that make sense for those with visual impairments, making sure course materials and activities can be accessed using a keyboard, we ensured a high level of accessibility within the course allowing it to be accessed by learners with disabilities and fully accessible to all.

Contact Esus E-learning

We hope you found this post helpful. If you would like more information about how we can help you develop a disability awareness e-learning course or make your learning content more accessible, please contact Esus E-learning at info@esus.ie.

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