Why physical and non-visible disabilities shouldn’t stop anyone succeeding in automotive
We’re all aware of how much automotive has to offer. The range of jobs available and the speed of change in the sector is something few other industries can deliver. But if it wants to remain a success it has to open the doors to a wider spread of talent, and that includes those with physical and non-visible disabilities.
Neither should be a hinderance to anyone succeeding in automotive, and in fact the IMI’s Diversity Task Force Report highlighted how well, relatively, the sector is at untapping that potential. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more that can be done.
IMI President Professor Jim Saker said: “Perhaps one of the surprising findings was, having gained access to Government data, that the automotive sector appears to attract many people who identify as having either a physical or non-visible disability. Before the Task Force work was undertaken the general feeling was that people with a disability were under-represented.
“This we are sure is still the case for those with a visible disability, but the research showed that the industry employs many people with non-visible disabilities. It became apparent that non-visible also in practise meant deliberately hidden. One of the successes of the Task Force has been to give people with non-visible disabilities a voice that showed the great potential that could be released if we were open about issues such as dyslexia or ADHD, and made small changes in working practises. How many organisations encourage people to come forward to discuss their disability?”And better communication is key to making sure automotive opens the door to more people who otherwise may not see it as a potential career path.
Tony McKillop, Claims Engineer at Warranty Solutions Group, and who was also a subject matter expert for the IMI’s Diversity Task Force Physical and Non-Visible Disabilities Working Group, says that open discussions would make it easier to overcome any possible challenges. He’s faced his own issues in the industry.
“A lot of the jobs in the industry require you to have a driving licence, but being partially sighted I don’t have one. That’s meant that sometimes I’ve struggled to get an interview as I don’t meet the initial criteria,” he said.
But the criteria may not always be relevant to the role; a service receptionist won’t necessarily need to be able to drive, or a warranty administrator. Businesses need to look at the job requirements and tailor them to the role, helping open it up as much as possible. And then it’s about communicating, especially when the term ‘reasonable adjustments’ enters the discussion.
“Everybody panics when they hear reasonable adjustments because they’re unsure what it means – and not everyone needs the same things – but all you need to do is have a sensible conversation. Employers just need to remain open-minded and employees need to communicate their needs,” says McKillop.
And the changes needed to help those with physical and non-visible disabilities can actually turn out to not be that big an undertaking. In McKillop’s case computer screen sizes are already sufficient and the software is in place to read emails out, “I have my screen negative, so black background and white writing, that’s literally it,” he said.
Of course for others the reasonable adjustments might require a little more investment but if it means getting the best talent for the position, nothing is insurmountable, meaning there’s no reason why physical and non-visible disabilities should stop anyone succeeding in automotive.
“There's always job opportunities. People don't look at the IT, marketing, aftersales, business development. The automotive sector is vast and I think that if employers and employees are a bit more open-minded, there will definitely be more opportunities for everyone across the board,” said McKillop.
Rob Bloomfield is Warranty Solutions Group’s Web Developer and it was the company’s approach to inclusivity that gave him the opportunity he craved as well as bringing incredible talent into the business.
“As someone with disabilities that are not immediately visible, WSG’s inclusive culture has made a profound impact on my life. Under the leadership of the Directors, I was welcomed into the heart of the company as a fully remote Web Developer and have since been able to play a significant part in its online growth.
“Before my journey with WSG began, my disabilities had limited my ability to pursue a traditional career. The inability to drive and walk made me feel isolated, and I was uncertain about my professional future. WSG changed the course of my life by giving me a purpose and confidence again, and a sense of belonging that is often elusive for people with disabilities.
“WSG’s commitment to inclusivity is not just lip service, it's a deeply ingrained part of their culture. When I joined, I was welcomed with open arms. I soon realised that my disabilities were not a barrier but instead allowed me to provide a unique perspective that the company valued. WSG has created an environment where everyone's abilities are celebrated and limitations are seen as opportunities for growth.
“Before joining WSG, I was trying to channel my creative energy by assisting small businesses with website development. However, this opportunity has enabled me to really bring my visions to life, which is both liberating and rewarding. The team's eagerness to collaborate with me, as if I was present in the office, is heartwarming.
“The inclusive atmosphere fosters a sense of unity and camaraderie that empowers individuals like me and creates an environment where everyone thrives. WSG has shown that by embracing diversity and providing equal opportunities, businesses can harness the full potential of their team members, enabling them to work together towards shared goals and accomplishments.
“Any business can and should be able to change someone’s life for the better by having an inclusive culture - regardless of that person’s disabilities.”
Visit the IMI’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Resources Hub for your one-stop shop for all things EDI-related within the automotive sector