Thoughts on how to make your organisation inclusive for disabled people

People often think of disability in very narrow terms – sometimes thinking that if they have wheelchair access to premises then they have fulfilled their moral and legal duties to include disabled people. However, most disabled people are not wheelchair users and many disabilities are not visible. While it is not possible to be 100% inclusive for everyone’s needs in advance,  a bit of forethought and a bit of knowledge can help any organisation whether a statutory service, small business, employer, or social club to be more inclusive. In this blog post I’ll attempt to cover how you can make your organisation or group more inclusive. Some of the suggestions here may require funding or resourcing you don’t have but others are more a question of awareness and being conscious of issues you may not have thought about. What follows is not an exhaustive list. Remember every individual is different and may have needs you have not anticipated but some awareness of common issues people have can make a massive difference in helping people participate in whatever your group or organisation is involved with or to use your service. Here are some pointers for different impairments/disabilities

Visual impairment

  • Contasting colours around doors or on stairs can assist people with low vision.
  • Braille signs can be important for braille readers and should be a height where they are easy for hands rather than eye level. Things like lift buttons or door buttons should ideally have braille indicating which button is which.
  • Sighted guide training could be useful for some key staff. Even just ensuring that people have access to information on it can be helpful and there is a useful video on this page.

  • Awareness of potential trip hazards or obstacles which sighted people may easily avoid but those with low vision may have difficulty with.
  • I’ll mention alternative formats further down but people with low vision or who are blind may have specific requirements.

Hearing Impairment

  • It’s good to have hearing loops available and turned on in any reception area.
  • Portable hearing loops are useful as they can be using in any meeting room when required.
  • Clear information about asking for these to be turned on should be available if they are not on as a matter of course. It’s good to have named staff responsible for maintaining them and ensuring they are charged if necessary and are on if they are inbuilt. It’s easy to forget this if you are not regularly seeing people who require hearing loops.
  • For larger events having a sign language interpreter if possible, especially if it is being filmed for people who can view later. If it’s not being filmed then this option would probably depend on the kind of event.
  • Where BSL interpreters are hard to find there can be options such as live captioning which can be helpful for deaf attendees and either be streamed to a large screen or to a tablet device or phone.
  • Staff learning some BSL can be helpful and there are cheap/free options available for learning some basics:
  • Staff should make sure they speak facing the person and without anything obscuring their mouth as many hearing impaired people lip read at least to some extent. Moustaches and beards may be difficult especially if mouth shapes are obscured.


Deafblind people have a range of methods of communication. If you are working with a deafblind client you may find that they have a support person there to help with communication. Deafblind UK have some good information summarising communication methods that deafblind people use:

They have an information line and they also deliver training and webinars.

Sense Scotland is another organisation who have an information line and they have range of services for sensory impaired people. You can find out more about it on their website:

Physical impairments affecting mobility and dexterity

  • Ensure buildings have wheelchair access where possible.
  • Provide wheelchair accessible toilets and ensure there is space to move and turn wheelchairs in other areas.
  • If premises are not fully wheelchair accessible ensure staff know about wheelchair access so they can properly advise.
  • Locks and door handles and taps should be straightforward to use with one hand without much twisting. Lever taps or locks can be good.
  • Provide seats wherever people may have to wait as many people including those with invisible disabilities will need them.
  • Remember that people who look well and fit may not be and be prepared to respond to requests for assistance.


  • Clear signposting is helpful for all but especially people with dementia.
  • Consistency of contact with a person and having a named person who can help.
  • Further tips and information can be found in these booklets by Alzheimers Scotland:

Autistic Spectrum conditions

People on the Autistic Spectrum vary as much as people who are not. It is a diagnosis that covers a range of difficulties or issues that not every autistic person has. However addressing some issues that may be common for autistic people can be good inclusive practice for many other groups of people.

  • Avoid overly metaphoric language.
  • Be aware that not all body language is the same, for example someone who doesn’t make eye contact may be paying attention but just have difficulty with eye contact.
  • A named contact can be helpful for someone especially if they will have repeated visits to a service or group since that can significantly reduce anxiety.
  • Do check with the person what they need and whether they understand any important communications.
  • Clear communication about changes to timing of appointment etc can help reduce anxiety as unexpected changes to plans can be more difficult for some autistic people.
  • Noisy environments or background radios/tvs etc can be stressful for autistic people who can experience sensory overwhelm.
  • If someone does become overwhelmed or distressed then having a quiet space where they can calm down can be helpful.
  • Be aware that it may take time for an autistic person to process information. For example, I was once asked for interview questions in advance by an autistic job candidate and we considered this an appropriate reasonable adjustment for them.
  • Staff training on autism awareness can be helpful.
  • Giving information in more than one form can be helpful for some, for example, following up written information with discussion checking the person’s comprehension.
  • Do try to comply with the person’s favoured method of communication. Some people may prefer email as they can go back to it. Some may struggle with telephone and need to see the person’s body language to aid comprehension. Each individual is different.
  • Look for feedback from the person to ensure you are meeting their needs.

Useful information on including autistic people can be found here on the National Autism Society webpage:

People with ADHD, anxiety, Tourettes, learning difficulties/disabilities, mental health issues or from other cultures and speaking other languages are among the many other people who could also benefit from all of the above.

Learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia or dyspraxia

  • Use clear and accessible fonts on any information (see below on accessible information).
  • Be aware that people with any learning difficulty, including dyslexia are not only affected when reading print but may need some time to precess information.
  • Be prepared to give clarification or time to digest information or respond.
  • Many of the tips above may also apply.

Brain injury, mental illness or mental health issues.

  • Try not to be reactive to heightened emotional states and create as calm an environment as possible.
  • Communicate about anything that might be unpredictable such as delays in appointments.
  • Give time to process information.
  • Awareness of mental health resources which people can use. Some examples include:

  • Mental health first aid training is an excellent way to prepare staff in all kinds of roles to be able to understand when people are in crisis.

Accessible information

  • Check with any clients if they require alternative formats such as larger fonts or audio information.
  • Learn to use key features of Microsoft office when emailing or producing digital information and know which are essential for people using screen readers or text to speech. For example using the digital tools to create heading styles in a Word document does not just impact appearance but puts a structure within the document which helps blind people navigate the document.
  • Ensure you use accessible fonts and colour schemes. For example high contrast is good for people with visual impairments but very high contrast may be difficult for someone with dyslexia.
  • Staff should access training and information on these.
  • Colour should not be integral to meaning of any diagrams or charts as we are not all able to differentiate colours the same.

We have an online training course covering all areas of accessible information:

We now have a full time member of staff who is responsible for this training resource and who also can offer live training either remotely or in person on a number or areas or can develop new bespoke courses.

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