Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher

On December the 3rd it is International Day of People with Disabilities.

Let us think about the more than 1 billion people in the world living with some form of disability. Of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning.

The human rights of persons with disabilities to full and effective participation and inclusion in society on an equal basis with others are laid out in the convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Which is close to universal ratification.

We all know or are people with disabilities. They are your parents, you children, your employees, your customers, and perhaps you too.

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"A person's worth is measured by the worth of what he values" - Marcus Aurelius

How we view and support everyone in society is a measure of who we are. People with disabilities in many countries around the world often live in extreme poverty. Those with dual disadvantages (lack of access to care and poverty) are among the most stigmatized and marginalized people on earth. They are often isolated from society. Excluded from their communities, from the education system, from healthcare and other vital services. Sometimes, they are sadly hidden away by their families. Many disabled women and children also face a heightened risk of domestic and sexual violence.

Disability is not an afterthought. It is a cross-cutting issue that can affect a person at any point during their life span. It’s also about intersectionality with gender, race, ethnicity, language, national or social origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other status. Which can result in multiple forms of exclusion, discrimination, and vulnerability.

Hidden Disabilities

This year’s focus on the International Day of People with Disabilities is pertinent as it is targeting our increased understanding and recognition of those with hidden disabilities. We need to start to consider what is hidden and why we sometimes don’t reveal our challenges to others.

We need to importantly consider at this time those with Covid-19. People with disabilities may be those losing the thing that we value the most – their lives. With widespread school closures, children with disabilities are lacking access to basic services like:

  • daily meals
  • assistive technology (or even the skills, access to basic technology or any internet access) to maintain education and employment
  • basic help at home
  • water, sanitation, and basic hygiene.
  • transportation, meaning that attending medical appointments or support is very difficult to do. Remote physiotherapy is not the same!

Some people with disabilities may be the carer in the family and have to look after children or elderly parents who may also be disabled.

One or more disabilities may also increase the risk of poverty, through lack of employment and education opportunities, lower wages, and the increased cost of living with disability.

People with disabilities face higher rates of multidimensional poverty compared with persons without disabilities. The employment rates of people with disabilities are substantially lower that the rates of persons without disabilities in developed and developing economies (WHO and World Banks 2011). Lower rates of economic and labour market participation of persons with disabilities impose higher welfare burden on governments. Highlighting the costs of exclusion, which are estimated to range from 3 to 7% of GDP.

Think big business and the contribution each person can make to society.

The numbers are huge and the contribution to society can be massive.

If you were writing your business plan tomorrow would you really ignore 15-20% of potential customers and say you won’t bother with them?

The annual online spending power of people with access needs is now £24.8 billion in the UK.

Who is disabled by the processes and practices we put in place?

We recognize that about 1 in 6 people are neurodivergent. However this is much higher in specifically marginalized groups such as those in prison, excluded from education, and the poor.

Worldwide 69 million individuals are also estimated to sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries each year. While 1 in 160 children are identified as on the autism spectrum.

They may all have significant challenges and barriers to everyday functioning that are not necessarily noticed or supported unless identified or disclosed.

Why do some people miss out on getting their needs identified and supported?

  • Stigma
  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Don’t know they can ask for help
  • Lack of money to pay for support
  • Don’t know where they can go
  • Lack of awareness by parents and professionals
  • Thought of as expensive to do something
  • Lack of systems and pathways in place and lack of service provision and professional know-how
  • Seen as something else – misdiagnosed

What can we do in the UK?

The Disability Confident Scheme in the UK helps companies of all sizes to consider their policies and operations, and measure the gaps that still exist. We need to have the confidence to implement disability-inclusive development programmes. To ensure hiring and retaining all disabled talent is at the forefront of our minds. We know this framework if relevant to policymakers, government officials, other development organisations, and persons with disabilities. We need to keep reminding all of us that this is out duty and effective participation in society is a human right.


The Equality Act 2010 sets out when someone is considered to be disabled and protected from discrimination.

In the UK you are considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect  – beyond 12 months – on your ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

An impairment doesn’t have to be diagnosed medial condition. If you don’t have a diagnosis, you will still need some professional evidence to show your impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to do day-to-day activities.

Person-first or identify-first

Using identify-first language, such as “disabled person” rather than “person with a disability”, is preferred by lots of people for a very specific reason – it marks an important academic understanding of disability known as the social model and is the basis of the disability civil rights movement.

Some Facts:

The ‘Purple Pound’ is the name given to the spending power of disabled households. That’s any household where at least one member is disabled. In the UK it’s worth an estimated £274bn annually! According to Purple, business misses out on £2bn every month if disabled people cannot access their shop or service.

There have been estimated of the impact of inaccessible websites and that businesses lose £17.1bn each year as disabled people click away from a website they can’t access.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that in 2018 the median pay for non-disabled workers was £12.11 an hour, against £10.63 for disabled.

According to Scope, in 2019 the average ‘Disability Price Tag’, or, the extra cost of living that disabled people have, was £583 a month – that’s on top of food and housing.

How can Do-IT help?

Do-IT has developed an EMBRACING NEURODIVERSITY E-LEARNING COURSE that any organisation can access. As well as more in-depth training and tools for HR, Diversity, and Inclusion leads and line managers.

We have also launched the Neurodiversity Aware kitemark with the ADHD FOUNDATION.  Organisations can show the kitemark if a percentage of their staff complete the awareness training.

We also have our Employers Profiler package. More details on this can be found HERE.

Contact INFO@DOITPROFILER.COM for more information for your organisation.

Amanda is also very excited as she is writing a book with the wonderful Theo Smith, out in 2021, all about Neurodiversity in the Workplace with much much more..

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