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Disability and construction: Why we can do more

“When you’re autistic, you come across as being different,” says Interserve’s senior consultant Arran Linton-Smith.

“Because of this, you’re often isolated, ostracised and feel outside the main group. You don’t get as many opportunities to thrive and grow.”

Mr Smith was discussing his autism with my colleague Lucy Alderson in a piece to be published next week.

In the construction sector, 199,802 people out of 2,139,068 workers are disabled, or 9.3 per cent of the workforce, according to figures from the Labour Force Survey (April to June 2017).

The definition of disability is quite a broad one. As well as autism, these statistics will cover issues like visual and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and the more obvious physical disabilities that usually spring to mind when we think about this topic.

Disabled people have a huge amount to offer the construction sector, which is why we are highlighting their contribution all next week in Construction News, including a special print edition of the magazine.

As well as Lucy’s interviews with Arran and other people with disabilities working for contractors up and down the country, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the common misconceptions that abound when architects and contractors try to ensure their buildings are as inclusive and accessible as possible.

We’ll also hear from some big industry clients on what they need from their buildings and infrastructure when it comes to accessibility, and how contractors can better help support them.

Creating inclusive employment environments, and ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are as accessible as possible, helps ensure that people with disabilities are able to go about their lives as hassle-free as possible, instead of worrying about things as seemingly trivial like how they will even enter a building.

And, of course, on the employment front, it’s well-documented that construction needs all the skilled workers it can get.

Or as Mr Linton-Smith puts it: “Construction really needs to go out and encourage disabled people into the industry. There’s a real image problem.

“We’re not doing enough to sell ourselves to disabled people and show what opportunities are on offer.”

Construction News’ special coverage of disability and access in the built environment will be published next week. Subscribe here for full access to CN.

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