December 1 2023

Breaking Ground: Demystifying Disability in the Rail and Construction Industries

In the fast-paced world of rail and construction, the misconception that individuals with disabilities are unable to thrive in these industries persists. This myth, however, crumbles in the face of reality, especially when considering companies like McGinley, challenge these preconceived notions. As a Disability Confident employer, with over 6% of its workforce identifying as having a disability. McGinley not only acknowledges but actively promotes inclusivity within its workforce.

Through McGinley’s commitment to inclusivity, this blog aims to debunk the misconceptions that have long overshadowed the potential of individuals with disabilities in the construction sector. From the use of cutting-edge technology to the power of inclusive workplace practices, we will explore how the industry is not only adapting but thriving with a more diverse and capable workforce.

Including inspiring stories of those who have challenged stereotypes and have thrived in these industries, showcasing the true value of diversity in the workplace.

Here are a few myths debunked!

Myth #1: Individuals with disabilities can't work in high-risk environments - while it's true that rail and construction sites can be safety-critical, individuals with disabilities know their limitations and can work around them. With proper training and safety equipment, individuals with disabilities are just as capable as any other worker.

Myth #2: Individuals with disabilities are a liability to the company - This is simply not true. In fact, individuals with disabilities have a lower rate of workplace injuries than their counterparts.

Myth #3: It's too expensive to accommodate - Yes, there may be some costs associated with making an office or site accessible to individuals with disabilities. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs. These workers bring unique perspectives and problem-solving skills, which can benefit the entire team.

Myth #4: Individuals with disabilities can't handle heavy equipment - This stereotype couldn't be further from the truth. Individuals with disabilities are excellent problem solvers and can find creative ways to operate heavy machinery and equipment.

How we are demystifying these:

All Disabilities are different:

Disabilities vary widely, and many people with disabilities have unique skills and abilities that can be valuable in the rail and construction industry. Some disabilities may not impact a person's ability to perform specific construction-related tasks.

Diverse roles in Rail and Construction:

No two people or disabilities are the same so we look at the individual and what they can do and what strengths they have. Many of the site-based roles in Rail and Construction require a medical with a pass. If a disability is declared the medical level will reflect that and when possible, we can apply a risk assessment with controls and mitigation. This may require some reasonable adjustment and monitoring which will ensure all parties are aware and the activity is not compromised. Any risk assessments are logged with the sector access body such as Sentinel and only when all parties agree will we proceed.

The rail and construction industry encompasses a wide range of roles beyond physical labour, including project management, design, engineering, estimating, and more. People with disabilities can find fulfilling careers in these areas where physical demands are less intensive.

Adaptability and adjustments:

Modern workplaces, including construction sites, are becoming more aware of the importance of inclusivity. Many adjustments, such as accessible facilities, tools, and equipment, can be implemented to support individuals with disabilities.

Technology and tools:

Advancements in technology have led to the development of specialised tools and equipment that can assist individuals with disabilities in performing construction tasks. For example custom-designed tools can enhance mobility and capabilities.

Changing attitudes:

Attitudes towards disability in the workplace are evolving. Employers are recognising the benefits of diversity, including individuals with disabilities, and are actively working to create more inclusive work environments.

Ensuring inclusivity

In the pursuit of an inclusive industry, it is crucial that health and safety should never be wielded as a tool for discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Every worker, regardless of their abilities, has the fundamental right to a safe and secure work environment. Health and safety measures should be tailored to accommodate diverse needs, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can engage in their tasks without compromising their well-being. By adopting inclusive health and safety practices, the construction industry not only upholds ethical standards but also maximises the potential of all workers.

How many people with disabilities work in construction?

Of the 2.4 million people working in the country’s construction industry (CITB, 2023) the percentage of construction sector workers who identify as having a disability is a mere 9.3%, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS, 2023). This compares with 24% of the total UK population who have a disability, as defined by the 2010 Equality Act (House of Commons 2023). 

The underrepresentation of people with disability in the rail and construction industry suggests that there’s room for improvement. At a time when there is such a skills shortage, the industry is missing out on a wealth of talent because it fails to recognise the contribution that people with disabilities can bring to the environment.

Success Stories:

There are numerous success stories of individuals with disabilities thriving in the rail and construction industry. These stories help to debunk the myth that disability is a barrier to a successful and fulfilling career in construction.

Physical disabilities limit career options

Reality: Physical disabilities do not define a person's capabilities. Many successful professionals with physical disabilities have proven that determination, adaptability, and innovation can overcome physical limitations. In the rail and construction industry, advancements in technology and a growing emphasis on inclusivity have opened doors for individuals with various physical abilities.

Limited opportunities for individuals with neurodiverse disabilities

Reality: Neurodiverse disabilities should not be perceived as a barrier to a successful career. Many individuals who are neurodiverse possess unique skills and talents that can contribute significantly to the rail and construction industry. Inclusive hiring practices, workplace adjustments, and specialised training programs can create an environment where everyone can thrive.

Case Study: Craig Smith, a Level 2 Rail Engineering Apprentice based in Birmingham with ADHD, who excels in hands-on, creative and independent tasks. With a supportive team and a commitment to workplace inclusivity, Craig has become an integral part of various successful projects in the region. To read Craig's full story click here

How to Integrate disabled workers into the Rail and Construction industries.

At McGinley, we understand the importance of integrating disabled workers into our workforce, harnessing their unique skills, and creating an environment where everyone can thrive.

Navigating this integration successfully involves a thoughtful approach, from enhancing accessibility to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. Here is our expert advice and top tips for employers looking to seamlessly integrate disabled workers into the rail & construction industry. Whether you're a seasoned industry professional or a business owner seeking to enhance your workforce, these insights aim to empower you to create a more inclusive and productive workplace.

Promoting change from recruitment: The journey towards a more inclusive industry starts at the recruitment phase and extends far beyond. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to proactively target and engage individuals with disabilities. Embracing diversity from the onset involves reevaluating recruitment strategies, ensuring that they actively seek out and welcome candidates with diverse abilities. Companies should establish clear targets for the inclusion of disabled workers, fostering an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute their unique skills.

Accessibility is key: Employers must improve accessibility for workers with disabilities by providing appropriate facilities and equipment to ensure that they can carry out their work efficiently.

Training & development: Companies should invest time and resources into providing training and development programs for disabled workers to improve their skills and knowledge in the industry.

Flexible work schedules and job roles: Employers should be open to designing job roles that cater to disabled workers' capabilities and limitations. They should also adopt flexible work schedules to allow for rest periods, time off and other adjustments.

Promoting diversity and inclusion: Employers should recognise the value of diversity and inclusion and promote it as an essential aspect of the workplace. This will encourage a culture of respect for all workers and increase productivity in the industry.

It's crucial to challenge stereotypes and promote inclusivity in all industries, including rail and construction. People with disabilities have a wide range of abilities and should not be overlooked for opportunities based on preconceived notions. Employers who embrace diversity benefit from a broader talent pool and a more inclusive work culture.

Entering the rail and construction industry with a disability is not only possible but increasingly common. By debunking these myths, we hope to inspire individuals with disabilities to pursue their passions in these dynamic fields. Through continued advocacy, inclusive policies, and shared success stories, the rail and construction industry can become a beacon of diversity, proving that talent knows no physical or cognitive boundaries.

Curious about how you can thrive in our industry, regardless of your abilities? Wondering about the exciting opportunities waiting for you in rail and construction?

Join our Information, Advice, and Guidance session on Thursday 14th December, where we'll provide insights into how everyone, regardless of ability, can contribute to and excel in the rail and construction industries.

📌Save the date: December 14th

🕔 Time: 13.00 – 14.00

💻 Sign Up:


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(House of Commons 2023)

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