July is Disability Pride month and Burges Salmon is marking the occasion with its first Disability Pride week. Planned and hosted by BEnabled (the firm’s people-led network supporting those living with disabilities, long-term health conditions and neurodivergence) the aim of the week is to highlight disabilities and celebrate the lives of people who live with them.

Our theme for this year is Encourage & Empower Confidence and Conversation. We want to acknowledge the difficulties faced by those of us living with disabilities and empower conversations to enable positive change.

A core part of this conversation, and a key to enabling positive change, is to understand the barriers that some of us face, both in the workplace and in society at large. In particular, to understand the difference between equity and equality.

Equity and Equality – what’s the difference?

Put in the simplest way, “equity” means to treat everyone fairly, while “equality” is to treat everyone the same.

In some circumstances this distinction makes very little difference. If you are sharing a pizza between six people, dividing it into six parts of exactly the same size might be fair: it is both equal and equitable. However, if two of the people have just finished an enormous meal, two ate a few hours ago, and two have not eaten since yesterday, sharing the pizza equally starts to feel less equitable. The first two people may not need or want any pizza at all, the second two might want a small slice, and the last two are likely to both need and want a bigger portion. If so, dividing the pizza unequally is the more equitable solution.

The following graphic, which many will have seen before, illustrates the principle very clearly, using an image of three people watching (or trying to watch!) a sports match.

So what does this mean in practice?

In the context of disability in the workplace, the practical implications are huge. If we treat all our people equally – providing exactly the same equipment and requiring everyone to follow exactly the same processes and procedures – some of us come up against insurmountable barriers to entry to the workplace, and to progression within it. However, if we treat our people equitably – giving each of us access to equipment, technology or facilities appropriate to our circumstances, or adjusting our processes and procedures to account for our needs – we are empowered to not just succeed in the workplace, but to thrive and achieve our full potential.

To understand the distinction between equity and equality means to begin to understand some of the systemic barriers some of us face. With better understanding we can become more confident in having the meaningful conversations that drive positive change.

What can you do today to Encourage & Empower Confidence and Conversation?