Editor’s Note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.
Like many people, I’m currently relishing escaping to Downton Abbey for an hour each Sunday night. For those who haven’t succumbed to this show’s lure, it follows the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants on an English country estate during the early 20th century – a time of dramatic social change.
I’m well aware that on one level, the show is a soap opera in (very) fancy clothing. Downton’s “upstairs” residents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time dressing for and eating dinner, but that’s easy to accept because the costumes and conversations are such a treat.
Visual feast aside, though, the show has some serious subthemes. Most of these relate to changing social mores and are fairly transparent. But others are more nuanced, and one I’ve observed with interest over the years is the show’s depiction of disability-inclusive workplace practices.
As head of the estate and thus employer of many servants, the family patriarch, Lord Grantham, has on several occasions acted wisely when it comes to supporting employees with disabilities. While his character typically longs for the past, on this issue he’s very forward thinking − and I believe today’s employers can learn from his actions.