Disabilities Inclusion in Workplaces
When employers put in the effort to create a diverse and inclusive environment, the investment pays off. Increased employee engagement, productivity, and creativity are just a few of the benefits that come from a diverse workforce. To most employers, differences in employee nationality, race, and gender are the most familiar indicators of diversity. However, diversity is much broader and also includes people with disabilities.
Employers can attract employees with disabilities through creating a disabled-friendly workplace. This means that they need to provide the roles and support systems to help disabled people perform well in the workplace. One obvious consideration for those with physical disabilities is physical accessibility, but let’s consider what else can be done to create a workplace that is equitable for those with disabilities:
It’s important that all employees are aware of the organization’s commitment to inclusivity. Being disabled-friendly is a key part of that inclusivity and employees need to be aware of accommodations or changes in the workplace that may occur. Awareness training can help employees understand the benefits of employing disabled people and how to best interact with them. Training can also help employees recognize and overcome any unconscious biases that they may have towards disabled individuals.
2. Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can be extremely important for disabled employees and can allow them to be more independent and successful at work. A disabled employee may be uncomfortable asking their employer for aids like assistive technology. Organizations should be aware of this and make sure to extend the offer of assistive technology or other tools that can help disabled employees perform their jobs. Some common examples of technology aids include specialized keyboards, Braille displays, sign language apps, and customizable Web interfaces. The technology is only helpful if it gets used, so employers should make sure to provide employees with training as a part of their on boarding process.
3. Expert Support
Many companies will not have disability experts in-house and may need to consult with outside experts to provide advice and training. Often there are government organizations or non-profits that have outreach staff who can provide workplace training. Take advantage of such experts as they can provide new ideas and perspectives on disabilities in the workplace.
To be engaged and productive at work, employees with physical disabilities need to be able to easily access workspaces and get around to interact with colleagues. Dedicated parking stalls, accessible doorways, hallways, and ramps, and specialized buttons or screens are some basic ways to make your workplace disabled-friendly. Be proactive and ask disabled employees if there are tools that can help facilitate their ability to perform their job.
Making the workplace disabled-friendly does not mean that disabled people should receive preferential treatment. The objective is to make the workplace and work opportunities equitable. It’s important that managers understand the need to provide disabled employees with honest performance feedback. Being overly lenient or reluctant to provide criticism will affect the ability of disabled employees to improve their performance and feel responsible for their work. Training should be provided to managers to help them understand how to communicate with and effectively manage disabled employees.
Diversity and inclusiveness are critical parts of a healthy workplace. While employees with disabilities may require certain accommodations to perform their jobs, they can make exceptional contributions. To be inclusive organizations need to take steps to ensure their physical spaces, resources, and people are all disabled-friendly.
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