7 Ways to Ensure Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
7 Ways to ensure disability inclusion in the workplace 1
Despite articles highlighting the benefits that individuals with disabilities may provide to employers, too many businesses are hesitant to hire people with disabilities. They believe that hiring (some) people with disabilities is “the right thing to do,” but not part of a personnel strategy that will benefit the organization and justify the associated costs and risks. In fact, according to recent research by the National Organization on Disability, only 13% of corporations in the United States have met the Department of Labor’s aim of having 7% disability representation in their workforce.
Hiring somebody with impairments does not have to be more expensive than hiring someone without one.
How can a corporation modernize its thinking and tactics concerning this undervalued talent pool?
1. Recognize and alter processes that contribute to unconscious bias.
Are your hiring and recruiting practices discouraging disabled applicants or limiting their capacity to demonstrate their abilities?
Managers at Microsoft saw that persons with autism were not being employed despite having the necessary knowledge and aptitude. “We noticed that the difficulty was the interview process, so we did away with that process totally for candidates with autism,” Jenny Lay-Flurrie, the company’s chief accessibility officer, told us. Instead, Microsoft collaborated with a local autism support organization to recruit applicants for a particular assessment form.
The assessment program included a series of exercises that tested teamwork and technical skills and on-the-job training. “We are certain that we haven’t ignored a brilliant candidate just because a popular assessment approach doesn’t play to their skills,” Lay-Flurrie adds.
2. Dissuade people from using ableist language:
Most disability awareness efforts focus on which terminology should and should not be used to refer to disabled persons when it comes to language. In some ways, the solution is simple: adopt the vocabulary that each disabled person likes. The next, and most likely more significant, step is to reduce the use of seemingly harmless but corrosive labels and adjectives that we use without thinking every day.
Many people will not find terms such as dumb, crazy, skinny, deaf, fat, blind as a bat, lazy or clumsy offensive in every circumstance. They are, however, always nasty and offensive by nature, with particular resonance for disabled persons.
3. Assist all employees in understanding and contributing to solutions for people with disabilities.
A little more effort in this area will go a long way toward creating a workplace where everyone can contribute their best. Companies should consider requiring training for all employees, disabled or not, particularly those in management or supervisory positions. The main objectives of this training are to assist people to better understand and empathize with the obstacles that their coworkers may face and decrease the stigma associated with disability.
Within their first 30 days on the job, Boston Scientific’s diversity and inclusion team introduced new employees to nine employee resource groups (ERGs), including one focused on empowering people with disabilities, according to Camille Chang Gilmore, vice president of HR. “We highly encourage new members to become involved with those groups,” she said, “whether or not they require the specific resources being supplied.”
This kind of thinking also applies to the training and development of people. Even minor modifications to typical training regimens can have a significant impact.
4. Recognize and reinterpret actions and communication styles that a disability could cause.
Disabilities that are both apparent and invisible can have an impact on how we appear to others. Consider the following example:
- People who use wheelchairs or crutches due to mobility disabilities are frequently viewed as “too sluggish” and “in the way.”
- People with sensory or cognitive problems may speak in difficult ways to comprehend, which may sometimes be unpleasant to others.
- Disabilities frequently alter expected “body language” in off-putting ways, such as handshakes, eye contact, and social sitting and standing traditions.
Managers and coworkers should evaluate how a disabled employee’s impairment may be affecting their interactions with others before judging them as awkward, disrespectful, or “not fitting in.”
5. Engage with community groups to strengthen the hiring pipeline.
The very first step: finding candidates, is one of the problems that businesses face when trying to tap into the talent pool of people with disabilities. It’s a problem with the connection. People with impairments may be hesitant to apply for employment they don’t think they’ll receive. Thus their abilities and interests go unnoticed. However, the solution is simple. Companies can begin to develop a robust recruitment pipeline by collaborating with organizations that assist persons with disabilities.
T-Mobile began sponsoring the National Wheelchair Basketball Association four years ago. “The youth events offer us a presence among the under-18 demographic and their parents,” Bri Sambo, senior program manager of military and diversity sourcing, told us. We asked them about their experiences working at T-Mobile. They are encouraged to apply. Many of them have never considered the possibility of living alone.”
6. Ensure that all official and casual workplace activities are accessible.
Remember to include impaired personnel in any social gatherings. If you don’t pay attention, there are many different ways you could mistakenly exclude people. In general, avoid locations with stairs, inaccessible restrooms, long journeys to get there, or a lack of places to sit and relax. Athletic and outdoor events are popular, but to be accessible, they require highly particular changes. Consider dietary allergies and the fact that some staff may be unable to consume alcohol. Employee social gatherings should also be advertised in advance so that disabled workers can organize transportation and other resources they may require.
7. Form a mutually supportive community.
Training programs and the opportunity to network with other employees will aid in developing and succeeding people with disabilities. Mentoring and coaching programs are also lifesavers. Senior, disabled people should strongly consider becoming mentors or champions, both internally and internationally.
We’re confident that you’re employees want to bring their whole selves to the workplace, their minds, their hearts, and also their disabilities. They want to do this while feeling safe, without the fear of discrimination. Employees who care for people with disabilities will benefit from the topic’s increased prominence and the company’s increasingly compassionate attitude.
1Forbes, 4 Nov 2019, Andrew Pulrang, How to make workplaces more welcoming for employees with disabilities, Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2019/11/04/how-to-make-workplaces-more-welcoming-for-employees-with-disabilities/?sh=77d6ab1853d8>
HBR, 4 Jun 2019,Ted Kennedy, Jr., Chad Jerdee, and Laurie Henneborn, 4 Ways to Improve your company’s Disability-Inclusion practices,
Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://hbr.org/2019/06/4-ways-to-improve-your-companys-disability-inclusion-practices
For more about this topic, download our latest book "Empathy: The Essential Workplace Ingredient" for FREE: