In general, our society is designed to accommodate those without disabilities. This includes everything from building design to product usefulness. Consequently, more often than not, we are expected to walk up and down stairs, to be able to clearly see and hear any commands or announcements in order to function as part of society. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 61 million—or one in every four—adults currently live with some form of disability. This means that as business owners, we must be aware and accommodating to those with disabilities, especially when it comes to their employment.
Read on for more information on how to make your workplace more welcoming for employees with disabilities:
What is Disability Inclusion?
Before diving deeper into the topic of disabilities and ensuring that those with such physical and mental limitations are considered, it’s important to look at what disability inclusion means. This is basically referring to a concept that ensures that all individuals with disabilities are adequately compensated or have equal opportunities at work to learn and advance within their careers. This is part of the Americans With Disabilities Act or ADA.
What is the ADA?
Speaking of ADA, the Americans With Disabilities Act became law in 1990 and was created to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas from schools and transportation to jobs and public life and more. The purpose was to ensure that Americans with disabilities had the same rights and opportunities as those without disabilities. The Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law in 2008 and expanded what defined the word disability.
What is a Disability?
While many people assume disabilities are limited to only physical issues that can cause problems for a person, in reality, a disability is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as any condition of the body or mind that makes it difficult for a person with the said condition to do a specific activity or to interact with the world around them. This diverse people group includes a wide variety of impairments and challenges that requires an equally wide application of solutions or inclusive actions from employers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes disabilities into three main dimensions. First is a physical impairment, meaning a person’s body structure or function is altered, or their mental function is impaired. This can also include vision loss, hearing loss, or the loss of a limb. Activity limitation is the second variety of disabilities. This can include problems with walking, problem-solving, hearing, seeing, or more.
Finally, the last aspect of a disability can include participation restrictions that hinder a person’s ability to perform daily activities like engaging in social interactions, working, or performing tasks.
How to Make Your Workplace More Welcoming for Employees With Disabilities
Now that we have considered the many aspects of disabilities, indicating that it is more than a physical issue and can be invisible to the eye from the outside, such as when the disability is primarily mental, it’s important to understand how to ensure that your workplace is welcoming to all your employees, even if they have some form of disability.
Read on for some specific ways to create a more welcoming environment:
1. Make Your Recruitment Process Accessible
The first step of creating disability inclusion in your workplace begins with the recruitment process. You must ensure that your website is accessible to all those who might seek employment with your brand, no matter their physical or mental limitations. This means your website should feature elements for those who are unable to hear, unable to see, and more.
You also need to make sure to include individuals with disabilities in internships and write disability employment into your recruitment policy.
Also, give your job postings a once over and ensure that the language in said postings is inclusive and welcoming to all. Make sure that no wording ever seems demeaning to employees or potential employees.
2. Create a Welcoming Environment
The next step you need to take to create a workplace that welcomes people of all abilities is to educate others. As human beings, we often tend to fear what we don’t understand. Therefore, education on various disabilities is a must for all employees, so all employees fit within a company seamlessly. Make sure you also implement anti-discrimination and disability inclusion training within your company as well as conduct a workplace safety audit to ensure safety for all individuals.
You might have to make some changes to your office to ensure they are physically more accessible to those with disabilities as well. Above all, emphasize that respect is required for and from all employees, no matter their abilities. This means employees no matter their disabilities including mental health issues, should feel safe in expressing their needs and know they will remain respected. No one should ever be made to feel less than others because they have a disability.
3. Provide Accommodations
As part of meeting the ADA guidelines, you as a business are required to provide reasonable accommodations for any job candidate or any employee with a disability. This can include offering specific equipment that will make a job safer or easier for an employee, allowing them to bring along a service animal and accommodating the animal’s presence, providing accessible parking, and even allowing for a more flexible work schedule when physical limitations interfere with an employee’s ability to do their job.
Even when the disability is mental, you as an employer should provide the necessary accommodations for your employees to complete their job successfully.
4. Ask For Feedback
If you have employees who are disabled, one of the best ways to ensure that you are more welcoming is by asking for their feedback. Simply ask them what could be done to make their job easier or safer and what they feel the company is lacking in terms of accommodations.
Then, within reason, make the suggested changes to the building, equipment, or even policies to ensure that your disabled employees know they are a valued and welcome part of the team. If your employees are hesitant to offer feedback or feel as if they are complaining or asking for too much, you can always conduct an anonymous survey, so every employee feels free to voice their concerns.
Create an Inclusive Environment
There are a number of ways to make your workplace more friendly to employees who are physically or mentally challenged. Creating an inclusive environment can be achieved by making simple changes, like the points outlined above.
Above all, simply make sure that you are aware that not every employee is able to work in the same manner with the same equipment and endure the same pressures. Being aware that everyone is different yet equally valuable is a great step in the right direction.