You wake every morning to an alarm clock signaling it’s time to get up and (unless you’ve joined the “Great Resignation”) get to work. Then hitting the snooze button, you lay there thinking about the day ahead and wonder how often you’ll need to ask for help.
Will your co-workers be friendly and willing to help, or will they perceive you as incompetent?
People who are disabled deal with other people’s biases and preconceptions about disability every day. They know people first see the disability, followed by assumptions regarding their capability.
It’s not intimidating for a non-disabled person to get around the office since it was designed with them in mind. However, for disabled people, simple movement around the office becomes yet another challenge.
Creating an inclusive and welcoming office environment isn’t difficult, and if you utilize grants, renovations can be much less expensive than most people think.
Come On In - Making Disabled Employees Feel Welcomed in the Workplace
Companies must provide an environment where employees can do their best work. We all face challenges in life, but most of us would rather not dwell on them. Instead, we focus on what we are good at and if given the right opportunities, we excel.
But what happens when a disabled employee is given a task and, for whatever reason, cannot complete it? Disabled employees say one of the most significant barriers to completing their work is that they are restricted to working within the system available to them rather than one made accessible for them.
Making the workplace more accessible isn’t as difficult or expensive as companies think either. Several state and federal programs pay companies to develop training programs to teach disabled employees the necessary skills to do their job and advanced training that will help them promote to higher positions.
You can also apply for government funding to help you make your workplace more accessible. These minor changes create a “you are welcome here” atmosphere, letting all employees know they are valued.
When deciding on your accessibility design, consider consulting a specialist who can offer helpful ideas and minimize costs.
7 Seemingly helpful ACts That Really Don't Help...
sending a visually impaired person a handwritten note or anything handwritten. instead, send an email and with an attachment, their software will read.
playing with, petting or feeding a guide dog. guide dogs or any service dogs, as they are working.
touching or moving someone's wheelchair.
having no communication plan for the hearing impaired. in meetings, there should be visuals on screen or in print and ask how they would like things communicated.
pulling a visually impaired person and leading them without asking.
speaking extremely loud to a hearing impaired or deaf individual. speak in a normal tone unless told otherwise.
help without asking.
Your website should follow accessibility guidelines along with your marketing and advertising. Social media should include pictures of disabled people and form an employee resource group to address concerns and offer suggestions.
Create a More Accessible Space
- Widen bathroom stalls and doorways in bathrooms
- Install automatic door openers at all entrances of the building and the interior entrances
- Add ramps if you have stairs
- Reserve parking for disabled individuals
- Widen aisles and rows between desks and cubicles
You should also include assistive technology in your design, and anywhere it would be helpful for a person with visual and hearing impairments.
Assistive Technologies Include:
- Braille keyboards, displays, menus
- Speech recognition/voice devices and software
- Color-coded keyboards
- Sign language apps
- Assistive listening devices
- Screen reader software
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes; thus, some employees may require specialized equipment to do their best work.
Specialized Office Equipment Might Include:
- Adjustable desks
- Accessible buttons for elevators, intercoms, dispensers, etc.
- Ergonomic chairs, computer, mouse
If you rent, some landlords will install accessible features for a free or low cost.
Even with all the accessibility options in place, it takes intention to do it effectively. Every organization should provide staff training sessions on disability etiquette to achieve success and create a culture where all employees are on common ground.
State the Obvious, Ask the Question-Build an Inclusive and Welcoming Company Culture
For many people with disabilities, the main disadvantage they experience does not stem directly from their disability, but from their unwelcome reception in the world.
Most people have never bothered to learn how to appropriately communicate with individuals with disabilities and will exhibit (unintentional) bias in day-to-day conversation.
For example, Lois Keith (who became disabled at age 35 after being hit by a car), author of several books, including What Happened to You, describes the frustration disabled people face when living and working in a non-disabled world.
She says it’s mentally draining and that “doing disability all day long can be exhausting. I don’t mean having an impairment, in my case, being unable to walk. Like most disabled people, I can deal with this. It’s other people’s preconceived notions, along with living in a world that is designed to exclude me, that’s difficult, but even more tiring is and dealing with other people’s preconceptions and misconceptions about me.”
Make sure your company culture reflects the fact that you are an inclusive culture beginning at the beginning – the job posting and interviewing - to the end -retirement.
Your culture should grow, evolve and adapt over time as you diversify your talent pool. Sharing that timeline with training and events will increase the comfort level of interactions between employees.
5 specific actions you can take to send the message of inclusiveness
make it fun–organize social events everyone can participate in
create opportunity –help employees grow resource groups
provide support–train non-disabled employees and encourage completeness
offer disability insurance-anyone can suddenly become disabled at any time
provide mentorship- match your employee to the right job and the right mentor so they can succeed and take pride in their work
Peer relationships and social challenges exist for all of us but are more prevalent in disabled employees. Remember that people with disabilities have different ways of coping with their disabilities.
Follow their lead, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand or know the proper terminology. Training staff on how to express concern and offer assistance is also important, as is learning a bit about the culture and norms of the disabled community.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
Barron, B. (2019, December 3). How to Make Your Workplace More Accessible & Inclusive for the Disabled. Retrieved from envatotuts: https://business.tutsplus.com/articles/make-workplace-accessible-inclusive-for-disabled--cms-34228
Author, C. (n.d.). How To Include People with Disabilities. Retrieved from Respectability.org: https://www.respectability.org/inclusive-philanthropy/how-to-include-people-with-disabilities/
BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT FOR ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES (2018, December 15). Retrieved from Rise: https://riseservicesinc.org/news/barriers-to-employment-for-adults-with-disabilities/
Luc, K. (2020). Disability in the workplace: 6 ways to break down barriers. Retrieved from Culture Amp: https://www.cultureamp.com/blog/disability-in-the-workplace
Wolstenholm, J. (2021, July 14). The truth about employees with disabilities in the workplace. Retrieved from breeze: https://www.meetbreeze.com/blog/disabilities-in-the-workplace/