While there are millions of persons with disabilities across the globe, the unemployment rate is surprisingly high, often around 80% or higher. The main reason for this is the fact that employers have pessimistic views regarding disabled employees’ work-related responsibilities, considering them to have high absenteeism, low productivity, and more.
However, the truth is that a person’s disability doesn’t impact their ability to perform their job well. Inclusive workplaces benefit the company and the employees alike, but it’s still important to recognize how language, physical adjustments, and education can allow employees to thrive. With that in mind, here are some of the most effective strategies you can use for supporting your disabled employees:
Make workplace adjustments
Adjustments allow individuals to do their job productively and safely in a more inclusive work environment. Not only are workplace adjustments a legal obligation you must adhere to, but they also promote diversity in the workplace and help all your employees to truly thrive. The workplace adjustments you will have to make will likely depend on the unique circumstances and the specific help and support individuals may need.
Most commonly, they include implementing fair and equitable recruitment processes like standardized interviews, modifying or buying equipment such as height-adjustable workstations, amplified phones, and speech recognition software, as well as redistributing smaller job roles that disabled employees find difficult to perform.
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Provide more flexible work
Disability-inclusive leadership starts with flexibility. This doesn’t just mean offering more flexible work schedules such as the freedom to change starting and quitting times, but also other work arrangements like the ability to work remotely, flexible break times, more personal time off, additional sick leave, well-being leave, etc.
This is a great way to support disabled employees, giving them the freedom to choose the arrangements that work best for their unique job requirements, and providing more free time for necessary appointments and other lifestyle responsibilities. In turn, flexibility will benefit the company as well, empowering workers to perform better and encouraging them to stay loyal to your business.
Offer support to NDIS participants
If your employees are NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) participants, they might already have certain employment goals in their plans or they might need additional support in employment to stay focused, communicate more efficiently, and achieve their goals. As an employer, you can provide assistance throughout this process.
For instance, you can offer NDIS respite care services to your employees. Providing short-term planned, temporary, and emergency care to NDIS participants in unique and calm settings, premium respite facilities will prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of your employees. By getting that opportunity to relax and recharge, employees will likely return to work happier, more satisfied, and more engaged.
Create training for managers
For managers who haven’t worked with disabled employees before, additional training may be needed. Some managers could unintentionally act in an insensitive or discriminatory manner around disabled employees, while others might not know how to act at all. Teaching your supervisors and managers about disability etiquettes can be of great help in this instance, ensuring a more respectful and collaborative workplace.
Some of the basic etiquettes include using first-person language, making eye contact, asking before offering help, allowing disabled employees to do what they can, respecting the employee’s privacy, and treating them equally, just as they would any other worker.
Prioritize disability awareness
Disability awareness training is another crucial aspect of inclusive work environments, and it’s necessary for all employees. This training aims to educate non-disabled workers on what it means to be disabled, how to cope with a disability, how disabilities affect the people around them, and how to work with disabled colleagues best.
Before you employ disabled persons, this type of training will help to ensure a more inclusive workplace where everyone accepts differences and works together effectively. After onboarding disabled employees, it will also ensure they are accepted, supported, and encouraged to succeed within the company.
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Use more inclusive language
Although often overlooked, language is one of the most important factors in building a fair, equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace. It’s recommended to evaluate the language that is currently used in documentation, and see how it can be updated to be more unbiased. Then, watch how language is used in verbal and written dialogs.
Companies will often find that certain expressions are commonly misused, such as exclusive or unnecessarily gendered terms, phrases with racist origins, and phrases against disabled individuals. Pay attention to these words, aim to educate your employees on more inclusive language, and strive for positive change. If you’re not certain about specific words or phrases, remember it’s always best to simply ask.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a great workplace experience to all employees, including those with disabilities. Follow the effective strategies listed above in order to create a more inclusive work environment that supports disabled employees and allows them to thrive.
Written by Lana Hawkins