9 easy methods your office could be extra inclusive of individuals with disabilities

Disability rights advocates want the drive to recruit and retain Americans with disabilities well beyond this month.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the US Department of Labor is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October with this year’s theme “America’s Workforce: Empowering All”. The month “celebrates the contributions of disabled workers throughout American history and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all Americans have access to services and supports so they can work,” said a press release.

Approximately one in four adults in the United States (61 million people) live with a disability. This comes from a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August that considered disabilities related to mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living and self-sufficiency ;; Meanwhile, disability can also be associated with aging, illness, and injury. The labor force participation rate of people with disabilities is 21.4% compared with 68.2% of people without disabilities.

“Since we are the largest minority in the country and the world, there is no reason not to know who we are and to ignore us,” said Vilissa Thompson, a Winnsboro, SC-based social worker and disability rights advisor Osteogenesis imperfecta, Moneyish said. “Employers have to do better to hire and keep us.”

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This is exactly what you do, according to Thompson and others:

Send a strong message from above. An inclusive culture begins with leaders making a commitment to employing people with disabilities, Jennifer Sheehy, assistant assistant secretary at ODEP, told Moneyish. “When a leader is open to their disability,” she added, “they send the message across the structure of the company that people with disabilities are valued and that the company supports those who experience trauma or disability throughout their careers are successful. “

Jennifer Sheehy (US Department of Labor)

Check your own assumptions. “It’s important to remember that people with disabilities are not a homogeneous community,” said Sheehy, who sustained a spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair more than two decades ago. She said people with disabilities not only cover every race, nationality and ethnicity, but could also be blind or hard of hearing. have chronic conditions such as lupus or multiple sclerosis; have intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder; or have psychiatric disabilities such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. (Remember that many obstructions are invisible to observers.)

Rachael Langston, an attorney at Legal Aid at Work who uses a mobility scooter, recommended that you question your prejudices and beliefs about people’s abilities. “I think if you work together a little or just give someone the benefit of the doubt, you will be surprised that any expectations you may have had about the limitations of people with disabilities are wrong,” she told Moneyish. “And even if there are some constraints, in many cases it doesn’t take much to consider for someone to be an amazing asset to your business.”

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Be creative about reasonable accommodation. “I think the only thing about disabled shelters is that there isn’t an exhaustive list of what an employer can or must do, but it’s really an individualized process,” Langston said. “Bounce ideas back and forth and don’t necessarily see it as a negative process that you have to do.” That could mean getting someone the specific type of desk they need, Thompson said, or giving them the flexibility to work from home at times.

When you’re interviewing or hiring someone with a disability – or when an existing employee acquires one through illness or injury – “is usually just a reasonable accommodation between that person and success on the job,” Sheehy said. Fortunately, she added, “You don’t have to be the expert.” Contact ODEP’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for one-on-one meetings on Americans with Disabilities Act, Workplace Accommodation, and other topics. And “to update your current policies and processes, or to evaluate what others are doing,” JAN co-director Louis Orslene told Moneyish in an email, reviewing the JAN Accommodation Toolkit.

(Courtesy Vilissa Thompson)

Promote a work environment where employees feel comfortable asking for shelter – especially since you may have employees with invisible disabilities who don’t feel safe to disclose them. “Do people feel comfortable talking about their disabilities?” Thompson said. “If you were a disabled person, would you like to work in your organization as it is now?” Be careful how you talk about disability, she added, even in casual conversations.

According to Sheehy, if employees in your company are uncomfortable talking about their disabilities or asking for housing they need, you risk or even lose that employee with a poor work ethic and controversial relationship between employees and managers.

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Make job postings accessible – and invite them. “If your online application system is not available, you are eliminating potential superstar applicants right from the start,” Sheehy said. Thompson also recommended examining the requirements of the job – especially those that could discourage applicants with disabilities – to see if they are all really essential to the role. Do you really need that person to work in the office or could they do the same job remotely?

Your company’s settings page also allows you to mention the history of the accommodation provision and possibly even the process for requesting accommodation and the estimated time it will take. “As a disabled person, soliciting something, especially when it comes to your needs, can be very stressful,” Thompson said. “The more you are able to relieve your stress and worry, the better it is.”

(Courtesy Rachael Langston)

Make sure people with disabilities are transported. Employees with disabilities “are often stuck in the assistant trap,” said Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress and a small person. Provide them with pipelines to help them move up the corporate ladder: “When you find that employees with disabilities are advancing in a company or even a nonprofit setting, the culture begins to shift about what it means to be one Company to be person with a disability, “she said.

If a mentor is critical to someone’s progress in your company, connect them with a mentor, Thompson said. encourage them to choose new or open positions. Make sure training opportunities are accessible, Sheehy added. For example, if rising stars typically need to complete a month of offsite training in another state before being promoted, check to see if there are local and / or timed alternatives that are the same for both working parents and people with disabilities Qualifications they would have to offer advance.

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Use the words that people prefer. Many people prefer the first language of people that emphasizes the person instead of the disability, ie “people with disabilities”. And although the use of the label “differently capable” has grown in importance in recent years, Cokley has dismissed it as euphemistic. “Personally, I’m not interested in that term,” Langston agreed. “Everyone is different, but I think most people don’t tend to use that.”

Thompson, for his part, identifies as a “black disabled woman” in the language of identity. Just ask someone what term they prefer rather than accept, she suggested. “It’s all about respecting people’s choice of language.”

Tag your company accordingly. “People with disabilities are more likely to apply for a position that is reflected in the company’s branding,” said Cokley. Make sure that disability is included on your company’s diversity statement and look for images for your company branding that depict both a diversity of people and a variety of disabilities. In May, Verizon subsidiary Oath, in collaboration with the National Disability Leadership Alliance and Getty Images, released a new collection of images that “portrays people with disabilities more precisely and eliminates stereotypes”. JAN’s Orslene, who suggested that companies include people with disabilities in both internal and public communications, recommended the Disability Employment Campaign as a resource.

Make the network accessible again. Do your best to ensure external networking events are held in accessible locations, Langston said. Happy hour in the office is often physically inaccessible, Cokley added, not to mention the untenability for people trying to keep up their sobriety.

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