Employers and managers are increasingly realizing the need of employing a varied and diverse workforce. About 17.5 percent of people with disabilities are employed as per statistics available for 2015. This means a large majority of disabled people who are qualified are unemployed and actively looking for a job.
Creating a disability-friendly workplace is the first step towards employing more qualified disabled candidates. A workplace which offers support and encouragement will help disabled employees perform to their full potential and be productive in what they do.
There are several things that a company, employer or the HR can do to ensure that they adopt a disability-friendly work culture. Physical accessibility should be of topmost concern, followed by the adoption of assistive technology, continued training of employees and consistent monitoring.
Here are a few tips:
1) Build Awareness and Invest in Training
An aware workforce is also an empowered workforce. For disabled employees to be fully integrated into a workplace, it is essential that all employees are familiar with the affirmed commitment of their organization to being disability-friendly.
Sensitizing training and etiquette classes will help able-bodied employees gain more insight into how to best interact with disabled coworkers. Some employees may be consciously or unconsciously biased about their disabled counterparts. Quality training from the part of the company will help dispel these notions. Employees should also be given basic information on how they can help their disabled colleagues in cases of emergency.
2) Make Use of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology enables disabled people to be an active part of the workplace and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Most modern jobs require computers and use of technology. If your company invests in the right assistive technology, apps, and online tools, disabled employees will be able to carry out their job responsibilities without impediments.
Some common assistive technology aids include color-coded keyboards, refreshable Braille displays, specialized screen reader software, assistive listening devices, speech recognition and sign language apps, and browsers that provide user-friendly and customizable Web interface.
It is also advised to install games or interactive activity apps on computers to engage and lighten the mood among employees.
Assistive technology becomes optimal only when you train disabled employees to best use it. Relevant and ongoing training are, hence, of utmost importance. Training should also be a crucial part of the entire onboarding process for disabled employees.
3) Consider Outside Support
Companies can also make use of outside support to give continued training to employees. Several non-profits and government agencies working towards more inclusive workplaces can hold seminars and awareness initiatives at your company. This not only improves employee participation and morale, but also helps bring fresh and new perspectives to approaching the issue.
Organizations can also work with local disability organizations and self-help groups to gain access to information regarding approaches and best practices.
4) Make Accessibility a Priority
A freely accessible workplace is incredibly important to disabled employees. It helps them move around, get their work done and enjoy the time spent at the workplace.
Disability-friendly parking, wheelchair accessible doorways, ramps at entries and exits of buildings and cafeterias, wide corridors and easy access to workstations, accessible operating buttons and/or Braille in lifts, and accessible washrooms are some of the basic necessities required to make a workplace disability-friendly. Meeting rooms and other common access areas also need to be given special attention to and made accessible to all disabled employees.
You must also make sure the company website and all other communication materials are accessible to disabled users.
5) Be Honest With Appraisal and Feedback
Another key factor for improving inclusivity at the workplace is to provide honest and fair feedback to employees, irrespective of any bias.
If managers tend to show leniency to disabled employees during appraisal, it may affect their ability to better their performance. Honest feedback will help the disabled employee feel as responsible for his or her work as non-disabled employees.
Senior management and managers need to be trained to inclusively lead and mentor disabled employees. The leaders may need to develop and understand communication styles that help them engage with disabled employees better. This may, in turn, require consistent and involved managerial training and workshops to achieve the desired outcome.
6) Focus on Health and Well-being
Employee health and well-being need to be of foremost priority, especially at disability-friendly workplaces. Games, physical activities, and other recreational options can be encouraged in your company. Gyms, relaxation rooms and even sleeping pods are becoming common at workplaces.
Another option you can consider is including families and caregivers of disabled employees in your awareness initiatives and pre-hiring training sessions. This makes it easier for disabled employees to get used to their new roles.
An inclusive and diverse workforce can up productivity, improve employee morale, build a better brand identity for companies, and help contribute to social development. With proper initiatives and steps in place, this is something all companies can strive for and achieve.
This piece is written by Jane Otterson – a Technical Writer at Confirm BioSciences.
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