Five ways companies can improve disability inclusiveness

Disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function, and the ability they have to participate in society. Every member of society should enjoy the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life in a professional and personal capacity.

Disability inclusiveness involves creates a welcoming, user-friendly environment for all team players, which in turn allows for an all-round better workspace. With companies improving their offices, people with disabilities are able to take advantage of the benefits of the same health promotion and prevention activities experienced by people who do not have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are various ways to create a better working environment for people with disabilities, and it is very important that employees and staff members understand the importance of doing so. This involves more than simply encouraging people in a tokenistic way; it requires making sure that adequate policies and practices are in place in the company or organisation.

Hiring a person with any form of disability showcases the company’s willingness to include people based on their merit rather than just their physical capabilities. Clients and customers perceive companies that do this as inclusive and non-prejudiced, which boosts their public image.

The Harvard Business Review states, “Hiring people with disabilities need not cost any more than hiring someone without a disability. Accommodations for the majority of people with disabilities cost nothing. And when there is a cost involved with providing technology or other tools, and there are tax incentives available to help.”

READ MORE: How to stop tokenism of disability in the workplace

Steps companies can take to improve disability inclusiveness:

  1. Educating staff about disability inclusiveness

Education serves as the foundation of disability inclusiveness as it empowers staff members to be conscious and intentional of how they are treating all members of staff. This practice should be for all people and should not be done in a way that makes the person with the disability feel ostracised or treated differently.

“Inclusivity isn’t an “issue” just for people with disabilities; it’s important for everyone in your organisation. Once you set the goal and expectation for a diverse and inclusive organisational culture, follow up with education aimed at promoting understanding and awareness of unique challenges of people with disabilities as well as the importance of inclusion,” says CPA Practice Advisor.

  • Set in motion intentional polices from the recruitment process onwards

From the recruitment stage, policies should be solidified to make sure that all candidates are aware of the company’s ethos and practices. This sets the tone for how staff members receive and respect each other from the onset. Including people with disabilities in the recruitment phase also gives the hiring team the chance to assess the candidate based on their qualifications and intellectual abilities, rather than on any disability they may have.

CPA Practice Advisors offer an idea to adopt a policy of using people first language (PFL). This is a way of communicating that shows respect for people with disabilities by focusing on the individual and not their disability. For example, if you were discussing modification to your retail space for your clients, instead of saying “disabled customers”, you would use “customers with disabilities.” This recognises that they have disabilities and allows you to be inclusive and respectful in your planning but doesn’t use their disabilities to define them.

  • Consider the limitations of the working environment

Not all working conditions are suitable for people with disabilities, and it is imperative that once you learn about the employee’s disability, measures are put in place to make them comfortable. Neuro-divergent conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia or autism can make people extremely light sensitive, which means that bright lights, loud noises and heavy patterns can affect their productivity and general comfort.

Ways to modify the working environment include natural lighting, providing noise-cancelling headphones or making concessions to work from home or in a quiet and secluded space. According to Sage, more extreme measures can include assistive technologies which can be implemented such as screen readers to magnify the screen, voice recognition technology, hearing loop systems or amplified phones.

  • Ensure fairness with salaries and benefits

Salary and benefits should be issued upon merit and must not be based on the physical or mental capabilities of the staff member.

Sage offers clarity to how people with disabilities often feel treated in the workplace when it comes to salaries: “Unfortunately, many people with disabilities are made to feel like they should be grateful to be given a job at all. This is immoral and demotivating for employees with disabilities, as well as inherently unfair. It goes without saying to treat all employees fairly and pay employees with disabilities equally. Your reputation as a diverse and inclusive employer, as a result, will also attract talent and create a much more collaborative and engaged workforce.”

  • Create an open line of communication

Employees with disabilities should be made to feel comfortable enough to express any concerns they have with the company’s policies or offices, should they feel it necessary. If there is anything that is hindering their productivity, it is vital that they notify management, so the required changes can made. As with all staff members, the Human Resources department should make it clear that there is always an open line of communication.

Ultimately, the most important part of disability inclusion is making it a normal practice and not an extraordinary one. All members of staff should be treated equally, and companies should put in place polices and initiatives that allow for the best possible working environment that cater for the needs of every employee.

SOURCES: Centre of Disease Control and Prevention;  Harvard Business Review;  Sage;  CPA Practice Advisor  



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