How to support disabled staff in the workplace
December 02 2021
It is estimated that over 1 billion people in the world are dealing with one form of disability or another. This is a significant number, and as such, disregarding people with disabilities during the recruitment process would be discriminating against a large percentage of the global population.
Thankfully, many employers are actually beginning to tap into this vast potential source of employees — people with disabilities. The truth is that people with disabilities can also provide you with the skills and competencies you require within your organisation. The implication is that employing people with disabilities could bring many benefits, such as the attraction of more high-skilled candidates, increment of the available talent pool, enhancement of team performance, boosting productivity, and more. It is important to consider how your organisation can encourage this potential source of employees.
However, as more disabled employees are joining the workforce, employers must ensure that they offer adequate support to disabled staff in the workplace. This goes beyond just ensuring that they enjoy seamless access to the offices; employers should support disabled staff and provide them with a positive work environment to help them thrive.
Moreover, there are various ways that employers can provide disabled staff in the workplace with optimal support, and they include the following:
1. Ensuring seamless access during the recruitment process
While you can hardly see a job ad that specifies the acceptance of disabled people, recruiters need to tweak the interview process to suit everyone, including those living with disabilities. Employers should make conscious efforts to ensure that job application forms and job descriptions are truly accessible to everyone. This optimal accessibility can be achieved in various ways, such as providing easy-to-read documents in large prints, ensuring that all recruitment documents are suitable for screen readers.
In addition, employers should also ensure they do not include some high requirements that could prevent people with disabilities from applying for certain job roles. Other good alternatives could include assisting them with completing the job application forms, scheduling telephone interviews, and more.
Employers should also consider the various struggles that people with wheelchairs, hearing loops, or lack of computer access may experience during the job application process and look for ways to mitigate them. After the application process, ensure that you carefully review the application process to ensure that it does not pose serious disadvantages to people with disabilities.
2. Ensure adequate communication of concerns
The importance of adequate communication in the workplace cannot be overemphasized. This need for proper communication is even more crucial when dealing with disabled staff in the workplace.
With proper communication, employers and managers can support people with disabilities by allowing them to share their challenges on the job and how to make the work environment more favourable and conducive for everyone. During the conversations, employees should consciously avoid that would make disabled staff feel inferior.
While managers are often worried about saying the right things when dealing with disabled staff, they should endeavour to trigger healthy conversations with their staff to ascertain the support they need. Overall, having optimal conversations with disabled staff in the workplace could be a great way to boost their confidence.
3. Adjust your working arrangements with the disabled staff in mind
When creating your working arrangements and schedules, you have to bear in mind that the working conditions you put in place can affect the overall performances of your employees, including the disabled staff in the workplace. You should consider the various disabilities suffered by your employees and draft your working arrangements around them.
For example, suppose you have employees with neuro-divergent conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism. In that case, you should remember that such employees would always find bright lights, loud noise, and heavy patterns on the walls very challenging. As a result, you could consider providing natural lighting, noise-cancelling headphones, and a quiet room they can retreat to or allow them to work from home.
Furthermore, you can make available various assistive technologies — screen readers to magnify the screen, voice recognition technology, hearing loop systems, or amplified phones — to support employees. However, the assistive technologies you put in place are dependent on the disabilities suffered by the staff in the workplace.
Beyond adjusting your workplace, think about the most convenient way for workers with disabilities to travel to the office.
In addition to making necessary adjustments, you should think about the most convenient transportation methods that are available to them. You could ascertain if using public transportation could be favourable for them; if not, the best bet could be to allow them to work from the convenience of their home.
It is essential that employees feel comfortable asking for adjustments to be made, rather than staying silent and suffering at work or leaving altogether. Besides, it is far costlier to replace an employee than it is to adapt to your workplace.
4. Provide comprehensive training to all employees
In most cases, disabled staff in the workplace may be oblivious of the various available support. Employers must educate and make disabled workers aware regarding the organisation’s many support systems provided for them.
Some companies may organise regular webinars to educate employees. Videos can also be used to simulate what the workday of an employee with disabilities should look like. However, this training should be practical and not necessarily formal.
5. Strive to maintain equality
This is one of the most important factors that could influence the performance of disabled staff in the workplace. Employers should always treat all employees equally — whether or not they have any disabilities. This equality should also be reflected in the remuneration: disabled staff should not be paid less than what they deserve due to their disability.
However, it is saddening that in some cases, disabled staff in the workplace are made to feel like they should be grateful to be given a job at all. This is not only immoral; it is inhumane and unfair.
The goal of every employer should be about providing all staff, including disabled employees, with great experiences at work. To achieve that, employers should always lookout for ways to support all the disabled staff in the workplace for optimal performance and growth of the organisation.