5 Best Practices to Create an Inclusive Workplace for Employees with Disabilities
Creating an inclusive workplace is definitely a social responsibility, but it’s also a smart business strategy. Companies that embrace diversity and promote inclusion are more likely to attract top talent, foster innovation, and have a healthier work culture.
In order to build an inclusive workplace, you need to ensure that employees with disabilities are fully supported and empowered to thrive in their roles. This article will explore best practices for employers to create an inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities.
Implementing Accessibility Measures
One of the foundational pillars of workplace inclusion for employees with disabilities is accessibility. Employers should ensure that their physical and digital environments are accessible to employees with disabilities, allowing them to navigate and engage in the workplace without barriers. This includes providing accessible entrances, ramps, elevators, and restrooms, as well as ensuring that digital tools, websites, and documents are designed with accessibility features such as screen reader compatibility and keyboard navigation.
A great example of a company that prioritizes accessibility is Microsoft. The tech giant has a dedicated team of accessibility experts who work on incorporating accessibility features into their products and services, including built-in accessibility tools in software like Windows and Office. They even provide training and resources to employees on accessibility best practices.
Providing Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments made in the workplace or job duties to help employees with disabilities to perform their roles effectively. Employers are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Examples of reasonable accommodations may include providing assistive technologies, modifying workstations, adjusting work hours, or offering flexible work arrangements.
IBM is well-known for its robust accommodations program. Their Accessibility Services provide a wide range of accommodations to its employees with disabilities, including technology solutions, ergonomic adjustments, and workplace modifications. IBM also has an accommodations review board that works closely with employees and managers to identify and implement reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Their proactive approach to accommodations has helped create an inclusive work environment where employees with disabilities can succeed in their job.
Promoting Career Development Opportunities
Creating equal opportunities for career growth and advancement is a critical aspect of workplace inclusion for employees with disabilities. Employers should ensure that employees with disabilities have access to the same career development opportunities as their peers. This should include all training, mentoring, promotions, and leadership programs. Employers should also proactively identify any barriers to advancement that employees with disabilities may face and provide support to overcome them.
Walmart helps to promote career development opportunities for employees with disabilities by offering training and mentoring through their “Opportunity At Work” program. This includes leadership development programs such as Disability Mentoring Day. Walmart also has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and Disability ERGs, which provide support, networking, and career development opportunities for employees with disabilities. In all these ways, Walmart promotes an inclusive workplace environment where employees can grow and advance in their careers.
Offering Disability Awareness Training
Disability awareness training can help foster a culture of inclusion and promote understanding and empathy among employees. Employers can provide training to raise awareness about different types of disabilities, their impact on individuals, and best practices for communication and interaction. Disability awareness training can also help employees understand the importance of inclusivity in the workplace and how they can contribute to creating a supportive environment.
EY, a global professional services firm, offers disability awareness training to its employees through its “AccessAbilities” program. This program provides employees with resources, tools, and training on disability-related topics, including disability etiquette, communication strategies, and workplace accommodations. EY’s disability awareness training has helped create a more inclusive culture where employees feel supported and empowered to bring their whole selves to work.
Fostering a Supportive and Inclusive Culture
Disability Awareness Training is a step in the right direction. But in order to achieve a truly supportive and inclusive workplace, it’s essential for employers to foster a culture that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. This means acknowledging the unique contributions of all employees, including those with disabilities. This means promoting respectful and inclusive language, fostering open communication, and actively addressing any discriminatory behaviors or attitudes.
Bona Fide Conglomerate has a reputation for creating and maintaining a high quality work environment for employees with disabilities. As a nonprofit that primarily employs persons with disabilities, their leadership team values and respects people from different backgrounds and various abilities.
Because everyone is treated fairly and equitably, the result is that their employees are positive, loyal, and dependable. According to Tina Tyco, project manager for Bona Fide, “My staff show up every day on time, if not early. They are dressed well, smile and are always eager to help when needed. During the pandemic, I have seen businesses need to close or cut hours of operation because they cannot get people to come back to work. My staff have shown up every day for the last 2.5 years.”
Creating an inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities is not only a legal obligation but also a moral imperative and a smart business strategy. Employers can create an environment where employees with disabilities can thrive and contribute to the success of the company.
“My staff show up every day on time, if not early. They are dressed well, smile and are always eager to help when needed. During the pandemic, I have seen businesses need to close or cut hours of operation because they cannot get people to come back to work. My staff have shown up every day for the last 2.5 years.” Tina Tyko, Bona Fide.
But it’s up to the employer to implement best practices in accessibility and reasonable accommodations, to promote career development and offer disability awareness training. We can learn from companies big and small about how to successfully prioritize disability inclusion in the workplace. The positive results they have experienced – increase in employee engagement, productivity, and overall business success – show the benefits of embracing disability inclusion.