According to the CDC, more than one in four American adults have some form of disability; and among the disabled, less than one in five were gainfully employed. This is a saddening figure that most business owners and managers are not aware of.
Beyond their disabilities, persons with disabilities (PWDs) face many hindrances to getting a job. In most cases, those hindrances are barriers that exist in the workplace itself, so if you want your business to increase its employment of PWDs, accomplish the following steps:
1. Address mobility restrictions
Many disabilities are physical in nature and restrict people’s movement. Some may need crutches or prosthetic legs, while others need to use wheelchairs. Making it easy for them to move around the workplace makes your business attractive to people with leg impairments — and those already working for you will have an easier time bringing out their best for your company. Here are a few ways you can improve physical mobility in your premises:
- Allot enough disabled parking slots in areas closest to building entrances.
- Keep people with mobility disabilities in mind when designing workspaces, conference rooms, break rooms, lavatories, and other areas.
- Where needed, build ramps with gradual slopes.
- Install elevators that are built to safely and comfortably accommodate crutch and wheelchair users.
- Keep spare wheelchairs just in case someone needs it.
2. Empower PWDs with “inclusive” hardware and software
Everyone has some sort of limitation that keeps them from doing their best work, and PWDs’ hindrances are just more overt. However, given the right tools, anyone can shine, including employees with disabilities.
For workers with disabilities to tap their full potential, they need the appropriate assistive or inclusive technology and equipment. Investing in various tools such as Braille keyboards, screen readers, text-to-speech programs, and noise-canceling headsets is an excellent idea.
3. Inculcate the spirit of inclusivity
Corporate culture has a major impact on how people feel about working for the company, how they go about their tasks, and how they treat their colleagues. To illustrate, if your work environment only serves non-disabled workers and disregards the needs of disabled employees, then non-disabled staff may feel less inclined to be more accommodating to their disabled coworkers.
Conversely, if the attitude of inclusivity is inculcated from the top down – i.e., that everyone in the organization is valued as who they are and appreciated for their contribution – then the schism between disabled and non-disabled people may shrink and give way to better-connected working relationships with one another.
You can make your workplace more inclusive for disabled employees by having them voice out their needs and letting them suggest various policies and measures. Additionally, you can hold training sessions to increase awareness on disabilities and teach people how to relate with one another better. For example, workers on the Autism spectrum may feel overwhelmed if they work for long periods of time. As a result, you could introduce flexible working hours to ease everyone’s stress levels.
Employing persons with disabilities is a great way to become their ally, increase their employment rate, and quash the stigma surrounding them. And in case you need to serve their legal needs, turn to expert disability lawyers.