As an employer, it is your primary responsibility to ensure that employees feel comfortable in the workplace. And that includes all employees, be they abled or disabled. Unfortunately, many organizations around the world are not disability-friendly. This is usually not intentional rather it is an unconscious bias that most of us experience. (An intentional bias against people who are disabled is a completely different problem, which we won’t get into right now.)
Many people with disabilities face problems landing their dream jobs due to the lack of basic facilities at most workplaces. Not only are disability-friendly workplaces more inclusive, but they are also diverse to an organization.
A company’s culture should be inclusive of everyone, even people with disabilities. However, when you don’t know how to achieve that, it can be an intimidating prospect. This article shows you to build an all-inclusive culture and make your workplace disability-friendly as well.
1. Educate Yourself
When you hire employees with disabilities, it is important to focus on the challenges they face commonly. One of these challenges is, trying to fit into the regular work environment. It is important to not presume that you know all of their challenges.
Most workplaces aren’t designed for people with disabilities. For example, most workplaces have cubicles as workstations for their staff, which cannot accommodate a wheelchair. It is challenging for employees with disabilities to move around easily or adjust the monitor screen to their visible level or even use the mouse.
Another problem that they face is discrimination. Workplace discrimination can happen based on anything, but employees with disabilities become easy targets for some people.
These are certain challenges that jump out at you straight away. However, the more you talk to employees, or even hire new ones, you will realize that there is a wide spectrum of challenges that many individuals face.
2. Educate Existing Staff
Now that you have decided to make your workplace disability-friendly, the next step is to convey the message to your existing staff. When building an all-inclusive culture, one of the most important things employees need to learn is sensitivity, awareness, and empathy.
At this juncture, bringing an external personnel who is knowledgeable about disabilities in the workplace or who works frequently with people with disabilities; to educate employees through conferences, seminars, etc. Keep in mind, this is something that needs to happen periodically. It is not a one-time thing.
Additionally, it would be good to keep employees informed of upcoming changes to the work environment. You never know, they might have suggestions of their own as well that you can utilize as well.
Having a support group for disabled employees allows you to discuss any issues during implementing an inclusive work environment and choose solutions from people who have first-hand knowledge of the issues that they face.
Once you have established a disability-friendly workplace, this support group can also be responsible for taking care of resources that promote disability inclusiveness in your office. Additionally, they can also be responsible for training new employees about the disability-friendly environment at the workplace.
4. Hire A Professional For Office Design
You can hire a professional or get your office assessed by one so that you can understand what your office actually needs to make the workplace more disability friendly. Sometimes you might have to make extensive changes, sometimes you might not. Either way, always take an opinion from a professional before you invest in remodeling your office space.
You might be afraid that this can be an unnecessary investment of money and time, but making your workplace disability-friendly is a one-time investment that will ensure your returns in leaps and bounds. can be achieved easily just by getting the right professional help.
The next step is to get the right equipment. When we say equipment, you don’t need to panic. You just have to design your office space to accommodate everyone. For example, having a parking space that can be easily accessible by employees with disabilities is one way to start. If your office has stairs, then fit a ramp along so that people with wheelchairs also can use it without much of an issue.
6. Policy Revision
Revising company policy is one of the most vital things to do when you are implementing such a huge change in your office. You should revise your office policies related to workplace discrimination and add a policy that includes disabled employees. Disability laws vary from country to country and it would be cognizant to keep those in mind when revising your workplace as well.
In addition to revising the policy to make it inclusive to all employees, the policy should also contain information about training programs, workshops, and mentoring classes which are specifically oriented toward employees with disabilities.
This article just skims the surface of making an organization disability-friendly. There is a lot of work and effort that goes towards making the workplace inclusive and this is an effort that will always be ongoing. However, it is an effort that reaps many benefits, such as improved engagement, enhanced diversity, and a welcoming public image.
We hope that this step-by-step guide helps you set up a disability-friendly environment at your workplace. If you have suggestions about how to make the modern workplace more inclusive, leave us a comment with your thoughts below!
Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2023.