Across all ages, it is more likely for folks with disabilities to be unemployed than it is for folks without disabilities. No two disabilities are the same. While some may truly prevent people from entering the workforce, it is a common and harmful misconception that those with disabilities cannot have successful careers and contribute to a thriving economy.
Instead of questioning people with disabilities to figure out why more of this population isn’t employed, it is high time business owners took a thoughtful look at their own practices and standards in the workplace. Without even realizing it, you may be contributing to these statistics by ostracizing the disabled community.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to move your business towards inclusivity.
Graciously Make Necessary Accommodations
Businesses have a legal obligation to make accommodations for employees with disabilities, but is your company scraping by on the bare minimum requirements? With a small amount of proactive thought, you can create a business model that is responsive to the needs of staff with disabilities.
For example, you can invest in multiple forms of presentation software to make your meetings more inclusive of those with visual or auditory impairments. If someone has worked hard to train and register a service dog as a crucial supportive aid, ensure they can easily access spaces with their dog. Reserve parking spots close to the building for those who need them.
The more you can put in place proactively, the more welcome folks with disabilities will feel as they join your team. And if you have to make further accommodations over time, do so graciously without making a fuss or over-apologizing.
Identify Unconscious Bias and Update Procedures
Unconscious biases are social stereotypes or judgments that we make about certain groups of people without even realizing we are making them. Because we form these beliefs without our knowledge, it’s a tough subject to tackle. But it’s possible that unconscious bias has snuck into your business and acknowledging it is the first step to righting those wrongs.
One common place unconscious bias appears in the workplace is in hiring procedures. For example, a tech-heavy, data-driven job requires attention to detail and computer skills that many folks with autism excel at. But what if you overlook them, despite a stellar application, because they didn’t have a good interview? Since interviewing requires social skills that the data job doesn’t, you could pass on the perfect candidate simply because of your hiring procedures.
Examine your protocol and practices and make updates where needed.
Education Yourself and Your Staff
Invest in education for yourself and your organization. The more your professional community knows about disability, the more supportive your workplace will be for staff with disabilities.
It’s important that everyone is on the same page about things like language and disability etiquette. If you don’t feel capable of leading this type of training on your own, reach out to a local disability advocacy group to see if they have experts willing to host a training session, and make sure you pay them fairly for their time.
Ensure ADA Compliance
The Americans with Disability Act ensures that workplaces and public spaces are accessible to folks with disabilities.
ADA compliance requires that walkways are a certain size, tables are a reasonable height, and that information is shared in accessible ways. There are comprehensive guides you can seek out that make upholding ADA guidelines a breeze.
Create a More Welcoming Workplace
When it comes to the inclusion of the disabled community in the workplace, you really need to be the change you wish to see. Examining your procedures, reshaping standards, and educating your staff is a great place to start.
When more people with disabilities are welcomed into the workforce, we gain broader perspectives and are all better for it.