Disability inclusion promotes a working environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, where the talents and skills of different groups are valued, and where productivity improves because the workforce is motivated.
1. What can an employer do to make a workplace more disability inclusive?
An inclusive workplace is one where all employees have equal access to opportunities and resources. It’s a place where all employees – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, language or disability – are seen and heard by those around them. It’s an environment without physical, social and cultural barriers.
A company can make its workplace more inclusive by adjusting negative attitudes and perceptions about recruiting persons with disabilities, and by providing them with the necessary tools to succeed. This may sometimes mean providing them with reasonable accommodations, if needed.
2. What is reasonable accommodation?
Sometimes a person with a disability may require an adaptation, support, or tool to be able carry out a job effectively, or take part in education or training. This adaptation or support when provided by an employer or a training institution is referred to as reasonable accommodation.This might include physical adaptations, changes to a job application process, modification of work schedules, or providing or modifying equipment.
Most people with disabilities do not require any accommodations and for those who do it is minimal or much simpler than employers believe. The need for reasonable accommodation always depends on the individual, the nature of their impairment, and the requirements of the training, job or other activity. Therefore, it is important to ask the person about their particular accommodation requirements and not make assumptions about what they need or do not need.
Examples of reasonable accommodation
- Providing a sign language interpreter for a Deaf person
- Purchasing equipment or software, such as a speech synthesis software for a visually impaired person
- Adjusting and modifying equipment, such as raise or lower a chair for a person with a mobility or back impairment
- Adapting working hours, for example, for a person with a medical condition requiring frequent rest-breaks
- Assigning a job coach, for example for a person with an intellectual or psychosocial disability
- Adapting tools or equipment
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a service by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. It provides guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. It is highly recommended for accommodation issues.
3. What does accessibility mean?
Accessibility is the concept according to which environments, processes, goods, products and services, as well as objects or instruments, tools and devices, including ICT and systems, should be understandable and usable by all people in the safest, most convenient and natural possible way. As a concept originally developed from the needs of people with disabilities, it in fact benefits everyone.
One way of achieving accessibility for all is through universal design. It refers to a set of intuitive and logical principles that guides the design of products, environments, programmes and services making them more equitable, flexible and simple to use. By being usable by everyone, it reduces the need for individual adjustments.
Accessibility of the built environment: examples for your company’s interior facilities include flat entrances and wide doors; handles for doors and drawers that do not require gripping or twisting to use; electrical outlets at waist level, eliminating the need to bend or kneel; storage spaces within reach of both short and tall people; pathways and hallways free of obstacles, steps or gaps; etc.
Accessibility of communication and information: see below, question no. 4.
4. How can I make information accessible for all?
Information accessibility means ensuring that people with disabilities have access to information and communications on an equal basis with others.
Examples of accessiible information and communication include providing information and communication materials in alternative formats. This means producing formats that are accessible for people with different types of disability by using simple and easy-to-read language, Braille, large font sizes, audio tapes or CDs, or electronic files that are readable by screen readers, for example. Moreover, formatting, quality of paper, images and text need to be considered. It is important to note that althought not all persons with visual impairments can read Braille, it is often the only format that some people, such as those who are deaf blind, can use to access certain types of information.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a set of web accessibility standards, including accessibility of web software. One of the organizations’ primary goals is to make the web available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.
The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (g3ict) is an advocacy initiative to promote accessible ICTs. Among some of its initiatives is an e-Accessibility Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities
5. Why should a company hire persons with disabilities?
Hiring workers with disabilities can positively impact a company’s bottom line, because:
- People with disabilities are an untapped resource of skills and talents. In many countries, people with disabilities have skills that businesses need, both technical job skills and transferable problem-solving skills developed in daily life.
- People with disabilities represent an overlooked and multibillion-dollar market segment. That market is disabled persons and their families and friends. Ignoring this market may mean losing not only the disabled consumer, but his or her family and friends. It makes sense to have employees who know first-hand about the product and service needs of this consumer segment.
- Hiring people with disabilities increases workforce diversity and morale. Many employers report that teamwork and morale improves when disabled workers become part of the staff.
- People with disabilities make good, dependable employees. Employers of disabled workers consistently report that, as a group, people with disabilities perform on par or better than their non-disabled peers on measures such as productivity, safety and attendance.
- People with disabilities are more likely to stay on the job. The costs of job turnover, such as lost productivity and expenses related to recruitment and training, are well known to most employers.
6. What can an employer do to attract more staff members with disability?
Human resources policies of companies often recognize the importance of recruiting and maintaining a diverse staff, including employees with disabilities. When advertising a new position, include a statement that applications from people with disabilities are welcome and ensure that your e-recruitment platforms are accessible for people with disabilities. Interviews should be conducted in an accessible location and the information provided should also be in accessible formats. Reasonable accommodation should be provided if requested by the disabled candidate. Companies should ask candidates if they will need any specific accommodation, and if so, provide them with the required accommodations. Disclosing a disability is a personal choice. Therefore, employers should ensure privacy and avoid asking candidates if they have a disability.
7. Where can I find publications on the topic?
Compilations of publications on disability in the workplace
- Employer best practices supporting the hiring, retention, and promotion of people with disabilities: A Bibliography
- Bibliography review of publications on a) Attitudes of employers towards hiring people with disabilities, b) Impact and benefits of employing people with disabilities, c) Accommodation costs of companies to employ people with disabilities, d) Disability and Corporate Social Responsibility.