5 ways workplaces can be more inclusive of individuals with disabilities

Two people sit side by side with business casual attire on sitting down at a table talking.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability. In today’s highly competitive environment, more and more companies become aware of the importance of creating a conducive and accommodating work atmosphere for those with disabilities. 

Building an inclusive and accessible workplace for individuals with disabilities can help companies recruit and retain even more talented employees to aid them in growing their organizations. Not to mention that everyone deserves a fair chance at whichever career path they choose.

Here are 5 ways that employers can create this kind of environment for their current or future employees that live with disabilities.

  1. Provide equal opportunities

Many individuals with disabilities are still being discriminated against at work. More often than not, people with disabilities are unemployed. If they are employed, they unfortunately earn less compared to those without a disability. 

However, a disabled employee can perform just as well as other employees, but may not have the chance to display their skills due to the lack of equal work opportunities. In order to create a more inclusive and accessible workplace, employers need to provide equal promotional and skill-building opportunities for workers who are disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees equal opportunities for employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination.

  1. Communicate in various ways

Whether this be providing documents with larger text, different keyboards, or various font colors, workplaces need to be more accommodating in communication with their employees. Communicating in various ways will allow those with disabilities to stay in the loop about events and activities which in turn will create a more positive and accessible dynamic for everyone.

  1. Create a supportive and inclusive environment and plan if someone feels discriminated against

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, but this does not mean discrimination is eradicated. Set up a strong reporting mechanism or plan for employees facing discrimination and provide support when an employee does so, letting them know that they are heard and action will be taken. This will allow people to stay informed, and help build comradery in the workplace. 

  1. Have resources and conduct trainings

Knowledge is power. Being able to connect with all your employees will only strengthen your organization. Employers can educate their teams on various forms of disabilities and the ADA, conduct training that will allow for improved communication and collaboration in the work space, and so much more. This is an opportunity for those with disabilities to feel accepted at their place of work and reminded that they are an equally valued member of their team.

Each human is endowed with inalienable rights. The dignity of people with disabilities should be respected, just like everyone else. By creating a respectful workplace environment from the start, it will highlight how everyone should be welcomed and included in conversation and the narrative of a company or organization.

In this TEDTalk titled “Our fight for disability rights — and why we’re not done yet,” Judith Heumann tells her stories behind the protest where disabled activists occupied a federal building for a month. They demanded greater accessibility for all. She argues 40 years later, there is still work to do.

This blog was written by students of the BU PR Lab.