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  • Sasi Dharan

10 Steps Employers Can Take to Create a Disability-Inclusive Workplace

Maintaining a disability-inclusive workplace goes beyond onboarding people with disabilities. Employers must consciously build a workplace where each worker has equal access to suitable compensation, growth and advancement, success, and learning opportunities.


Well-planned long-term strategies, support, and systems can help nurture a workplace environment where those with disabilities can thrive. As the UN statistics highlight, about 80% of people with disabilities globally have no stable employment.


Although there are significant efforts to ensure Disability Inclusive Work, gaps are still a challenge. So how exactly can employers create an inclusive environment?


Let's explore ten practical steps you can take to achieve such a workplace that aligns with your overall goals and objectives.

Illustration of 5 people around a table, two people are standing at the head of the table shaking hands while the rest of the group looks on clapping

Step 1: Foster an Inclusive Culture


An inclusive environment comes with equality and trust, making it easier to tap into a robust talent pool for better productivity.


By fostering a suitable environment for people with disabilities through compassion and foresight, you can ensure everyone feels accepted, valued, and welcome.


Step 2: Implement Accessible Hiring Practices


As the CDC emphasizes, one in every four adults has an invisible or visible disability. Chances are, some members of your team fall under this category, which is why you must take proactive steps to ensure inclusion.


One such step is ensuring accessible hiring practices to attract qualified talent. If suitable candidates face barriers during recruitment, they are more likely to focus elsewhere. Some barriers that may drive away top talent include:


  • Applications- The application format should be accessible to persons with disabilities or those with unique requirements

  • Advertisements- Job postings should be inclusive and show support to persons with disability 

  • Assessments and Interviews- Activities involved in the interview process should be appropriate for all groups of people. Ensure you find out if candidates have any accessibility requirements or may need additional details to ensure a comfortable interview.

  • Onboarding- It’s essential to have procedures on how to implement the necessary adjustments to onboard people with disability. These adjustments should also be accessible during the course of work.

As you evaluate these barriers, consider inclusivity and be ready to adjust as necessary. For instance, you can start by offering access to assessment questions beforehand, eliminating aptitude tests, using different application formats such as videos, and ensuring job descriptions are in plain language.


Step 3: Provide Workplace Accommodations


Some people with visible or invisible physical disabilities rarely feel safe to discuss the topic. It’s therefore vital to be conscious about how you address disability as an organization.

The best move is to normalize conversations around disability and focus your message on the social model of disability rather than the medical aspect. Doing so helps you identify areas of improvement while creating a safe space for such discussions.


To ensure commitment and sustainability, establish a clear statement and process for persons with disability to ask for the necessary accommodations. Share this information internally so that everyone is on board should there be a team member with a disability now or in the future.


It's also best to adopt technology that promotes digital accessibility in the workplace. Ensure all communication tools and company software allow integration with assistive technologies. Have regular updates with all team members on the available assistive tools to foster a tech-rich environment where people with disability can use digital resources effectively.


Step 4: Ensure Physical Accessibility


Offering physical access to workplace facilities is a vital way to support team members with disability. Take a step beyond basic compliance and disability-friendly practices and design workspaces that focus on inclusivity and accessibility.


As hybrid workplace tips suggest, every employee should be able to:


  • Access various resources without any barriers

  • Collaborate effectively

  • Navigate the office space


You can achieve this inclusivity by providing quiet places to work and ergonomic furniture. Restrooms and buildings should also be wheelchair accessible. 


However, accessibility extends beyond physical structures. Remember to consider different forms of access such as technology and communication. Your inclusive environment should also have tech solutions like adaptive keyboards and screen readers or voice-to-text software.


Step 5: Promote Inclusive Policies and Practices


It’s crucial to develop supportive policies to ensure persons with disabilities remain protected. Your first step can be having disability-inclusive language in your company policy and statements. Include words such as disability and people with disability in the policies and affirm your commitment to providing equal opportunities for this group. Highlight your equal opportunity statement in every job description to ensure it’s visible. Your policies should also talk about fringe and healthcare benefits and leave policies.


Step 6: Offer Training and Development Opportunities


Offering inclusive career development and training opportunities begins with attracting and retaining persons with disability. One way to achieve this is via blind hiring programs, which eradicate bias based on disability during recruitment.


If an individual with a disability qualifies for the shortlist, it will be due to merit and not disability. The recruiter can choose not to disclose candidates with a disability to the hiring team until they need to make the final decision. After this stage, your team may discuss the particular accommodations a certain candidate would need to work effectively.


In some cases, people with disabilities rarely advance from learner or entry-level positions. This is mainly because employers provide minimal growth and career advancement opportunities.


You can foster a disability-inclusive workplace by availing mentors to help with career advancement. You may also identify skills gaps within your company through performance management and encourage people with disabilities to go for these promotions.


Step 7: Create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)


Although recruiting people with disabilities is a significant step, ensuring they remain with your company for extended periods is a better outcome.


An excellent and effective way to collect feedback from team members with disabilities is to create disability-focused ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). Such groups allow employees with disabilities to get support from others with similar experiences and offer networking opportunities.


ERGs play a key role in ensuring an accommodating workspace as they can offer valuable feedback on how to make the workplace more inclusive. In addition to disability-focused ERG, it’s essential to track Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) metrics like employee retention. This is primarily because retaining employees with a disability depends on how inclusive the workplace culture is.


Step 8: Ensure Inclusive Communication


Communication, inclusion, and interaction are likely to improve when all team members appreciate and understand disability inclusion.


Embrace effective and diverse communication strategies such as being aware of nonverbal cues, using concise and clear language, and active listening. You may also provide assistive listening devices for people with hearing impairment, and written instructions alongside verbal ones.


It’s also essential to ensure internal communications are always in accessible formats. You can start by implementing internal standards for written communication. For instance, you can ensure emails are easy to read for all team members by having standard line spacing, font size and type, and plain language.


You may also incorporate sharing meeting agendas in advance in your company policy. Doing so helps employees with disabilities supplement and transform vital verbal communication into written communication.


This best practice should apply to all management levels to ensure inclusion across the entire company.


Step 9: Monitor and Evaluate Progress


In most cases, companies begin by test-driving inclusive ways of operation before incorporating the changes in company-wide policies. A great place to start is evaluating the current policies to ensure they don’t discriminate against persons with disability.


You can leverage company policies to portray your commitment to disability inclusive work. Monitoring your progress towards inclusion targets will ensure continuous improvement.


Maintaining an inclusive workplace also requires significant resources and time. You must, therefore, track progress to ensure your initiative is effective enough to justify continuation.

Although some aspects like changes in morale and company culture are challenging to measure, you can opt for measurable Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), such as retention rate and recruitment costs. 


Step 10: Celebrate and Recognize Contributions


Disability inclusion eliminates discrimination against people with disability by embracing and celebrating every individual as they are. In the workplace, one must be cautious to avoid putting such people at a disadvantage.


Encourage a culture of inclusion and diversity within your company and celebrate differences among team members. Strive to maintain an environment where everyone feels comfortable to showcase their unique approaches and perspectives. In addition to benefiting employees with disability, such a strategy contributes to a more creative and vibrant workplace.


You can go the extra mile to establish an inclusive organization by celebrating disability-related days, events, and months.


Conclusion - A Disability-Inclusive Work


Nurturing and maintaining disability inclusive work requires resources and time but it’s worth the effort. When properly implemented, it’s easy to achieve tangible results that will drive positive change within your organization.


As an employer, your primary goal when it comes to inclusivity should be filling the employment gap between persons living with disability and those who don't. People with disability make up a highly-skilled, reliable, and motivated workforce dedicated to helping you attain your overall goals.


There’s a lot you can do to ensure your workplace is inclusive, from accommodating physical needs to creating awareness among employees. Every step requires willingness and dedication to make sure the specific practices and policies impact the community and company. The result is a highly motivated, loyal, and satisfied team for a better brand image and enhanced productivity.


Guest Contributor - Author Bio


Sasi Dharan, Marketing Manager, Profit.co. -- With Profit.co’s innovative and robust platform, tracking disability-inclusive OKRs becomes easier, empowering you to make data-driven decisions.


In his current role, Sasi leads the Digital Marketing Team. He has a decade of experience in Project management, Operation Excellence Consulting, and Digital Marketing. He is passionate about creating new approaches to brand awareness, and demand generation. He is passionate about learning new technologies, and strategies in marketing and deploying them in his organization. He is also an avid traveler and a biker who has traveled almost 7000 miles in a year.

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