If you ask people with disabilities what prevents them from being fully included in society and at work, they typically respond that attitude is the biggest obstacle. It’s not impairment that holds them back, rather stereotypes and negative beliefs about people with disabilities are the greatest impediments to their active participation in the workforce and all the economic and social implications non-participation entails.
We Avoid What We Don’t Understand
Research shows that many employers hesitate to hire people with disabilities because of inaccurate perceptions and a lack of knowledge. They don’t know enough about what they can expect from disabled employees, what it will cost to accommodate them, what options are available if performance is not acceptable and how other employees and customers will react. To top it all, most employers have no personal experience of working with or supervising someone with a disability, so they just don’t know how it works.
Fortunately, there is a growing body of research and information to help employers educate themselves about this under-employed segment of the population and most of it is good news.
The one area where facts are still a little sparse is in the practical, day-to-day knowledge employers and co-workers need to know to make the workplace work for people with disabilities.
Practical Workplace Tips
Fortunately, some employers are leading the way and graciously sharing what they’ve learned. One such employer is the University of Washington. The University has made its internal training program Strategies for Working with People who have Disabilities available online under a Creative Commons license so that other employers can use the information for their own internal training programs.
The material draws on lessons the University has learned from working with both disabled employees and disabled students who aspire to find their own place in the workforce after graduation. Created to inform employers interested in hiring disabled students as interns and entry-level employees, it provides a straight-forward introduction into what an inclusive workplace needs.
Complete with slide content and detailed facilitator notes, the program offers practical tips for working with and accommodating employees with a wide range of disabilities, including:
Visual, hearing and speech impairment
The training program’s concluding comments contain some simple and powerful reminders as well as a few fundamentals that make sense in every workplace.
“When working with a person who has a disability, keep in mind that we are all more alike than different. Each person comes to a new job with unique skills and abilities… People who interact with people who have disabilities have a great impact on their on-the-job success…Expect that people with disabilities are there to succeed. Keep your expectations high. Be positive and proactive in helping them achieve success.”
Starting with some fundamentals
Have policies and procedures in place for addressing accommodation needs for people with disabilities.
Make sure your facility is accessible to people with mobility impairments.
Provide clear signage in large print.
Discuss with the employee his/her needs and ideas for accommodations.
Select work materials early so that they can be procured in appropriate formats in a timely manner.
Of course, the most important shift required for change to happen is the one that occurs in the mind. Removing barriers that prevent access to a building or a restroom can be a lot easier than letting go of a strongly held belief. But with 20% of the U.S. population living with some form of disability, the tide is beginning to turn. In the words of Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, “Too many corporate leaders overlook the ability and just focus on the disability. I would urge business leaders to not be on the wrong side of history."
Sharing stories with a group of friends the other day, we suddenly realized that we had all left “great” jobs at one time or another for what we considered ethical reasons. In digging a little deeper, it became apparent that the disconnect we experienced was more a misalignment of values than any real unethical behavior on the part of our respective former employers.
They just didn’t share certain values that we considered very important.
In more than one case, the organizations in question had not explicitly stated the values they operated under and so it took
Here in Canada, we’ve just experienced that overindulgence known as Thanksgiving Weekend. In Kitchener, where NetSuite Waterloo and TribeHR live, Oktoberfest is now in full swing. This is the time of plenty, the time of harvest, and we are all enjoying the bounty. In a few short weeks, our friends, family and colleagues south of the border will share in the abundance of their own Thanksgiving. Sadly, most will not experience Oktoberfest.
As we gather around a loaded table with family or knock back a stein of beer with friends, it’s easy to forget that the
American census data as reported in Americans with Disabilities: 2010 reveals that 19% of the population (about 56.7 million people) had a disability in 2010. More than half of those indicated that their disability was severe.
Here are a few of the employment and income related findings from that report:
41% of those age 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared to 79% of those with no disability.]
The incidence of persistent poverty among people age 15 to 64 was significantly higher for those with a disability: 10.8% of those with severe disabilities, 4.9% of those with a non-severe disability, as compared with 3.8% of those with no disability.
Adults age 21
Here we are in September again and I’d swear that some unwritten, “let the meetings begin” policy has automatically kicked in. Much like the potted mums that magically appeared last week outside every grocery store and garden center, workplace calendars are suddenly blossoming with meetings and conference calls—through to 2016!
Annual Mum Carnival, Internet Archive
If your calendar is getting over-crowded with all the meetings you’ve booked (or been booked into), you might want to consider these tips for avoiding meeting burnout. They fall into two broad categories: eliminating unnecessary meetings and making
One of the most disappointing reactions to the recent US Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of gay marriage was the number of employers who immediately sought legal advice on how to get around it.
Bias by Mocks08, Flickr
Even when the collective consciousness of our society is raised by such a decision, many people still struggle to hold on to deeply held biases. Of course, if you’re one of those looking for ways around this new reality, you already know you have a bias (although you might not call it that!)
A conscious bias is generally
Much of your company’s value flows from the skills, experience, and performance of your workforce. Recruiting highly-qualified candidates is an important aspect to the overall talent development but your talent strategies shouldn’t stop there. Once recruits become a part of your organization, getting the best from them, identifying and retaining top performers, encouraging learning and development, and keeping employees engaged are all important aspects to ensure the best utilization of talent. A talent management strategy is an important tool that allows you to effectively achieve results and gain a competitive advantage by leveraging your people.
A colleague recently described the following situation to me:
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
While working with the management team of a small, project-based company, he’s been coaching the new senior project manager. She’s highly qualified and very enthusiastic. So enthusiastic, in fact, that she’s creating a comprehensive project process that will cover all aspects of the business from initial enquiry to post-project debrief and customer follow up. Each step is documented in minute detail with multiple accompanying forms (paper and online) to be completed and/or updated throughout the life of the project.
Tsunami Zone by Coco and Jo, Flikr
When a key employee decides it’s time to pursue different interests and ambitions, it generates ripples in an organization. If that person takes a lot of organizational knowledge out the door, those ripples can morph into a tsunami.
As leaders, we can do everything possible to keep our best talent—provide onsite fitness centers, unlimited vacation, a clear path for growth, insightful leadership and more—and some people will still choose to leave to achieve their personal goals. Rather than railing against an immutable reality, (employee turnover is
Last week we published Managing Employee Expectations - Part 1 from guest author, David Drennan. Today's post complete's the picture.
Managing Negative Expectations
No-one likes to communicate bad news, but sometimes it has to be done. Unlike managing expectations about positive news, it’s a situation that needs quite different treatment if you're going to manage expectations effectively.
Generally, when people have been expecting some negative event in their lives, anything better than what was expected will bring feelings of relief. I well remember in my early thirties having a consistent pain in my stomach that convinced