An inclusive culture is a sign of a successful workplace. Effectively implementing a healthy work environment begins with awareness. Amplifying any marginalized voices creates a diverse organization where employees can feel valued. One community that is often ignored or underrepresented in diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I) practices are those with a disability.
One common misconception is that all disabilities are immediately apparent. Disabilities may actually reveal themselves in different ways, and challenge each individual differently.
In 2021, 19.1% of people with a disability were employed, up from 17.9% in 2020. This number is expected to increase over the next decade and demonstrates the need for workplace-wide disability awareness policies. Here are five possible changes you could begin to implement for a positive impact on inclusivity.
Incorporate Disability Training into Your Onboarding Process
Your organization's values should be immediately apparent. Even during the interview process, make sure to emphasize that this is an Equal Employment Opportunity and that your team is committed to promoting an inclusive environment. Not only does this make someone with a disability feel comfortable, it demonstrates to everyone that you’re taking action towards your DE&I efforts.
Do your current onboarding processes take into account reasonable accommodation concerns for new employees who may have a disability? It should. Examine your processes to see if you need to include reasonable accommodation considerations.
Model Appropriate Behavior
No matter your role within an organization, you are responsible for modeling the behavior you want to see from others. This includes your attitude, language and actions. In order to promote an inclusive environment for those with disabilities, you want to set an example of the standard you expect from your peers. Be a catalyst of positive change. Engaging in discussions, modeling, and creating opportunities to practice can promote a greater understanding of others’ experiences.
Elevate Your Resources
Ask yourself what kind of resources you have available for both those with disabilities and those who would benefit from learning more about working with those with disabilities. This promotes a strong sense of community amongst your team. This includes everything from information to accessibility options. You want everyone to feel that they have access to all the resources they need to both succeed and feel comfortable at work. Is your office ADA compliant? Do you have policies integrated within your handbooks that accommodate those with disabilities? Ensure that valuable resources are readily available to everyone, whether information, accessibility, or even a person to talk to.
Amplify Marginalized Voices
The best way to learn about something you’re unfamiliar with is to listen with an open mind. Within an organization, you have the power and responsibility to not only listen but provide the space and opportunity to amplify marginalized voices. You should always strive to make everyone feel seen, heard, and safe to share their experience. This promotes an inclusive work environment while strengthening awareness and the effectiveness of these much-needed conversations.
Sponsor a Lunch and Learn
October is National Disabilities Awareness Month, and many organizations take this as an opportunity to host events centered around disability awareness. Lunch and Learns are a great example of an engaging and informative event that makes any disabled employees feel valued while also educating those who may not understand the experiences that disabled workers face. Find time to demonstrate your commitment to DE&I with impactful events.
Promoting disability awareness strengthens your team from all angles. As leaders, employees, and ultimately caring individuals, we can all benefit from committing to promoting disability awareness. Herzing University has a variety of pathways for those who want to be a leader of inclusivity within the workplace. Now is your opportunity to be a driver of change.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.