Securing a full-time job is a challenge in and of itself for people living with disabilities. But when a disabled person does happen to get a job, it opens the door to a whole new set of challenges, albeit none that can be addressed by a responsible employer.
Filing disability claims is already tough. So if you run a company and have taken onboard employees with disabilities, it is essential to know what kind of challenges they face and how you can help address them.
In a workplace that is predominantly composed of non-disabled people, disability access is not always a priority. Hence, if you have even only just one physically disabled employee, ensure that they can easily access any part of the building by installing handrails, ramps, disability-friendly bathrooms, and other necessary modifications. If they are in a wheelchair, make sure that their desk or cubicle can accommodate it.
If you hire a person with a disability, it is your responsibility to provide the accommodations that they need. For instance, if they need a bigger desk to accommodate their wheelchair, or perhaps a special monitor so they can see clearly, you should be able and willing to provide them. It is a means to improve the worker's efficiency, not give them "special treatment," as other people see it. Think of it as providing a step ladder for short employees who can't reach the top shelf in the storeroom. You won't think of it as an inconvenience if it means they get to do their work efficiently and safely, right?
However, keep in mind that one accommodation might not work for another employee with the same disability. For instance, one deaf worker might use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication, while another can be more comfortable using spoken English. These two individuals have different preferences and needs based on their disability. So, to ensure proper communication among all employees, you have to provide accommodations on an individual basis.
Discrimination and judgment
It is not uncommon for people with disabilities to face discrimination in their everyday lives, not only in the workplace. But just as you should not tolerate racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the office, you should also crack down on discrimination against disabled people.
Disabled people are often underestimated, put down because of their "special needs," and treated unfairly because they are different. And while it is impossible to control your non-disabled employees' thoughts and opinions, being vocal about anti-discrimination policies in the office is of utmost importance. Moreover, you, as the employer, should lead by example.
While many disabled folks have special needs, they are not entirely helpless. Hence, it is also essential to avoid "helping" disabled employees when a) they don't need the help, and b) when they didn't ask for it. Even if employers and coworkers mean well by giving additional assistance, it can cause discomfort and offense.
These are just some of the many challenges that people living with disabilities face while working in an office setting. Fortunately, you have the power, as the employer, to make your employees' lives a little bit easier by addressing these common issues.