Most companies – or at least their human resources professionals – understand the basics of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it comes to hiring and making accommodations for employees with all types of disabilities. However, even more than three decades after that law was signed, many disabled people still don’t feel fully included in their workplaces.
Lack of inclusion isn’t just hurtful and frustrating. It can affect a person’s ability to do the work they’re capable of, be promoted and get better-paying positions. Let’s look at several areas where employers can help employees with disabilities – often any undue hardship or expense to them.
Flexibility in work locations and hours
For some disabled employees, being able to work from home and have some leeway regarding their hours can increase their productivity. People dealing with conditions involving chronic pain or fatigue can benefit from being able to take a break when they need to. They also don’t have to deal with the added strain of commuting.
However, many people who were able to do this over the past year are being required in many cases to return to their workplaces. Many employers prefer to have their team members where they can see them, even if it’s not necessary.
Accessibility isn’t just about elevators, ramps and wide doorways. People who have visual and/or hearing impairments may need added functionality for Zoom and other video calls. When a company doesn’t provide closed captioning, image descriptions and other digital accessibility features, disabled employees have a more difficult time participating in meetings and collaborating on projects.
Listening to employees
Many employees with any kind of disability say they’re often underestimated by even well-meaning colleagues and managers. Employers can help their disabled employees by finding out what accommodations they need rather than assuming they know. They may not be as extensive – or costly – as they anticipate.
Often, people have learned precisely what kind of accommodations they require based on their own experiences, so they can guide their employers when it comes to adaptive devices and other needed assistance.
Disability discrimination in the workplace – like just about every other type of discrimination – is still alive and well in too many organizations, despite the law and increased societal focus on inclusion. It’s important to understand when you’re facing discrimination so that you can take the necessary action to fight for your rights.