• Inclusive Workplaces for People with Disabilities: Continuing the Conversation

    We hope that our March Lunch & Learn presentation by Chris Finn, “Creating a Culture of Achievement and Empowerment,” helped launch new conversations in your workplace about building on the strengths of people with disabilities in our workplaces. To continue these conversations more broadly, here are some take-aways from Chris’s presentation, and some best practice guidelines from the Chamber of Commerce.

    Hiring processes can contain hidden biases: Employers want to hire people who are passionate and committed to helping their organizations succeed, and who are well qualified to do the work. It’s important to ensure that people in hiring positions are not inadvertently disqualifying applicants because they mention their disability in their application. Sometimes this happens because employers think that accommodations are more difficult or expensive to arrange than is actually the case.  You might also be unsure about how the applicant can perform a task, and that uncertainty could become a barrier to exploring the possibilities.  Assumptions can end up perpetuating stigmas about mental or physical health, and can lead to disqualifying applicants who could add wonderful talents to the workplace and its mission.

    Lots of Employees Need Accommodations.   In all likelihood, you are currently working alongside/employing an individual who lives with a disability in some shape or form. For example, people working through illnesses may have changing needs for workplace accommodations. Not seeing a person’s disability does not mean that it is not part of an employee’s life, or that the employee has the reasonable accommodations needed to perform the job well.

    Employers Can Create Reasonable Accommodations and an Inclusive Environment: It is a good practice to periodically survey all employees on what they may require for reasonable accommodations. This makes your organization’s culture more supportive and inclusive, which is proven to increase productivity and retention. Reasonable accommodations are often neither incredibly expensive nor time-consuming. You and your potential employees should be able to negotiate what would make the most productive environment for both of you. Accommodating good employees reducing turnover and increases employee loyalty.

    It’s Okay to Not Have All the Answers: We are fortunate to have helpful organizations in our area that can help employers integrate differently-abled employees into workplaces, maximize their potential, and assist with problem solving. Evaluating your office’s space to make sure that it is accessible is a great way to begin, and you can get help from local agencies. Visit this resource guide for a break-down of several myths about employees with disabilities’ job performance and some national resources available to you. And learn how to get more assistance and information from Independent Living Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.