Today, one in five Americans identify as a person having some form of disability. At such a high rate, it is extremely likely that your organization employs at least one person within this group. Although both the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect people with disabilities against workplace discrimination, it is often difficult for employers to provide proper accommodations without the necessary resources and education. Take a look at these three suggestions to work on improving your organization’s disability inclusion in 2019:

  1. Identify Your Status
  2. The first step to improving disability employment equality is to put your organization to the test. The American Association of People with Disabilities, in partnership with Disability IN, has created the Disability Employment Index (DEI) to assess your company’s disability inclusion status. This joint initiative is an annual benchmarking tool that offers businesses an opportunity to receive an objective score on their disability inclusion policies and practices and identify opportunities for improvement. The DEI measures a wide range of criteria within six categories including Culture & Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, Employment Practices, Community Engagement, Supplier Diversity and Non-US Operations. Want to gain a better understanding of where your company stands? Take the DEI today!

  3. Be Conscious of Invisible Disabilities
  4. Did you know that nearly 80% of people with disabilities have invisible impairments? Although many of us initially look for visible “handicaps” to assess a person’s ability, there are many people in our work environments dealing with differences that are undetectable to the naked eye. Issues such as mild traumatic brain injuries, Dyslexia, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis and more are all examples of invisible disabilities that we will only become aware of when the employee chooses to disclose the information. For this reason, it is important that we make a conscious effort to change our perception of disabilities in order to ensure all people are accommodated in the workplace. Beyond changing our perceptions, we must also create a work environment that makes people feel safe when disclosing their conditions.

  5. Modify Your Work Environment
  6. Now that you have a better understanding of your organization’s disability inclusion status, it is time to make sure your work environment is physically prepared to accommodate employees with disabilities. The ADA requires employers to provide proper accommodations for employees with disabilities. While some modifications such as installing ramps and modifying furniture may be costly, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reports that most adjustments do not have to be expensive. Less costly accommodations include allowing service animals, snack breaks for employees with blood sugar conditions, or providing recording and dictation devices. JAN offers an A-Z resource list to begin improving the workplace for people with chronic pain, depression, phobias and blindness to name a few. The list of accommodations that can be made and ideas for improvement is nearly endless. However, the most important accommodation of all is to create an environment where all employees can showcase their abilities rather than focus on their disabilities. At work, it’s what people CAN do that matters.

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