Fostering an accessible workplace

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In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and made it illegal for employers to discriminate against those with physical or mental handicaps as potential job candidates. Creating an accessible and inclusive workplace is essential for creating a positive company culture and fostering employee retention.

Some disabilities and handicaps are not visible at first glance but deserve the same amount of accommodation as any other. If your human resource department has been struggling to find a way to be inclusive of people with disabilities, visit the Accessible Employers website. It is a site made by employers for employers that can be used to find talent for all realms — from small businesses to corporations.

The new generation

Numerous studies have been conducted, and researchers are finding that there is a steady  incline in the number of people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) each year. Formulating an adaptive company culture to work with those diagnosed with ADHD is required by law. An altered work environment or schedule may be needed to provide reasonable accommodations for those diagnosed with ADHD.

The human resources department should make sure that those employees with ADHD know their rights and where to find resources about ADHD in the workplace. If you have more than one person who struggles with managing their ADHD at work, offering the implementation of a mentor may help the individual to stay on task and maintain a sustainable level of productivity.

More than work stress

Americans are more stressed, depressed and anxious than ever before. In an article by CBS News, the author notes that there was a large wave of depression and anxiety that swept business men and women after the Great Recession of 2007 that most have not bounced back from. Access to mental health professionals can play a large part in mental illness management and could be the line that draws the difference between a productive and an absentee employee.

Mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression, are most certainly disabilities that should be recognized as needing reasonable accommodation. Some human resource departments have offered more sick days to their employees that struggle with depression issues or allow a flexible schedule that enables them to care for their mental health without having to abide by strict timelines. Offering in-office peer counseling has also been effective with some organizations to support those that struggle to navigate insurance companies and working with mental health professionals.

Communication across the board

Disabilities come in many different forms. Poor eyesight or severe arthritis can make it difficult to communicate as effectively as others in their workplace who do not experience similar issues. Ease of communication is very important in the workplace, especially when working in teams.

For those who have difficulty seeing a computer screen or require a modified mouse or keyboard, it is important that these items are provided as soon as possible to accommodate their needs. Ergonomic keyboards, desks and chairs that benefit those with disabilities are often times beneficial for employees that do not have any perceived ailments. If there are employees with vision impairment, print meeting handouts or notes in large, clear fonts to make them available to all participants. Corporate digital signage can be a useful tool if there are numerous employees with visual impairment.

Diversity is key

Having a disability or handicap is a natural part of being human. Creating a diverse workplace enables employees to lean on one another’s strengths to build a stronger team. Learning what others do better than their counterparts helps employees to build a strong foundation by picking up the pieces for one another. When one feels empowered by their strengths, it allows that person to take a position of leadership on their team by knowing they can teach others how to improve in those areas of their expertise.

Ask and receive

Employees who face disabilities that require reasonable accommodations typically take it upon themselves to ask for the software or materials they may need to make their working environment comfortable and productive. It is not the human resources department’s responsibility to make educated guesses as to what their employees may need. However, if an employer notices a particular employee struggling with a particular issue due to an inability, it is unethical and illegal to terminate them without offering modifications or suggestions for improvement.

Small changes can make big improvements

Hidden disabilities can cause issues among colleagues if others are perceived as having special privileges. Organizing disability education and training for the company as a whole can help to eliminate any bias or ignorance revolving around any disabilities fellow employees may have in the workplace.

By fostering an inclusive and accessible workplace, the human resource department has the opportunity to find themselves in a win-win situation. Creating an inclusive environment leads to employee contentment, which in turn raises productivity and employee retention rates. Providing reasonable accommodations for those that require them may actually be helping others that do not feel comfortable expressing their need for adaptations in their workplace.

About BrookeFaulkner

brooke-faulkner-bio

I'm a people-person through and through. When I'm not elbows-deep in the inner workings of small business retail, I'm negotiating the mesmerizing world of online community-building and dreaming of new, creative ways to help people connect through the written word. 

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