5 tips to create a disability inclusive workplace

Easy ways to transform any workplace to better serve people with disabilities

A woman with visual impairment sits at a computer wearing a headset.

Companies who embrace inclusive hiring practices expand their talent pool by more than 10 million people.

Creating a diverse, inclusive workplace should be an important mission for all employers. According to multinational consulting firm Accenture, when companies embrace disability inclusion, they gain access to a talent pool of more than 10.7 million people. With that access comes the potential for a more diverse team that can tap into a wide range of perspectives to solve your business’ unique problems and challenges. 

Hiring people with disabilities isn’t enough though – retention is the key. The five tips below are a good starting point to help you ensure you’re doing what you can to keep qualified employees with disabilities fulfilled in their professional pursuits.

Tip #1: Learn more about the specific disability, disability etiquette, or disability inclusion in general

If you’re unfamiliar with a new hire’s disability, do the research. Most of your questions can be answered with a search on Google. If you’re particularly interested in disability issues, get involved with a local organization that focuses on disability and expand your social circle by getting to know others in the disability community. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, which covers disability inclusion, accessibility, and more. 

Tip #2: Rearrange your office space and consider accommodations

According to the Department of Labor Statistics, most workplace accommodations cost less than $500, while nearly a quarter cost “nothing at all.” Even before your new hire starts, you can begin to consider accommodations, such as:

  • Could you put braille on the buttons of the kitchen’s microwave? 
  • Can furniture be moved to make space for a wheelchair? 
  • Is your new employee’s office in a low traffic hallway to reduce sound or distraction?
  • Is your company's website and online properties digitally accessible

Accomodations like these can go a long way in making a new hire who has a disability feel more comfortable, welcome and understood. 

Tip #3: Keep an open dialogue

Sometimes, in order to make effective work accomodations, you may need to ask specific questions about your new employee’s disability. Being inquisitive and unsure is perfectly fine, as long as that uncertainty is channeled in the form of a question as opposed to a presumptive statement or assumption. Always be mindful of why you’re asking and how will the answer help your employee succeed in his or her position. This will create a healthy, positive relationship for all involved.

Tip #4: Break the ice!

Don’t be afraid of discussing movies with a blind person, or sports with a wheelchair user. There’s more to talk about than work and disability. Finding a common interest helps put both parties on an equal level – not to mention, you’ll likely learn how people with different needs enjoy different pastimes. It’s okay to use the same terms you would normally such as “see” or “hear” even if someone is blind or deaf.

Tip #5: Maintain standards

People with disabilities are capable of completing all sorts of tasks. Don’t assume someone can’t do something or needs help. Hold your new employee to the same rules and standards as you would anybody else. Not doing so will deprive your new employee of crucial growth opportunities. 

What You Can Do

Commit to making your company or organization's website accessible to people with visual impairment. Perkins Access offers workshops as well as tailored assessments and solutions. Contact them at Access@Perkins.org or 617-972-7868 to learn more.