Accessibility and inclusion in the workplace is an issue that is overlooked. That’s because a large proportion of disabilities are not readily visible. So making sure that this employee population has everything they need to be productive could take a bit more effort than standard DEI programs. Still, you might be surprised by how few resources it takes to enable the disabled.
Accessibility Inclusion – a Unique Challenge
DEI programs are a major effort for many HR departments. Across the business world, companies are recognizing how diversity and inclusion add to productivity and retention. Due to such advantages, and the importance of social justice issues to younger generations, diversity rates are growing.
But one area that is lagging is diversity for people with disabilities. According to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of companies believe that diversity is essential, but less than 5% see disabled people as part of the DEI community.
The reason for this difference might be because of visibility. For instance, approximately 10% of Americans have an invisible disability, while only 4% of severe disabilities are immediately noticeable. When compared with other DEI factors that are more visible, such as race or ethnicity, it is clear that many disabled people aren’t being seen. Examples of visible disabilities include people confined to wheelchairs and using arm crutches, while invisible disabilities include epilepsy, psychiatric issues, and brain injury.
Making Accessibility Policies Known
The low rate of disability recognition, however, is not necessarily the fault of stingy employers. A company is usually not obligated, and is often prohibited, from asking workers if they are disabled in some way. Instead, it’s up to the employee to disclose their condition. If they don’t, then the organization has no other way of finding out what changes need to be made.
The best solution for this situation is to publicize a company’s policies on accessibility. This might be the single most important step that an employer can take to show that they are open to hiring and helping disabled people. But of course, there are many additional measures that can be taken.
Steps for Improving Accessibility
The usual conception of accessibility improvements in the workplace is related to physical barriers. Common changes to the office environment include ramps, handicapped parking spots, and wheelchair access throughout the building.
The expenses connected to these adaptations might lead companies to claim that hiring disabled people is too expensive. However, more than half of surveyed employers state that such changes did not cost anything. In addition, the average expense for companies making physical changes to their offices to help disabled employees is only $500.
Another area that employers might need to adapt is computer and website use. For instance:
- Visually impaired workers require special screens
- Employees with hearing problems will need closed-captioned videos
- Some disabled people cannot type, so programs should be accessible by mouse and/or voice recognition software
Finally, organizations should make sure that recruiting and hiring policies are adjusted for disabled candidates. For instance, the employer’s website and job posting should clearly state that the premises are handicapped –friendly. Similarly, during interviews, the HR manager should focus on how the candidate is suited for the position and avoid potentially insulting questions regarding their challenges as a disabled person.
The Benefits of Workplace Accessibility Inclusion
There are many material benefits for DEI programs in general. A focus on accessibility adds yet a few more. That’s because helping out disabled employees does more than just assist their careers. An effective accessibility inclusion initiative has all-around advantages for the organization, such as:
People like to make a difference. One of the factors behind the high engagement rates of non-profit organizations, for example, is that the workers feel a sense of purpose. Supporting disabled people shows that the company cares about employees of all types, and is willing to invest resources to assist them.
As mentioned, Gen Z and Millennials care about social issues. Current employees from these generations will want to see progress in all DEI areas, including for accessibility. But those looking for a job will also prefer employers with diversity programs, and this will make it easier for HR to attract a greater range of candidates through an enhanced reputation.
Speaking of reputations, companies need to be careful about damaging their image through lawsuits that originate in discrimination complaints. In fact, in the US, claims by disabled people accounted for almost 40% of all federal discrimination claims in 2021 (and that doesn’t include charges at state and local levels). When convicted, companies must often pay a large fine. But even more harmful to a brand is the negative PR that results once news of discrimination reaches public ears, and those of employees.
In many cases, the changes that employers make to the workplace to accommodate disabled people are simply improvements in convenience that various employees can benefit from. For instance, a ramp installed for wheelchairs will also be used by older employees, people carrying packages, etc. So the investment made under a DEI program for accessibility can often be allocated to more than one employee.
Make L&D Accessible to All with GrowthSpace
Every employee should have access to the learning and development courses that help them to grow. This is particularly true for the disabled, who often need a bit of extra support.
GrowthSpace lets HR departments easily design, source, and implement L&D programs that are convenient, effective, and accessible. The flexibility of the GrowthSpace platform means that users can select the physical settings that are best for individual needs, from online courses to group work. Bring out the greatness of every employee with GrowthSpace.