Often the words “disabled” and “low-income” go together. According to a 2017 report published by Cornell University, the poverty rate of working-age individuals with disabilities in the U.S. was 26.1 percent—this compares to the 10.4 percent for working-aged people without a disability. Additionally, disabled people who are able to work are twice as likely to be unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If they are employed, disabled individuals make less money than their able-bodied peers.
Poverty can limit access to healthcare and increase the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that can harm their health outlook. Impoverished individuals are less likely to receive preventative care and health education. This lack of healthcare may cause a person to develop a disability that keeps them from being able to function in a traditional workplace.
Programs have been created to try to reduce this poverty gap for disabled individuals, but some of these problems are difficult to overcome.
People who are disabled have increased barriers to education and advanced training. They may also have other additional health-related expenses that can lead to economic hardship.
So what can you or your organization do to help bridge this gap? Below are some things you can do as a leader/organization to support workers with disabilities.
HOW COMPANY CULTURE AFFECTS DISABLED WORKERS
There are multiple types of company cultures and all of them have different benefits, whether it’s a clan culture that supports a consensus or market culture that works on tasks and goal completion. But what difference does a company culture make for the disabled person and how does it hold people accountable to include disabled workers?
A strong culture has well-defined procedures, processes and a path to success. Disabled workers can fit into this plan because of well-defined expectations that a strong culture asks of its employees. For instance, if a culture promotes working from home as a healthy way to balance employee workflow, then it opens up the opportunity for people with physical disabilities to join the workforce. It allows them the flexibility to adjust their schedules and manage their time to their liking while also getting work done.
More technological jobs will encourage this type of working situation because they can better perform in a more comfortable environment than in a stuffy office. Plus, technology can quicken the onboarding process for employers.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS A LEADER?
While none of us are surprised by the difficulties that affect millions of disabled Americans each year, you may not be aware of things you can do to make it simpler for disabled individuals to apply for work in your company and to complete the tasks necessary for the job.
Supporting Disabled Applicants
To encourage disabled individuals to apply for jobs within your company, here are few steps you can take to support them in the application process:
- Make sure your online applications and other hiring documents are compatible with screen readers.
- Provide applications and other forms in braille or large-print options.
- Consider allowing for phone interviews for individuals who may have a difficult time going to the physical work location for an interview.
- Make alternative arrangements for interviewing hearing-impaired applicants.
- Review the posted job description to make sure there aren’t items on the list that would discourage an individual with a disability to apply.
Aiding Disabled Employees
Once you have hired a disabled employee, there are many things you can do to make all aspects of their employment go off without a hitch.
- Train your management staff. Make sure they understand that people with disabilities aren’t any more likely to take off than their able-bodied peers. Also train them on how to ask the individual what types of accommodations may be needed, if any.
- Provide assistive technologies that may be needed for the individual. Items such as screen magnifiers, voice-recognition technology and sound amplifiers are easy and inexpensive to provide.
- Be aware of mobility issues. Make sure the workplace is safe for all employees by storing items at an appropriate height and keeping boxes and other debris off the floor.
- Consider the office environment. Know how the office environment, like bright lights and loud noises, can affect individuals who work at your facility.
- Make sure handicapped parking is provided. Examine the route from the parking lot to the work station. Also, make sure the bathrooms are handicapped accessible, as well as the public meeting rooms and break rooms.
- Train your staff on how to sensitively interact with everyone in the workplace. Sometimes employees have good intentions, but they treat those with disabilities as inferior.
People with disabilities deserve access to the same opportunities as the rest of us. While you won’t always be aware of whether an employee or potential hire has a disability, as a leader you should do your part to establish a culture in which you’re able to support everyone based on their needs as individuals. Create an environment where anyone can be considered for a job and able to succeed.