Some of the most established workplace cultures perpetuate disability discrimination. And many leaders may not even be aware they are contributing to it.
Accommodating special needs in your workplace is more than avoiding disability discrimination. When your company accommodates its employees, it’s better for them at an individual level and at a company level — everyone wins!
Disability Discrimination occurs when someone refrains from giving opportunities or a voice because of someone else’s disability.
Three examples of Disability Discrimination:
Example 1: A person who has an impaired ability to function in an established system/process within a company. An employee who spends time working away from their desk because they work better in a quieter area.
Example 2: An added demand or a physical disability that can be solved by a different layout.
An employee who has a difficult time sitting for long periods of time. A standing desk may be the solution.
Example 3: An employee experiencing a temporary disability such as postpartum, seasonal depression, family/personal changes at home, temporary illness.
The first thing you can do as a leader to prevent disability discrimination is to be open to discussing the disability. Have the humility to know that no one is perfect and be sensitive to the needs of others. When you can be flexible to set an individual up to win, everyone else wins and your entire organization benefits!
On the other hand, if you don’t accommodate a person’s special needs, expect for a work product that is less than their best. When disabilities go unaddressed, special needs employees experience stressors in the workplace. It’s the job of the leader to be flexible and willing to adapt to value an individual’s contributions. It’s simple: Show genuine care and appreciation for the people you support.
In Powerful at Work Radio Podcast episode #42, Alex Gilbert shares her story. As a young girl with dyslexia, Alex excelled in school. However, when she entered the workforce, things changed. The workplace didn’t have the same programs and support that she received in school. Not having the right accommodations led to lowered performance.
By investing in special software to double check her work, Alexandra was able to once again succeed. And not only did she produce her best quality work, others on the team were able to use the same software to improve the quality of their work as well
Accommodating your special needs employees doesn’t have to feel like a daunting task or huge investment. Actively listen to them and give them a chance to tell you what they need. When you have regular conversations with them, it’s easier for them to open up to you.
Each of us has special needs, not just those who have an identified disability. When we give people what they need, not only is their end product better, but you have created a stronger company culture.
Champion your people, make them feel appreciated for their unique talents, not a hindrance.