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.
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.
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?
Accommodations like these can go a long way in making a new hire who has a disability feel more comfortable, welcome and understood.
Sometimes, in order to make effective work accommodations, 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.
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.
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.
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