Put simply, in the framework of our American society, work is fundamental to identity. It means so much more than a paycheck: it offers purpose and the opportunity to lead a more independent, self-directed life. But the importance of work extends far beyond any one individual. When all people are able to contribute and be recognized for their abilities, society as a whole reaps the benefits. Communities are strengthened and local economies benefit.
Employment for individuals with disabilities relies heavily on the business community recognizing the value of an inclusive workforce and applying that value system in their organization. It is easy for business leaders to say that they support employment for individuals with disabilities, but it takes action for a diverse workforce to truly be created. Inclusion is a shift in organizational culture. The process engages each individual and makes people feel valued—essential to the success of the organization. Individuals function at full capacity, feel more valued and included in the organization’s mission.
What types of steps can YOU and your business take to create an inclusive workplace?
- Commitment at all levels of an organization is critical. Establish an inclusive business culture with buy-in from leadership at the highest levels, including top executives, their leadership teams, and boards of directors. Mid-level managers and supervisors, and particularly human resources staff and other personnel involved in hiring decisions, must also understand the role they play in facilitating an inclusive environment. Finally, communicate the company’s goal of an inclusive and diverse workplace to employees at all levels of the organization.
- Develop and communicate policy statements that clearly lay out your commitment to inclusion of workers with disabilities.
- Be mindful of the words you use as an organization, and make sure you are using “People First” language.
- Train your Human Resources and department leaders to support and advance the recruiting, hiring, retention and promotion of individuals with disabilities. Utilize free resources at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
- Encourage workers with disabilities and other employees to identify barriers and individual and systemic concerns without fear of reprisal, and also providing mechanisms to allow them to provide this information anonymously or confidentially.
- Establish a universal policy providing workplace flexibility and accommodations for all applicants and employees, with and without disabilities, including the use of techniques such as telework and flexible work hour options, if appropriate. Utilize the Department of Labor free resource—Job Accommodation Network for ideas, policy examples, questions and other resources.
- Have a clear process for identifying reasonable accommodations. Utilize local resources like UCP’s Workplace Evaluation and Accomodation and national resources like the JAN Network.
- Train your workforce on diversity issues. Local resources include UCP’s Diversity Training. Contact Director of Vocational Services, Paul Soprano, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-791-8363.
Still need more convincing? Next week: The Business Case for Hiring Individuals with Disabilities.