Why inclusion is good for business

How to make your workplace culture more inclusive right now

One in four adults in the U.S. lives with some type of disability, and most of us will experience some form of disability at one point in our lives. For those with disabilities, finding employment and keeping it can be an ongoing challenge.  

Many people in the disability community struggle to find employment because of misunderstandings, exclusionary hiring practices or lack of assistance on the job. Though businesses often emphasize their commitment to inclusivity, their staff members may lack the training and understanding needed to truly reflect this commitment.  

Studies have shown that hiring individuals with disabilities is good for business. Not only can it ease talent shortages, but it also adds to organizational diversity that is proven to drive innovation in teams. Implementing more equitable hiring practices can also increase productivity and lead to higher employee retention rates. All companies stand to find value in providing a diverse and inclusive workplace.  

Here are some fundamental best practices for hiring and ensuring your workplace is treating all employees equally. 

  • Set your company up for success. When hiring, it’s important for your HR representative or another dedicated team member (with support from leadership) to have the proper training to navigate certain laws, accommodations and support for individuals with disabilities during and after the hiring process. 
  • Remember that adults with disabilities are adults and deserve to be treated as such. They deserve the same respect as every other adult. Do not make assumptions or decisions for them. Provide them with every option you would provide to anyone else. If the option provides a challenge due to their disability, discuss ways to modify or adapt it to find a workable solution.  
  • Use person-first language. Say “person with a disability” instead of “disabled person.” Avoid antiquated terms such as “handicapped” or “crippled.”
  • Speak directly to a person with a disability, not their sign language interpreter or companion. 
  • Unsure if someone needs help? Ask before acting. Just because someone has a disability does not mean they need help. Sometimes unsolicited help can actually hurt. Do not give someone assistance without asking if they want it first.  
  • Listen attentively when conversing with someone who has difficulty speaking.
    Don’t interrupt or finish sentences for them; be patient and wait for the person to finish speaking. If necessary, ask close-ended questions that require simple, short answers and/or a nod of the head to confirm. Never pretend to understand what’s being said if you do not.
  • Understand that not all disabilities are apparent. Some may have trouble picking up on social cues; others may be supersensitive. One person may be very high energy, while someone else may appear sluggish. Treat each person as an individual. Ask what will make him or her most comfortable and respect their needs to the maximum extent possible. 

The bottom line is that diversity and inclusion matters. All employers should explore these and other steps that ensure inclusivity in daily interactions with others, help businesses move past misconceptions that prevent individuals with disabilities from getting hired, and provide the support necessary for teams to succeed. 

Visit the Easterseals Colorado website to learn more about how the Disability Inclusion Program is helping businesses to make their workplaces more inclusive at https://www.easterseals.com/co/our-programs/learn/disability-inclusion-program/. 

Tanner Whittaker is the Director of Transition Services at Easterseals Colorado.

Categories: Business Insights, Human Resources