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Disability Inclusion in the Workplace: Breaking Down Stigmas

16% of the global population experience some form of significant disability, according to the World Health Organization. Unfortunately,  such persons face discrimination and exclusion in the job market, but disability doesn’t equate to incompetence. For HR professionals and teams committed to ending biases and exclusions, disability inclusion in the workplace is critical.

Keep reading for insight into the benefits of and how to promote disability inclusion in the workplace.   

What does disability inclusion in the workplace mean?

Disability inclusion in the workplace means creating a system that welcomes disabled persons into the work environment and provides them with the opportunity to succeed It champions making employees feel comfortable, valued, and appreciated for their contribution to the organization regardless of their abilities. Likewise, it encompasses giving disabled persons equal opportunities and the necessary support to maximize their potential at work.

Disability inclusion in the workplace emphasizes an equitable work environment where targeted steps are taken to eliminate any bias, conscious or unconscious, against workers with disabilities. This includes insisting on fair practices like workplace flexibility as well as providing the necessary accommodations.

The importance of disability inclusion in the workplace

Disability inclusion in the workplace matters for multiple reasons. Disability is a real issue and it can take different forms some are visible while others aren’t. 

  • 1 out of 4 adults in the US live with a disability. Disability inclusion in the workplace ensures that any bias against such persons is erased and that the work environment allows them to thrive.
  • From a moral and ethical perspective, disability inclusion at work is the way forward. Disabled persons are valuable members of the work environment and society at large, and deserve the same treatment as others.
  • Disability inclusion helps your organization improve its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategy and compliance. It provides you with a diverse workforce, and with this diversity comes unique perspectives and innovation.
  • Disability inclusion nurtures a healthy culture in your organization. Your commitment to equity and the advancement of all team members, disabled and otherwise, leads to an increase in employee engagement and employee retention

HR’s role in promoting disability inclusion in the workplace 

Promoting disability inclusion in the workplace demands that we in HR do our best. To achieve this, HR teams have to break down stigmas surrounding disabilities and help raise awareness. Below are practical steps to make this a reality.

1. Encourage open dialogue

The first step towards dismantling stigmas and raising awareness about disability is communication. Provide a platform for disabled persons to share their thoughts, ask questions, and be asked in return. Such dialogues amplify the voices of the disabled and foster clarification in a calm environment.  

2. Reframe the perspective

Encourage people to change the way they view disabilities. People with disabilities should be seen as abled and challenged differently. Individual uniqueness makes each person special. This also involves stopping sympathetic gestures or simplified projects for disabled people.      

3. Prioritize disability training

With disability training, you dispel the myths and misconceptions that are the base of the fear and stigma around disability. By providing training sessions that detail verifiable facts about disability, you can properly educate employees  

4. Weave disability inclusion into the recruitment process 

The recruitment process is one place where disability inclusion can make a large impact. Ensure that your recruitment process includes the necessary disability inclusion practices and accommodations. This will guarantee that adequately skilled disabled persons don’t miss out on deserved opportunities. 

For more details on how to do this, check out our article on how to build the best process for hiring people with disabilities

The essence of a year-round commitment to disability awareness and inclusion

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) or simply Disability Awareness Month—a time when organizations and brands voice and demonstrate their dedication to disability inclusion in the workplace. However, this campaign lasts only for that month. It’s vital for organizations to commit to disability awareness and inclusion throughout the year, not just in October.

Besides the benefits stated above, some other factors make an ongoing commitment to disability awareness and inclusion imperative.   Firstly, disability inclusion in the workplace shows that the organization is truly devoted to the cause, not just for show.

A year-round dedication to disability awareness and inclusion also ensures that new employees who join the team at any time of the year are informed and educated about disability. No matter when they join the organization, they get acquainted with its inclusive philosophy and practices.

Additionally, steady devotion to disability awareness and inclusion ensures that disabled persons at work are included and set up for success at all times. If inclusive practices are restricted to only the month of October, disabled employees won’t thrive in other months. 

Disability inclusion in the workplace is necessary to truly achieve DE&I. Check out the various ways you Cangrade can help.