In today’s working world, more than ever is it important to effectively communicate with people in the workplace. But simply talking, isn’t the same as communicating; and neither is hearing the same as truly listening. Especially in relation to employees with disabilities, communication is key in understanding how they may feel challenged, or discriminated in the workplace, whereby, through effective communication, employers can overcome these obstacles and not put anyone in their firm at a disadvantage. Through this article, we present ways in which employers can best communicate with their employees who face a disability.
1. Don’t treat anyone differently
A common misconception is that, if someone is facing a hardship, such as a certain physical or mental disability, they therefore need to be treated differently – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although it is obvious that certain individuals require wheelchair access, or access to specific medications.
By treating people with disabilities differently, you are only highlighting the problem which they face. It is crucial to understand how to best communicate with an employee, and how to effectively support them and their needs, to overcome whichever obstacles a person faces. Ironically, by treating a disabled person in an uncomfortably different manner, they may not feel welcome and, importantly, other people with disabilities may then be scared to step up and discuss how a disability is affecting them, in fear of being treated differently.
2. Developing a teamwork spirit
A large benefit of effective communication is that disabled persons may feel more recognized and empowered, this support therefore gives the individual the independence they require to effectively go about their tasks.
But multiply this across not just the employer, but the team – and whole company! – and you have an inclusive and understanding culture. When individuals are in understanding of each other, how best they work, what causes them difficulty, etc, they become more inclusive, upbeat, diverse and develop a better chemistry amongst each other. With a more cohesive workforce, members of your organization will feel more relaxed and understood, thereby better working alongside one another in a stronger team.
3. Embed accessibility into every part of your recruitment process
Whereas we have already talked about current members of your organization, and ways which can therefore improve employee retention, through inclusivity, it is important to understand how being an accessible and inclusive firm goes beyond just your current workforce.
Being an inclusive employer goes beyond stating that you are an inclusive employer… and you can adapt aspects of the interview process to the candidates’ needs. Actually, adapt them! Your firm can ensure your application forms are accessible, such as including large print, Braille or easy-to-read versions.
In turn, you can monitor the outcome of various candidates’ applications and review your policies based on which people get interviewed and finally recruited. However, this is just one part of effectively working with persons with disabilities.
4. Provide training to employees
By training your employees on the different obstacles persons with disabilities face, not only do they in turn become aware of these obstacles, but also are able to come up with ways to help others overcome them. There is no problem with individuals initially being unaware of the challenges posed by different disabilities, and how to overcome them, but an employer then offering training to employees, be it formal, or peer-led, can promote a support environment for all to work in.
To conclude, employers’ support to employees with disabilities stretches, all the way from the recruitment process to the daily behaviour of different employees. Therefore, it is important to best communicate these challenges posed by disabilities, which are always unique, to truly understand how to combat them, together.