A growing number of companies are recognizing the many benefits of a diverse workforce. Studies show that inclusion benefits the entire workplace with better morale, efficiency, and consumer reviews; and we know from over fifty-five years of first-hand experience that employing people with disabilities is good for business.
The strategies outlined below are designed to enhance inclusion in the workplace for people of all ages and all skill levels.
Natural Supports - Everyone Needs Them
Natural Supports may be environmental such as a digital clock, a posted schedule, or labels on items and locations. These items assist employees with learning their routines and not being dependent on others for help or information. The goal of any employment relationship is to have the employee as integrated into the environment as possible. This goal is no different with an employee who happens to have a disability.
Other Natural Supports are personal associations and relationships typically developed within the community that enhance stability and quality of life. These relationships include family, friendships, co-workers, and associations developed through participation in clubs, organizations, and other civic activities. One goal for Natural Support is for an employee to develop relationships on the job where they can be trained, have their questions answered, and feel supported to be successful.
People First Language - Use It!
All people face social challenges. Very often, individuals are only associated with their label, appearance, or diagnosis. People with disabilities are a diverse group with innumerable skills, ideas, perspectives, and gifts to offer the world. When a label is used to define an individual or group of individuals, their true potential is overlooked. People First Language always puts the individual in front of their diagnosis, emphasizing the fact that a person is not defined by their disability, but by their personality, skills, and interests.
Examples of People First Language:
Say: "Paul has a cognitive disability (diagnosis)." Instead of: "They're mentally disabled."
Say: "Kate has autism (or a diagnosis of)." Instead of: "They're autistic."
Say: "Ryan has Down syndrome (or a diagnosis of)." Instead of: "They're Down’s; a Down’s person."
Say: "Bob has a physical disability (diagnosis)." Instead of: "They're a quadriplegic/is crippled."
Say: "Mary uses a wheelchair/mobility chair." Instead of: "They're confined to/is wheelchair bound."
Say: "Steve receives special education services." Instead of: "They're in special ed."
Say: "Congenital disability." Instead of: "Birth defect."
Say: "Brain injury." Instead of: "Brain damage."
Effective Communication Strategies
If your workplace is going to effectively include people of all abilities, supervisors and co-workers need to be able to communicate effectively. Likewise, if your company is going to offer a high-quality service to your customers or clients with disabilities, all of your employees need to have a basic level of comfort and understanding about how to effectively communicate with a diverse range of people. Some conditions are visible and readily apparent, people with mobility impairments often use wheelchairs, or other assistive devices. Other conditions are invisible, such as deafness, mental illness, and autism.
Hearing Impairments: range from a slight to severe or total loss. Communication methods will vary. The person may rely on amplification and lip reading, sign language, or a combination of these methods.
Vision Impairments: are divided into two general categories -- total loss of sight and low vision. The following tips will vary depending on the person’s level of vision.
Speech Impairments: range from slight to severe, and the impairment may be related to another disability, such as cerebral palsy, a brain injury, or hearing loss.
Autism: a neurological condition that affects the functioning of the brain. Although the effects of the disorder vary tremendously, many people with autism have deficits, or sensitivity to, processing sensory information, communicating, and socializing.
Northwest Center is in the Business of Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are not afterthoughts to how we do business; they’re at the very core of everything we do. We specialize in working with corporate partners to develop inclusion and equity programs in their workplaces that benefit everyone. We work to create a culture of inclusion that includes leading equity advancements and policy change so that people of all backgrounds and abilities are respected and valued at work. Take advantage of the power of inclusion in your workplace and contact us today.
Is your business ready to reopen? Take the first step and download our Facility Readiness Guide today.
When you work with Northwest Center, you join us as champions for disability inclusion at school, at work, and in the greater community. Learn more.
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