Put ensuring a work environment that is accessible for all employees on your 2019 to-do list.
With appropriate support and guidance, disabled employees can contribute effectively, work productively, and be excellent additions to your workforce. Take a few minutes to go through this checklist to shore up your Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and maximize the satisfaction and performance of your employees with disabilities.
Review the ADA laws. Familiarize yourself with government guidelines, and identify areas where your workplace could be improved. The most common violations involve ramps that are too steep, toilets that are not easily accessible, aisles and spaces that cannot be navigated easily by wheelchairs, and wall-mounted objects or shelves that are too high to be easily reached. Note that the ADA mandates each employee be treated on an individual basis; and remember that not all disabilities are physical or visible.
Educate your team. Get buy-in from everyone on staff to ensure a disability-friendly, equal-opportunity organization. According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), “Expressing commitment to a diverse workplace welcoming of the skills and talents of people with disabilities, both internally and externally, is one of the easiest ways to foster a disability-inclusive culture.” Consider equal opportunity statements on your organization’s website, ads and social media posts that feature people with disabilities, and participation in or partnerships with community organizations supporting people with disabilities. Make sure all employees understand the ADA and the rights of employees with disabilities. Encourage them to welcome disabled colleagues and help them feel welcome and engaged.
Create a disability-friendly workspace. Consider finding an expert to help assess your organization’s spaces and recommend changes such as adding ramps and maximizing open spaces in hallways and walkways. Be prepared to accommodate service animals and assign accessibility-friendly parking spaces where applicable.
Promote open communication. Don’t be afraid to talk to disabled employees about what they need to make their workspace more comfortable or accessible and to maximize their job performance. Stress that you are committed to helping them live up to their potential and that you want to provide necessary accommodations.
Promote a culture of inclusion and equality that welcomes people who are qualified for various jobs, despite any disabilities. By welcoming people with disabilities into your ranks, you send a message that your organization values people as individuals and is committed to employee engagement and personal/professional development.
Editor’s Note: Congressional Democrats recently introduced legislation called “Raise the Wage Act” that would stop the Department of Labor from allowing some employers to pay significantly disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage.