Workplace Initiative weekly news roundup: December 23, 2019

Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion (DI) in the workforce — and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

1. A restaurant where the key ingredient is inclusion

What’s reported: An article about a high-end eatery in Belgium quickly went viral on The Mighty. Why? Because the top-rated restaurant in Brussels, 65 Degrés, is staffed almost entirely by people with Down syndrome.

The article cites a U.S. survey that found 57 percent of people with Down syndrome have jobs, but only 3 percent work full-time. Lack of job training was reported as one of the most common barriers to full-time employment. “We work with people who are so happy to be working,” says 65 Degrés’ co-founder, Valentin Cogels.

What you can do: Explore the National Down Syndrome Society’s #DSWORKS Employment Program site. Their mission is to provide job training for people with Down syndrome and to encourage companies to increase opportunities for those with Down syndrome to work in “meaningful and competitive employment settings.” 

And learn more about common myths about hiring people with disabilities, like that they aren’t ready and willing to work or that they can only do certain kinds of jobs.

2. Supporting employee mental health is good for business

What’s reported: Disability consultant Abeni Jones writes in Fast Company about common questions she gets from employees about mental health: “Can an employer insist I tell them why I need time off, or ask me for a doctor’s note? Will I be passed up for promotions if I disclose a mental illness? Can they fire me for taking ‘too many’ days off?”

The article answers these questions and suggests ways employers can be more proactive. It starts with education: Only 25 percent of managers have been trained in referring employees to mental health resources, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

What you can do: The World Health Organization estimates that every dollar put into employers supporting employee mental health is returned fourfold in productivity.

There are many ways you can promote disability inclusion and help employees with mental health conditions bring their best selves to work. This can include:

  • Setting a policy about “mental health days” 
  • Making sure your health care plans include mental health coverage
  • Using an employee assistance program to help people manage mental health at work without having to make disclosures to their immediate supervisor

3. Carnival gets certified as the first “sensory inclusive” cruise line

What’s reported: Carnival is the first cruise line to get certified as “sensory inclusive” by the nonprofit KultureCity, Disability Scoop reports. Carnival got certified after hundreds of its guest-facing employees were trained to respond to the needs of kids and adults with conditions like autism and ADHD. Carnival’s ships will also offer sensory bags that can be checked out. These include noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and a visual feeling thermometer. 

KultureCity is a tech startup that has been likened to a Yelp for sensory needs because it helps families find venues that have quiet rooms and other features that can help people with sensory processing issues. 

What you can do: From Carnival to New York City’s MetLife Stadium to the retail chain Yogibo, more and more businesses are getting certified as sensory inclusive as part of their commitment to inclusivity. Fill out a form to find out how to make your venue or business sensory inclusive.

4. The power of employees with disabilities speaking up

What’s reported: People with disabilities “are everywhere. We are everyone. But we don’t always reveal ourselves,” writes disability rights activist Emily Blum in an op-ed in Crain’s Chicago Business. According to a survey of white-collar employees, 30 percent say they have a disability — yet only 3.2 percent say they self-identify at work as having a disability. 

One result of not speaking up, writes Blum, is that people with disabilities often aren’t part of the groups that can influence decision-making. She’s working to change that. Blum is executive director of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, a Chicago-based organization that connects leaders in the region who have disabilities with nonprofit boards and other “tables of power.”

The group’s members “are leading in those spaces with their whole selves, which includes disability,” she writes. “Disability is not a pejorative, a bad word, or an unfortunate condition. It’s an aspect of life and a point of view that is powerful and deserves to be emboldened.”

What you can do: Learn how to start an employee resource group (ERG) for people with disabilities. These voluntary, employee-led groups can help members feel more comfortable disclosing a disability and raising key issues with executives.

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.