Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion in the workforce — and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.
1. The commute can be a barrier for employees with disabilities — here’s what you can do
What’s reported: Just before her college graduation, Michele Lee was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed. Now a finance professional and disability advocate, she explains some of the transportation barriers that affect her Chicago commute in a talk highlighted in this Streetsblog article.
“In order to be more independent, I decided very intentionally to move downtown, thinking, ‘OK, there’s public transportation, this is good, I can roll in my wheelchair and do things,’” she said.
But Michele soon found unexpected obstacles to getting around. Even boarding at a wheelchair-accessible train station is not a guarantee: “The elevators aren’t that reliable, so if I get on, I don’t know if the elevator is going to be working at the station where I get off.”
Chicago is not an outlier when it comes to accessible transit options for commuters. Transportation can be a barrier for many employees with disabilities.
What you can do: All employers should be mindful of potential commuting issues for people with disabilities and take steps to provide reasonable accommodations. For example:
- Consider offering employees the option to work remotely when possible.
- Schedule meetings during times that allow for transit delays.
- Consider whether flexible working hours might be an option.
2. A manager’s support (and an inclusive workplace) can make a big difference for employees with disabilities
What’s reported: Building an inclusive workplace is about more than just hiring individuals with disabilities. Employees should feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. In ADDitude magazine, Rob Surratt, a workforce development and inclusion and diversity professional, shares how a manager’s support helped him to succeed.
Rob was 11 years old when he was diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability. When he started his career, he worked to hide his challenges from others. That was until he landed a job at a financial services company, working on their Global Inclusion Workforce Development Team.
Rob credits good leadership for helping him to embrace his differences. “My boss, Richard Curtis, has a history of supporting workplace diversity,” Rob writes. “My work at State Street has allowed me to dive into the world of disability through great organizations like Work Without Limits and Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD). I’ve hired interns who are neurodiverse like me and feel inspired by the talent I see.”
Leading up to a disability conference, Rob struggled with whether to speak out about his ADHD. Ultimately, he decided to share his story on LinkedIn.
“The satisfying work I do has made me realize that my ADHD is truly my strength,” Rob writes. “Attending the conference reminded me that I do not need to live in the shadows any longer; I should celebrate who I am and what I bring to the table.”
What you can do: Learn how your company can benefit from an environment where employees feel comfortable about disclosing a disability.
3. Veterans are a valuable candidate pool — make sure you’re not asking the wrong questions
What’s reported: Black Enterprise reports that the hiring of veterans is going strong. Is your business looking to take advantage of this “robust, trained, and skilled employee pool”?
In this article, retired Army Lt. Col. John Berry shares ideas for companies looking to improve their veteran hiring and retention. Some questions that veterans hear often are strictly off-limits in the workplace. According to Berry, employers should never ask veterans the following questions:
- “Do you have PTSD?” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that it’s illegal to ask about mental health before a job offer has been made. Employers should avoid this question, even after making a hiring decision.
- “Have you ever killed anyone?” This question can be offensive. According to Berry, “Most veterans who’ve served in combat don’t want to discuss the details of their military service with a civilian.”
- “Have you ever been shot?” Depending on the circumstances, this question could relate to a physical or mental disability. Employers can invite applicants to request accommodations, but they can’t ask whether an applicant has a disability.
4. Disability culture is thriving online, and your employee resource group can take part
What’s reported: In Forbes, diversity advocate Andrew Pulrang offers a list of resources for anyone who wants to explore disability culture online.
If your workplace has an employee resource group (ERG) you’ll find plenty of ideas here for discussion and sharing. Options include:
- Blogs like the Rooted In Rights Blog, which offers essays on disability issues by a group of diverse writers.
- Twitter accounts like Andy Imparato, a longtime disabled activist and organizer.
- Podcasts like those at the Disability Visibility Project, where host Alice Wong interviews people who represent viewpoints on disability life that are often overlooked.
What you can do: Use these resources to spark discussion in your ERG. And if you don’t yet have an ERG for people with disabilities, consider setting one up.
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The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.