As human beings we should always be striving to do better and to improve ourselves and how the world works. Nowhere has that change been more important in recent years than in expanding the opportunities for disabled individuals in the workforce.
One of the only things standing in the way of a truly equal and non-discriminatory future, however, is the subtle discriminations that continue to persist in every facet of the modern workplace. This is not overt bigotry we’re talking about here but years of systemic discrimination that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort on the part of everyone to help snuff out.
So, how do you identify and prevent disability discrimination in the workplace?
Whether we realise it or not, when it comes to hiring a candidate, we may find ourselves asking insensitive questions to the person we are interviewing. Even if the questions come from a place of curiosity or wanting to understand that person’s condition further, they can come across as patronising or ill-informed. Make sure to keep your questions open and leading as opposed to interrogative and let the candidate reveal what they’re comfortable sharing with you. Don’t bring up their disability unless they do and if they do, don’t linger on it, or try to make a big deal out of it.
If you have taken on a disabled employee, then you will need to make reasonable adjustments which will make it more comfortable for them in navigating workplace life. If you fail to do so this could be seen as an example of workplace discrimination. If they are struggling to get to and from the office, meanwhile, you might want to discuss options for disabled vehicle adaptations to be made to company cars.
Keep your ears to the ground when taking on new employees and ensure this is a habit you continue to foster. Check that no employees are mocking your disabled employees or using offensive language which may leave them upset or embarrassed. It’s up to those in charge to work alongside the HR department to ensure that there is a healthy and encouraging company culture; a culture that doesn’t tolerate bullying in any capacity.
Physical disabilities are always going to be easier to spot and make accommodations for but there are also mental impairments to consider, which could dramatically have an impact on a person’s wellbeing and how they feel they are being treated at work. Note that not everyone with a mental disability will be comfortable sharing it with you, so steps should be taken to ensure that everyone can feel safe and respected at work, regardless of their mental or physical faculties. So never assume somebody is or is not disabled but don’t ask either. It’s up to them. It’s always up to them.