As an employer, it is imperative that you make sure your workplace is accessible, comfortable, and safe to all employees, and this often requires providing accommodations for individuals with disabilities (IWDs). The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act actually entitles IWDs to several workplace accommodations, and you can find more information on that here.
While some employers worry that the cost of such accommodations can break the bank, the opposite is true. In fact, a study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) through the US DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy earlier this year found that providing workplace accommodations are actually low cost and high impact, making it easy to comply with regulations and diversify your team. Here are some low-cost suggestions for making IWDs feel welcome and comfortable in your workplace.
Actively recruit IWDs
Federal contractors are required to conduct outreach to IWDs as part of their affirmative action plans, so it is important to make your job openings easily accessible to the disabled community. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the government agency tasked with assisting employers with this, offers all kinds of resources to help federal contractor hire IWDs, including these toolkits. The Job Accommodation Network, the National Business and Disability Council, and the US Department of Labor website are also great resources for recruiting IWDs that will diversify your workforce.
Offer a flexible schedule
From medical appointments to physical limitations, working a regular, full day can be difficult for IWDs in the workforce. This is especially true for IWD’s experiencing the side effects of medication (such as low energy) or with physical conditions that make working on your feet all day painful. An easy solution to accommodate IWDs with these limitations is offering a flexible work schedule. Doing so can increase productivity and send the message that you value and support your employees with disabilities.
Welcome service animals in the workplace
Service animals can be an amazing resource for IWDs, allowing them to overcome the limitations that result from their disability. Service animals can be useful in cases of physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability, so openly welcoming and encouraging them in your workplace is a huge asset. For example, high-stress work environments can result in poor job performance and attendance for IWD’s with psychiatric disorders such as PTSD. Encouraging the use of a service animal in such cases could improve productivity, attendance, and morale.
Have an emergency preparedness plan for IWDs
All of your employees should feel safe and secure in the workplace, and IWD’s on your team are no exception. Make sure that the needs of IWDs aren’t overlooked during emergency planning for natural and man-made disasters. If you’re a federal contractor, this guide on the Department of Labor’s website will help make sure you don’t miss anything important while planning for emergencies. Additionally, it’s helpful to include any IWDs on your team in this planning process, or at the very least inform them of it.
Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month
A great way to communicate the appreciation you have for the hardworking IWDs on your team is to celebrate National Disability Employment Month every October. This celebration of IWD’s in the workforce started way back in 1945 when Congress designated the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. The name has since changed, but the important message remains the same.
The hashtag for NDEAM is #InclusionWorks. If your company has a social media presence, incorporate fun ways for you and your employees to use the hashtag and build community online. You can also order poster for your office here on the ODEP’s website.