With all the conversations arising about embracing diversity and working towards a welcoming and inclusive environment in the workplace, the discussion about people with disabilities on the workforce has yet to receive as much attention as its counterparts.
Despite this information proving that those with disabilities create the largest minority group in the country, many companies are still ignorant about learning who these people are and how to create a work environment that fosters inclusion and productivity. In an effort to help Executives and fellow Administrative Professionals to guide their workplace into a better position of hiring and retaining people with disabilities, here are 9 Points of Wisdom (POWs) that you can take:
POW #1 Make a Bold Statement From the Top
As an Administrative Professional, you have the opportunity to bend the ear of your Executive and share not only any observations you have noticed within the workplace environment, but additionally you can offer solutions to foster a welcoming and accepting and functional atmosphere.
You can note that guidance toward an inclusive business culture starts with senior leadership making a commitment to hire people with disabilities. This transparency from the leaders of the business will send the message through the whole structure of the company that people with disabilities are valued, and that the company will support those who face trauma or disability throughout their career to be successful.
POW #2 Educate Yourself
Remember that people with disabilities are not a homogenous community. In addition to spanning every race, nationality and ethnicity, people with disabilities may have blindness or be hard of hearing; have chronic conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis; have intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder; or have psychiatric disabilities like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder (Consider that many disabilities are invisible to observers.).
Take the opportunity to educate yourself on the many types of disabilities that are common in the workforce, and how to best accommodate those individual situations. Sharing this knowledge with your team will help guide their communication and collaborative efforts when a person with a disability is brought onboard to join the team.
POW #3 Create a Workplace Culture Where Requests are Heard
Be aware that it is not always easy for people to request something specific that would help them to get their job done more efficiently, especially since you may have workers with invisible disabilities who don’t feel safe disclosing them. Whether it is a desk, technical aids, or some other piece of equipment, team members should feel comfortable enough to address their needs.
As an Administrative Professional, your role in this is to not only to spread the knowledge and awareness, but to keep a watchful eye to notice when someone may need something extra to aid in their productivity – in the event that they are not comfortable enough to ask for it.
POW #4 Recognize Those with Disabilities Who Deserve it
Incentives and recognition events are a wonderful way to boost morale across the company. Those who have gone the extra mile to contribute to the success of the team should be praised, and this is a fantastic event for the Admin to organize. In the planning stages, make sure to take into account those with disabilities who have been going above and beyond as well.
POW #5 Learn the Right Terms
Many individuals prefer people-first language that emphasizes the person instead of the disability, i.e., “people with disabilities.” And though the use of the label “differently abled” has gained some traction in recent years, it has been dismissed as euphemistic. Just ask someone what term they prefer instead of assuming. It’s just being respectful of people’s language choice.
Ultimately, it is important for all the team members in any company to be aware of the diverse physical and emotional needs of their array of employees. Making people feel accepted and supported is the key to strong positive morale within your workplace. Be the leader that sets the tone and opens the discussions to educate and spread knowledge throughout your office!
Meet Joanne Linden, CPS, CEAP, CWCA President and Master Trainer, who was an administrative professional herself, and her teaching style is grounded in authentic office experience. AdminUniverse™ can help you improve yourself, widen your skill set, and advance your career.