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How Can Employers Better Accommodate Disabled People?

According to Marketwatch, one out of four employees either are or will become physically disabled in some way or another.

It’s about time that employers become more knowledgeable about their work and how they overtly, as well as subtly discriminate against employees.

Ways that employers subtly discriminate against their disabled employees

It’s not as if most employers are heartless individuals who don’t always care about

their employees with disabilities, it’s often more a case of not realizing all the barriers that stand in the way.

A perfect example is a business that rents or owns an older building that doesn’t provide curbside easements for entering the business with a wheelchair or no ramps that provide easy access to small flights of stairs.

Businesses, including those that offer public accommodations such as restaurants often just fail to realize there is a problem at all.

Discriminating against people with disabilities the sly way

The Huffington Post, in June of last year, gave a number of examples of discrimination against disabled people.

Wendy Lu, writing for Huffington at reports how she, a disabled journalist, was held back from working as a reporter by arbitrary job requirements like:

  • The ability to reach, bend, lift, push, pull and carry a minimum of 25 lbs
  • The ability to type a minimum of 40 wpm
  • Required ability to sit for an extended period of time up to a full 8-hour shift

It was only because the writer was able to gain traction from many reporters and disabled advocates that the company quickly removed all extraneous requirements for all of their job postings.

Lu noted that the reporter’s job she was interested in was not the only job that required extraneous skills. A search of, for example, Zip Recruiter revealed 300 jobs that required the ability to type, even though computer programs that type via voice recognition are readily available and are a perfectly reasonable accommodation for those who are able-bodied otherwise but cannot type.

There were nearly 1000 jobs that required people to carry 25 lbs, even though roll carts make that an unneeded skill for most office jobs.

Most of those extraneous requirements are not deliberate attempts to keep disabled employees out, but rather simple ignorance of how problematic the requirements may be for certain people.

Companies should make sure they are, at a minimum, at least complying with local regulations requiring handicap accommodations if not exceeding these requirements. Knowing when and where to add simple features like bathroom grab bars is critical. They are easy to overlook but an absolute requirement for many people to get around.

One of the ways that companies can change that policy is to have their HR Department become absolute experts at accommodation. HR should know of every technological advancement that allows handicapped workers to obtain jobs and should do a thorough analysis of every job need in the company to ask, “can we open this job up to everyone?”

Once HR has done a thorough analysis of all the jobs opened, they should make a genuine attempt, on a recurring basis, to hire disabled employees. Rather than wait for them to “show up,” they should contact the State Employment Bureaus and all social agencies that serve the disabled, to announce “we are hiring.”

Two very good reasons why they should do this is that government agencies often offer thousands in Work Opportunity Tax Credits for hiring the disabled and that disabled people, knowing how difficult it is to get on with a good employer, are some of the most loyal employees a company can find.

If a company does not know about these employee credits, HR has a responsibility to let the executives of the company know.

There are many ways a company can add and keep employees with disabilities, but perhaps the greatest way is to demonstrate that in the world of employment, the disabled are not the exception nor the non-exception to the rule.

While disabled people may need a little accommodation here or there, disabled people do not want the world. They don’t want to feel special or that they are being excessively accommodated. They just want to be one of the team.

That means they expect to compete for competitive jobs, not be given them, and they expect to be held to generally the same work standards.

The more the disabled are treated the same at work, the more they feel invested into the company as it grows in strength.

The long and short of it

Be very careful and know the law when it involves public accommodation. Be cognizant that disabled people may require a little extra help from technology, and above all, make disabled people part of your team. You’ll be happy you did in many ways and your overall team will be stronger.

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