10 Ways to be More Inclusive of Persons with Disabilities in the Workplace

by Meida Surya, 20 October 2022

10 Ways to be More Inclusive of Persons with Disabilities in the Workplace

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Singapore aims to have 40% of working age persons with disabilities (PwDs) employed by 2030. In doing so, building an inclusive workplace that is ready to embrace PwDs in the workforce is crucial. While providing support structures to PwDs is important, companies must also listen to the needs of PwDs and pay attention to their voices.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Singapore’s largest movement to support inclusion and celebrate the abilities of PwDs, The Purple Parade, here are 10 considerations organisations should consider to be more inclusive of PwDs in the workplace:

1. Leverage on Strengths

TAFEP (The Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices) suggests that, in there are situations where prospective candidates do not fit into traditional job roles or when current employees become disabled, job requirements should be reviewed to leverage the strength of their employees. Offering flexible working arrangements is a way to enable people to contribute, especially with the future of work leaning towards a more hybrid workforce. 

2. Accessible Design

When we design for PwDs, everyone else can also benefit. For example, having ramps not only benefits those on wheelchairs, but also older employees and anyone who might have difficulty using stairs. The same goes with installing larger presentation screens, not only will those with visual impairments benefit, but everyone else will also be able to more easily read a presentation.

There are specific accommodations meant for people with specific conditions, such as screen readers and other assistive technology tailored to individuals. Being able to provide the right tools for success will enable employees to perform at their best.

3. Cultural Shift

Cultivating an inclusive work environment is easier said than done. A cultural shift is necessary to ensure that employees all across the organisation strive towards being accepting of those who are different from them. The leadership team of each organisation has the biggest impact in making this shift. The leadership team has influence to set the tone for what inclusivity at their organisation should look like.

Specific to PwDs, a 2018 survey found that there are unfavorable attitudes towards people with disabilities, as their disability is often perceived as an inability to do the job, despite them having relevant qualifications to work effectively. This is mostly due to misconceptions of those with disabilities.

PwDs are capable of what everyone else is capable of, as long as they are being given the right tools. Once this idea is normalised, it will open up opportunities for PwDs to feel included in the workplace.

4. Offer Employees with Disabilities Training and Employment Opportunities with the help of subsidies and funding through the Enterprise Portal for Jobs and Skills

5. Offering Training for All your Employees

On top of getting your employees with disabilities training on skill sets for the workplace and finding ways for them to integrate to the workplace, your organisation should also prepare all of your employees to interact and work with employees of disabilities, to better the working relationship and conditions for all parties alike. 

6. Involve them in Decision-Making Processes

The most effective way to be inclusive of PwDs is to ensure they are part of the conversation. When other people who do not have lived experiences of living with a disability are making decisions for those that have a disability, there will likely be a lot of things that are not considered. This is especially crucial when thinking about policies in the workplace. They know their needs best and will be able to provide suggestions on how they can best thrive in the workplace.

7. Allow each PwD to have Agency of Disclosure 

Employees with disabilities should be empowered to control the terms of their own confidentiality and disclosure of their disability with other staff. While we would like to cultivate awareness of our differences with one another, each individual- especially those with invisible disabilities- may not be ready to disclose their disabilities to others for multiple reasons. Being able to ultimately give agency to each individual to outweigh the pros and cons of openly sharing their disability in the workplace is key.

8. Ensure Formal and Informal Company Events are Accessible

With the idea of designing with accessibility in mind, ask your employees how company events can be more accessible to them. We should not assume that people simply do not want to participate, as this could exclude them from informal opportunities. Some of the general considerations would be to avoid venues that may be difficult to get to, and don't have accessible bathrooms or ramps and elevators. You should also consider food allergies and have non-alcoholic options available. These considerations will allow all your employees to participate fully.

9. Discourage Abelist Language

Utilising inclusive language is not about being politically correct. It is more about the impact it has on those who might repeatedly have been told that they do not belong. Certain words may seem harmless (i.e. crazy, stupid, lame, tonedeaf, challenged, etc), and they are not particularly offensive in all situations. However, these words are typically used in a negative manner, which may make PwDs continuously feel as if their disability is inherently negative. Using terminology each person prefers for themselves is also key to using inclusive language. 

10. Onboarding Processes

One way to drive the point that disability inclusion is an imperative in your organisation is to share your organisation's policies and practices during your company’s formal onboarding process. This does not only have to be about disability inclusion- it could be about your organisation’s commitment to equal employment- though specificity to your organisation’s policies about the ways you practice inclusivity sends a strong message. This will be a great motivator for new employees joining in and may also encourage self-identification for those with hidden disabilities and they are more likely to refer their networks with disabilities to your organisation.

At Inclusively Asia, we firmly believe that workplaces that embrace inclusion help teams perform better. When employees feel respected and belong, they are at their best self. We applaud the work done by The Purple Parade to promote awareness and celebrate abilities of Persons with Disabilities and wish you a very Happy 10th Anniversary!

Find out more about Inclusively Asia, the work that we do and our Inclusive Business Pledge here.  

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