HR Resources: Accessibility for Disabled Employees

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There was a time when disabled people were left on the sidelines of life and certainly the workplace, but accessibility has brought about change. Although the disabled still face struggles at work, society has made much progress, especially in the last 30 years.

READ: HR Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

For years, healthcare professionals have helped those with disabilities to find ways to get past physical and mental limits to have the most fulfilling life possible. Advancements in medicine and technology also aided in this journey. Now, HR and workplaces are catching up and taking up this philosophy of inclusion.   

HR leaders, who have frequently expressed a desire to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a top priority, are educating themselves and their organizations about accessibility. Also, the subject has become ubiquitous in social media and among HR leaders.

REPORT: Employee Engagement and Experience for the Post-COVID World

To begin, HR professionals need to know where to get the most accurate and up-to-date information about their obligations and the challenges disabled employees need them to address. Discover resources for HR leaders and employers: 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control offers a handy definition: 

“Accessibility is when the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered, and products, services, and facilities are built or modified so that they can be used by people of all abilities.” 

In addition, the CDC includes other relevant terms and explanations of inclusion strategies that are pertinent to creating a more positive workplace culture. This information can also be used by fellow employees who are trying to relate better to one another. 

WATCH: Moving the Needle on Diversity: Focusing on Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made it illegal to discriminate against job candidates or employees because of their disabilities. This really addressed all spheres of life including schools, housing, etc. In 2008, after decisions by the Supreme Court in relevant cases, Congress amended the act to expand its reach because more people then qualified as disabled. Then President George W. Bush signed the amendment into law. 

READ: Common DEI Practices

This legislation was groundbreaking and put accessibility front and center for employers. Now, there was a legal motivation, beyond the moral one, for treating the disabled fairly. The ADA site is a helpful resource because it explains the legislation and provides guidelines. 

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The EEOC is the group responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Go to this site to learn more about cases of alleged discrimination, accommodations for the disabled in general and during the pandemic, and more.

WATCH: Incorporating a Culture of Diversity for Mental Health and Wellbeing 

Department of Labor (DOL)

At the Department of Labors Disabilities site, HR leaders can find a wealth of information about the laws related to disabled employees, hiring the disabled, and relevant statistics. For example, more than 19% of people with a disability were employed in 2019, compared to 66% of those without a disability. The numbers alone can tell a compelling story to employers. 

Understanding how to accommodate the disabled in the workplace is important. The DOL points out that employers can accommodate disabled employees by ensuring the work space is built in an inclusive way. For instance, parking spaces should be close to the entrance. Another example would be accessible restrooms. Elevators and ramps are must haves. There are checklists available. HR leaders should also talk to their disabled employees to determine if there are other challenges that they can address on a one-on-one basis. 

READ: What is Mental Health and Wellness in HR? 

The possibility of remote work could make it possible for more disabled people to enter the workforce. However, those who are disabled and working remotely require certain accommodations, too. For example, online, interactive tools may not be easily accessed or used by those with visual, auditory, or other impairments. Recently, the EEOC issued further guidance about the ADA and the use of software, algorithms, and AI to assess job candidates and employees. 

READ: Renegotiating the Psychological Contract for the Post-COVID World

What HR leaders should take away from this resource guide is that accessibility is evolving, and the workplace in general is becoming a more welcoming space. The goal is to remove obstacles, help people gain a sense of belonging, and expand the horizons of teams by including people who have different backgrounds and perspectives. Those with disabilities have much to contribute. 

Photo by Marcus Aurelius for Pexels 

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