Many organizations are interested in enhancing inclusion in their workplaces. An important, but often overlooked, area of inclusion is employees with disabilities. The ILR School’s Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability offers tips and resources to help organizations navigate this area.
One element of concern is retaining employees with disabilities. It’s one thing to hire people with disabilities, but after they are in the door, how can the workplace support them and allow them to truly belong? Here are some ideas:
- Pay attention to quiet messages about who belongs. Consider this reflection from an employee with a disability: “Nobody at work directly insults me. But I don’t feel like I’m a member of the group. I often sit alone at gatherings. When I try to join conversations, I’m usually frozen out after a few minutes … Other people get more help from our manager than I do when they need to learn something. Because of this stuff happening, I don’t feel like I can ask for anything special – I don’t want to rock the boat.”
- Take steps to ensure that bullying does not occur. A study by Yang-Tan researchers of employed people with disabilities found that many had been subject to (23%) or witnessed others (31%) being bullied at work in the previous 12 months.
Organizational support matters. This support can include articulating a clear process for an employee to request an accommodation, educating managers about disability and working to build a culture that acknowledges the role of disability in many employees’ lives. Employees may personally have a disability – either visible or hidden – or they may have a family member who does.
Two grant-funded websites from the institute are the Small Business at Work Toolkit and EARN, the Employment Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. Both sites, featuring tools and advice, are open to the public at no cost.
The Yang-Tan Institute also offers a customized, web-based toolkit. The Just-in-Time Toolkit for Employees is designed to help organizations increase disability comfort, and it explains concepts such as accommodations, disability disclosure and self-identification. The institute tailors each toolkit for an organization’s internal policies and practices. To learn more, contact the Just-in-Time team at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for the July 21 webinar about the Just-in-Time Toolkit for Employees.
Tonya Engst is the digital content editor at the Yang-Tan Institute.