Disabilities and the Workplace

What makes a workplace "accessible" to a person who has a physical disability?

According to Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited:

...from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Today, many employers aren't just adhering to the ADA's policies, they're taking a proactive stance to be more inclusive as a means of ensuring that all employees are provided with an environment to help them have a thriving career.

image by Pink Sherbet Photography

Making the Workplace More Accessible for People with Disabilities

Most of us take for granted the things that need to be taken into consideration for others who may have a physical disability. Some of these areas of consideration include items such as:

  • Parking lots (handicapped parking spaces)
  • Building entrances and exits
  • Emergency exits
  • Shared work spaces (desk areas, conference rooms)
  • Hallways
  • Stairwells
  • Elevators
  • Restrooms
  • And More

 

Accessibility also includes technology. Computers, machines, devices - anything that is necessary for an employee to do his/her job may need to be reevaluated for use by someone who has a disability. Think about your workplace. What sorts of reasonable accommodations can be made?

Statistics on Disabilities in the Workplace

The following are some statistics on disabilities and employment, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • In 2014, 17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed.
  • Persons with a disability were about three times as likely as those with no disability to be age 65 and over.
  • For all age groups, the employment-population ratio was much lower for persons with a disability than for those with no disability.
  • Unemployment rates were higher for persons with a disability than for those with no disability among all educational attainment groups.
  • In 2014, 33 percent of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 18 percent for those with no disability.
  • Employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.
  • In 2014, 15 percent of workers with a disability were employed in federal, state, and local government, about the same percentage as those with no disability.

Shifting Attitudes to be More Inclusive

Today, attitudes about disability have shifted. However, there is still room for improvement. One of the biggest things an employer can do is act as a resource for employees.

Employers can start the conversation by providing employees with training and/or information on disability awareness. Other ideas include making disability-related materials part of new-employee orientation programs, supporting local causes in the area, or forming a disability support/awareness group.

What other ways can employers be more inclusive or supportive of people with disabilities?