Inclusive Workspaces

This blog has been written by Uzoamaka Anita Asiegbu – a member of the Disabled Leaders Network:

Uzoamaka looks towards the camera smiling in a yellow dress with her hand rested on her hip, she has a crutch positioned under her right arm. Uzoamaka stands in front of a UN women sign that has a slogan I am #GenerationEquality

INCLUSIVE WORKSPACES

With over one billion persons with disabilities globally, I think disability inclusion in the workplace is essential to an organisation’s growth. An inclusive workplace offers employees with disabilities — whether visible or invisible — an equal and equitable opportunity to succeed, learn, be compensated fairly, and advance while valuing their strengths. No proactive organisation would want to miss out on over a billion talent pool of persons with disabilities worldwide.

It is important to note that persons with disabilities are not a homogenous group. There is diversity in persons with disabilities, as two people may have the same disability yet compensate in entirely different ways.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal, institutional, and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Below are a few ways I think organisations should create an inclusive workplace;

Capacity Building on Disability Inclusive Work Places;

Mainstreaming disability in the workplace starts with capacity building of all staff on inclusion and the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.

The common misconception that people with disabilities cannot function in the workplace is one of the reasons why people with disabilities have higher unemployment rates than people without disabilities. It’s a common myth that  persons with disabilities will be unable to work effectively, their impairment preventing them from completing their tasks, some employers are concerned that employees with disabilities may miss work days, their absence inhibiting their output. But this is wrong.

However, as I mentioned before, there is diversity in disabilities. Any employer looking to build an inclusive workspace must educate their staff employees on disability inclusion, enforce disability etiquette and use of words, establish zero discrimination, and make the workplace more accessible and inclusive.

Inclusive Hiring Processes;

Every inclusive organisation and workplace must have an organisational culture which reflects that inclusion and mainstreaming disability are an essential part of their culture. Human Resources must create guidelines that clearly explain that they are actively hiring persons with disabilities and demonstrate how they are implementing accessibility.

Ensuring that persons with disabilities are included in recruitment starts from the first stage, the job creation stage. Hiring managers ought to begin thinking about inclusion at the beginning – the job description and advertising should be as straightforward as possible and developed to be accessible for persons with diverse disabilities. The application and interview processes should be accessible too. If candidates face barriers during the application and interview process or sense that your organisation is not inclusive, they’re likely not to bother applying.

At the application stage, put a system that confirms if applicants have a disability and would require reasonable accommodation during their interviews. Note that this confirmation should not serve as a disqualification technique for you. Assessment of suitability for a role should be based on merit. If possible, put a disclaimer along with the advert to reassure applicants that their disability status will not affect the outcome. When candidates confirm their reasonable accommodation needs and proceed to the interview stage, ensure that your organisation provides the requested accommodations.

Reasonable Accommodation;

According to Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,  reasonable accommodation is a ‘necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments where needed, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.’

To create a disability-inclusive workplace, an employer or organisation must make provisions for reasonable accommodations for diverse forms of disabilities. E.g., providing a ramp for a wheelchair user without providing assistive technologies for persons with hearing and visual impairments is not being thoroughly inclusive.

If possible, hire a consultant or an inclusion expert to advise on diverse reasonable accommodations required to make your organisation inclusive. These modifications include removing physical barriers, special equipment and adjustments, disability parking lots and wheelchairs, assistive technologies, flexible work hours, remote work etc.

Conclusion

The above are some disability biases that hiring managers and the entire organisation must always recognise and eliminate. Mainstreaming disability is not about adding a component of persons with disabilities or even adding a component of equality, empowerment or rights into an existing activity. Diversity and inclusion brings the experience, knowledge, and interests of persons with disabilities to the workplace. Organisations with solid disability inclusion programs have better access to talent and better employee retention. Persons with disabilities have the tools they need to help their organisations thrive. Building an inclusive workplace can improve morale and workplace culture. It sends an important message about your company’s values.

Let’s start being inclusive today!

Uzoamaka is sat down and smiling to the camera, wearing a black dress and holding her crutch

Author Bio:
Uzoamaka is the Program and Inclusion Analyst at UN Women Nigeria Country Office. She is a professional gender, disability, and inclusion expert with incessant ideas about influencing inclusion and intersectionality in an organisation’s culture. As an experienced inclusion expert, she has the expertise to generate unique strategies for specific gender and disability-related projects. Uzoamaka has developed a particular skill in working with persons facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination to promote inclusive relations. Uzoamaka is also an experienced freelance writer for Write Hand Hub and enjoys sharing experiences through writing. Her skill in communication extends to influencing effective communications within progressive organisations.


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