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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a legal structure for people with disabilities to challenge discrimination. The laws assure equality of opportunity, complete participation, independent living, and economic sustainability for all individuals with disabilities. Passed on July 26, 1990, the ADA symbolizes bipartisan support for disability inclusion in the workforce and public life. The ADA ensures that people with disabilities are seen as full and equal employees which may require a change in the cultural values of the organization from leadership, to hiring managers, to employees and coworkers. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) supports several initiatives that help employers interested in hiring individuals with disabilities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29 percent of Americans ages 16 to 64 with a disability were employed compared to 75 percent of those without a disability. On the opposite side, the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is just over 9 percent, which is two times higher than those unemployed without a disability. While the playing field seems uneven, companies have begun recruiting and hiring people with disabilities to leverage diversity and inclusion programs.
Before an employer can commit to an inclusive team, senior leadership must set the tone for the company’s inclusive culture. The benefits of workforce planning can go beyond reaching corporate goals with a strategy to encompass the full potential of every employee. With a focus on disability and inclusion, employers can build strong teams that encourage diversity and welcome change. Here are other ways to grow strong teams through diverse employees:
Training your current workforce to foster an environment of inclusion is key. Provide learning opportunities to help employees understand that not all disabilities are visible. In addition, to influence change, HR, hiring managers, and consultants must help senior leaders be more attuned to the needs and talents of disabled workers.
Developing relationships with community disability-serving organizations is a great way to reach potential employees. Seek out non-profit service providers who can champion the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. In exchange, companies can learn to navigate issues that might arise when a disabled worker is hired to join an existing team.
Include the Term Disability
Update policies and diversity statements to include words like “disability” and “people with disabilities”. This affirms a commitment to equal opportunity employment for inclusion. Better yet, add an inclusion statement to the bottom of every job description.
Provide Opportunities for Feedback
Furnish employees with disabilities a space and procedure to provide feedback. Give disabled employees an anonymous or confidential way to identify concerns or barriers to inclusion without fear of embarrassment or being treated differently. In fact, all employees should have the opportunity to share feedback without fear of retaliation.
Retain and Advance
Hiring people with disabilities is a significant step, however, retaining the employee is even better. The workplace culture must be open to inclusion. To achieve this, organizations provide professional development training opportunities, mentoring programs, and celebrate disability-related months with inclusive events. By providing advancement opportunities, workers with disabilities can strive to build a career that can provide economic stability and confidence.
Pledge to Encourage Cross-departmental Interaction
When building disability-inclusive teams, encourage employees throughout the workplace to engage with each other. The more people involved in the inclusion efforts, the greater the likelihood of success.
Building a disability-inclusive team is about taking steps to implement programs, policies, and goals that support the continued commitment to diversity and inclusion. It doesn’t happen overnight and requires planning, structure, and training. People with disabilities have spent most of their lives working to survive and prosper in a world designed by people without disabilities.
If you want to enhance your workforce with diversity and inclusion, start with an enterprise system that can get you started in the right direction. Request a demo today!