It’s the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there are lots of conversations about the kind of progress that has been made in integrating individuals with disabilities into the workplace. But there are also many conversations underway about how much work we have left to do and believe me, there’s a lot to be done.
The good news is that the task does not loom so large as to be prohibitive. There are existing communications strategies that can be implemented immediately and, really, in many cases it’s simply a discovery process that needs to take place. The secret to success in this discovery is that both the workplace and the individual with the disability share the responsibility in the discovery process. Here are a few strategies for businesses:
Businesses can say internally and externally, “we commit to being a disability aware environment and we intend to provide reasonable accommodations to those who wish to contribute to our mission and values.”
Listen and learn about your prospective or existing employees lives and the lengths to which they go to be productive and happy individuals. You can learn a lot about how they gain access to the world around them and by doing that, understand how to provide access to your workplace.
Understand what your employees are excellent at and put them in a position to succeed.
We are the ones who understand our needs better than anybody else but we have to be able to communicate those needs effectively. Here are a few strategies for individuals with disabilities:
Individuals with disabilities: learn, learn, learn and then learn some more. Don’t let your skills go stale or disappear altogether.
Apply for jobs based on your competencies, not because you have a disability. YOU have value to provide because you’ve worked hard to develop your skills.
Communicate your needs: To demand that people do the right thing can create a challenging environment. An effective way to communicate our needs may be to express that we have every desire in the world to provide and build value for the business itself. We want to be effective employees and do our jobs extremely well.
Access to workplace environments is 99% of what any accommodations we request are all about and what happens when we have access? We become productive, powerful, and engaging resources for our employers.
Let’s frame the conversation in terms of productive give and take by both parties in any conversation about reasonable accommodations in a workplace and guess what? It CAN be a positive conversation!
Benjamin Lachman is the Business and Community Engagement Coordinator for JJsList.com