A Quick Guide to Building Inclusive Work Cultures for Individuals with Disabilities

Two men in an office, one in a wheelchair

Company culture is a large part of what attracts potential employees to an organization. It’s what helps employees connect to their workplace. A strong, welcoming work culture can make any job feel exciting. But, many people are often left out of traditional work cultures due to their lack of accessibility. Creating an inclusive work culture for your organization will help you broaden your horizons, be more productive, and welcome colleagues from all walks of life.

 

What Is an “Inclusive Work Culture,” Exactly?

of all backgrounds and abilities. But inclusivity doesn’t mean ignoring differences. Instead, it is about creating a space where employees feel respected for their differences. 

In other words, you don’t need to treat all employees the same to practice disability inclusion. You just need to create a space that appreciates all employees to the same extent. In practice, that means offering appropriate support – including reasonable working accommodations – so employees have what they need to participate in the workplace.

Why Disability Inclusion at the Workplace Matters

More inclusive jobs attract diverse candidates. And when those diverse team members bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table, everyone wins. There are plenty of benefits of inclusion in the workplace beyond diversity, though. Many of them directly affect work performance and productivity.

    • Inclusive workplaces have higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. When team members work somewhere they feel appreciated, they’re more likely to stick with their jobs and find joy in them.
    • Inclusive workplaces promote more innovation and creativity. When everyone feels comfortable expressing ideas and has the tools to produce them, new and unique projects can come to light.
    • Inclusive workplaces are more engaging for employees. Engaged employees are happy and productive employees.

The more you can work to create an inclusive work culture at your organization, the better. 

It’s important to remember disability inclusion as you do. Many conversations around inclusivity focus on race/ethnicity or gender, but disability is an equally important factor to consider.

How to Create an Inclusive Work Culture, Step by Step

Inclusivity at the workplace might sound great, but how do you actually bring it to life? Bringing accessibility and inclusion to your organization can take time. It will likely be an ongoing process; that’s okay. Even small changes can significantly affect your organization’s work culture. 

1. Work from the top down. 

Any major changes to your organization likely begin with leadership. What better way to ensure inclusivity is a priority among everyone than leading by example?

Your management and executive team should share a commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive work culture. Disability inclusion should also become an organization-wide goal.

Of course, you may not necessarily have the power to tell executive staff what to do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t share your thoughts. Start conversations with leaders at your workplace about bringing disability inclusion to the forefront of your mission.

2. Create inclusive spaces for employees.

A good portion of workplace interaction happens away from the desk. Common areas, recreational areas, and even a water cooler can serve as hubs for camaraderie and support. 

Make sure that these spaces are accessible to all employees. Not only should all employees be able to physically access and use office spaces as intended, but they should also feel comfortable doing so.

3. Be sensitive to employee needs and limitations.

Take the time to understand neurodiversity and what it means. Not all employees or colleagues will work the same way. But a big part of disability inclusion is recognizing that there can be many “right” ways to get something done. 

Be open to tweaks like adjusting timelines, investing in assistive technology, or offering remote work options. Services like those offered here at NeuroNav can also help connect employees living with disabilities to resources that make work easier.

4. Connect with employees as individuals.

Get to know your employees and colleagues as individual people. Asking questions about a person’s disability is not the way to go. While disability may be an important part of many people’s lives, it’s not something that has to define an individual. 

Make it clear that your organization sees its employees as whole people whose unique traits make them a good fit for your team.

The first step toward an inclusive work culture is simply starting a conversation. Whether you live with a disability yourself, are an employer, or want to learn more about how to include others, you’re on the right path. Check out the rest of our resources for more information that can help you get started.

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