Disability and Accessibility in the Workplace

Aside from the the many benefits that we detail in this post, businesses are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This includes ensuring that the workplace is accessible and providing necessary equipment or modifications. While complying with disability access laws can be costly and time-consuming, there are a number of resources available to help businesses make their workplaces more inclusive. By following these guidelines, businesses can create a more equitable and productive work environment for all employees.

When it comes to finding gainful employment for PWD’s in Canada and the United States, there are many legal protections in place to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. Employees with disabilities contribute to the DEI of an ESG score.

Visible vs Invisible Disabilities at Work

Visible disabilities are those that can be seen, such as a physical impairment or the use of a wheelchair. In some cases, people with visible disabilities may face discrimination in the workplace due to their disability. Employers might not understand the abilities of someone who is dealing with a visible disability and, as a result, avoid hiring them or making accommodations for them.

Invisible disabilities, on the other hand, are more difficult to identify. These can include mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, learning disabilities such as dyslexia, or chronic illnesses like lupus or arthritis. While invisible disabilities still have a physical and/or psychological impact, they can be harder for employers to recognize. Someone with an invisible disability may find that their employer is not aware of the need for special accommodations and support, or they may fear discrimination if they disclose the condition.

Both visible and invisible disabilities can present unique challenges in the workplace, but employers have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations so that employees with disabilities can perform their job duties without any undue hardship. This can include making physical changes to the workplace, providing access to assistive technology, or allowing for flexible working hours.

Ultimately, employers should strive to make their workplaces more inclusive and welcoming for people with disabilities of all kinds. Creating a culture of understanding and acceptance is the best way to ensure that everyone has an equal chance at success in the workplace.

By taking the time to learn more about disabilities and how they impact employee experiences, employers can create a work environment that is accessible and accommodating for everyone. With the right level of support, people with disabilities can thrive at work and reach their fullest potential.

The World Health Organization on Disabled Employment

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of employment for people with disabilities. According to WHO, “people with disabilities must have access to meaningful and gainful employment opportunities in order to lead independent and productive lives”. The organization has developed specific strategies, guidelines and recommendations that promote inclusive and accessible work environments, support service providers in understanding their role in creating such opportunities, and ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against or excluded in the workplace.

WHO also works to promote the active participation of disabled persons in society through policy development and technical assistance. This includes working with governments and other stakeholders to develop legislation, policies and programs that support the inclusion of people with disabilities into the workforce. WHO also works directly with employers to help them understand their responsibility towards creating accessible, inclusive and equitable work environments for all.

WHO is committed to promoting the rights of people with disabilities in employment settings around the world. Through these initiatives, WHO hopes to ensure that disabled persons are able to fulfil their potential and participate fully in society. The organization’s efforts also support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include a commitment to reduce poverty by creating equal opportunities for those who are most vulnerable and marginalized.

There are certain laws in Canada and the United States that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace.

What are disability and employment Laws?

In Canada, the United States, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and other countries, there are several laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities in terms of employment. These protections vary from country to country and also depend on the specific disability of an individual. Generally speaking, these laws exist to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to jobs and fair wages when compared to their non-disabled peers.

The first laws governing disabled persons in the workplace were passed in the early 1960s, with further legislation being introduced throughout the decades. These laws are designed to ensure that people with disabilities have access to jobs and that employers provide accommodations for their unique needs. In many countries, these laws also make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person with a disability.

Under these laws, employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” for persons with disabilities. In other words, they must remove barriers to access when making accommodations in the workplace for employees with disabilities, to ensure their safety and comfort in the workplace. Individuals with disabilities are not always aware that they may be entitled to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Or if they do know, they do not always understand what is required of them to receive this protection. But with the advancement of ESG, that is changing.

What is a disability?

According to the most definitions, a disability is any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual. This includes conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, blindness, and other learning disabilities. Disabilities can be long-term or short-term, and may range from mild to severe. People who have disabilities may need assistance in order to fully participate in everyday activities. This can include accommodations, modifications, and/or assistive technology.

Additionally, having a disability can affect an individual’s access to employment, education, health care, transportation, housing and other services. It is important to remember that every person’s experience of disability is unique. People may have different levels of impairment and may require different kinds of assistance. It is important to recognize and support the individual needs of individuals with disabilities, in order to ensure they are able to fully participate in their community. These disabilities can include, but are not limited to:

  • deafness
  • low vision or blindness
  • orthopedic impairments, including but not limited to amputations, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, fractures or burns that cause contractures, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis in various joints such as the spine or knees.
  • respiratory problems
  • cardiac conditions
  • cerebral vascular accident or stroke
  • cancer or other types of chronic illness
  • learning disabilities, including but not limited to dyslexia, attention deficit disorder or autism spectrum disorder
  • mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

How to accommodate disabled employees

There are many ways to accommodate employees with disabilities and it is up to employers to determine the best possible solution. The key is for business is to be aware of their obligations and gain a better understanding of how they can improve. This starts by training managers on what accommodations people may need, along with hiring disabled employees as part of an effort to build an understanding of diverse needs at the workplace.

6 ways for businesses to accommodate people with disabilities

Employers should consider how they may better support employees with disabilities. This can include:

  • Providing ergonomic computer equipment like a standing desk to reduce back pain.
  • Providing flexible work hours to allow therapy appointments.
  • Allowing extra vacation days for therapy sessions.
  • Training managers on what to say or do if an employee is visibly or audibly distressed.
  • Providing assistive technology devices for employees with various disabilities.
  • Assigning a co-worker buddy system for a disabled employee who has been out on medical leave for an extended period of time to help them transition back.

9 ways accessibility can be improved in the workplace?

Some employers may not be sure of how to make their workplace more accommodating. Below are some ways that they can best improve the work place:

  • create an inclusive attitude and revise company policies
  • allowing employees to use assistive technology tools
  • ensuring that office areas are free of clutter and obstacles like cords or potted plants that might inhibit someone who has trouble walking
  • constructing accessible bathrooms with grab bars, slip-resistant floors and lower sinks.
  • making the necessary accommodations relevant to their disability
  • speaking with employees about their needs before they need to ask
  • providing ergonomic equipment for their work area that will not interfere with the job requirements
  • offering flexible work hours or alternatives to assigned tasks that are uncomfortable for someone who has a disability
  • train for inclusion
  • make your systems WCAG compliant according to W3C standards

What are non-visible disabilities?

Not all disabilities are visible. The term “invisible disability” or “hidden disability” are umbrella phrases that encompasses a wide range of hidden impairments or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. You may even know someone with a disability but didn’t know it. Invisible or non-visible disabilities include, but are not limited to:

  • hearing impairments
  • sight impairments
  • mobility issues such as back pain or head injuries
  • mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
  • developmental conditions like autism or ADHD
  • chronic pain 

The benefits of hiring people with disabilities have been noted across research studies…

What are the benefits of hiring people with disabilities?

The benefits of hiring people with disabilities have been noted across research studies. It was found that the employment of disabled workers reduced business costs for transportation and production since they are able to work from home. Employers also benefit from reduced recruitment costs since they are seeking out potential employees with disabilities, who are more likely to accept jobs rather than continue looking.

“There is ample evidence that employers also see tangible benefits in hiring people with disabilities,” said Kevin Miller director of research for SHRM, “..including increased productivity, team diversity and lower job-related injury rates.”

Organizations that can support disabled employees will have a competitive advantage in hiring top talent because they are providing an accommodating environment to all potential candidates. This may be why managers are beginning to promote hiring persons with disabilities as a mission.

Disability and accessibility are very similar in that they both can be defined as preventing someone from performing their duties at their highest capacity.

What does disability inclusion have to do with accessibility?

The inclusion of people with disabilities is closely linked to the concept of accessibility. Accessibility means creating environments, products and services that are usable by people with a variety of abilities, including those with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments. When organizations strive for disability inclusion in their workplace, they create an environment where everyone can participate and contribute regardless of their personal abilities or limitations. By making sure that their products, services and environments are accessible to people with disabilities, organizations lay the groundwork for greater inclusion of people with disabilities. Accessibility also helps foster an environment where everyone is respected and valued regardless of ability. With accessibility taken into consideration, disabled individuals can better access resources and opportunities that enable them to participate in society at large. Additionally, it can help break down attitudinal and communication barriers that prevent people with disabilities from feeling included. When organizations strive for disability inclusion they are taking the necessary steps to create an accessible, safe and welcoming environment where everyone can participate and contribute to their fullest potential. Disability inclusion is a key factor in creating an equitable society where everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities. Through accessibility, organizations can create a more inclusive environment where people with disabilities feel respected, valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in life’s activities.

How does disability fit into ESG strategies?

When it comes to ESG strategies, disability inclusion should be treated as an integral part. Not only are people with disabilities a large and growing population, but they can also contribute to a company’s performance if given the opportunity and support. Companies that prioritize disability-inclusive practices have been found to benefit from increased productivity and lower employee turnover rates, while developing a more positive public image.

In order to ensure that disability is included in ESG strategies, companies should take a few key steps. Companies should ensure that their recruiting process is accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities, as well as actively seek out diverse talent from different backgrounds. Additionally, they should provide support services such as accommodations or mentorship programs to help employees with disabilities succeed in the workplace. Finally, companies should ensure that their products and services are accessible to all customers, regardless of ability.

By taking these proactive steps, companies can create an ESG strategy that is both disability-inclusive and beneficial for the company. Not only will this help foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment, but it can also help the company increase its profits and public image. Ultimately, this is a win-win situation for both the company and people with disabilities.

In conclusion, disability inclusion should be an integral part of any ESG strategy. Companies that prioritize disability-inclusive practices will benefit from increased productivity and lower employee turnover rates, as well as develop a more positive public image. In order to ensure that disability is included in ESG strategies, companies should take steps such as recruiting diverse talent, providing support services, and making sure their products and services are accessible. By taking these steps, companies can create an ESG strategy that is both disability-inclusive and beneficial for the company.

What is a socially responsible business?

A scially responsible business is one that takes into account the needs of all stakeholders, including their employees and customers, along with their environmental impact. These companies are committed to promoting ethical practices in their operations and ensuring a positive impact on society as a whole. This means taking steps such as reducing emissions, minimizing waste, investing in renewable energy sources, providing a living wage for employees, and more. By doing so, socially responsible businesses strive to create a positive effect on the world around them.

Additionally, these companies may also seek to use their profits for social good by donating money or services to charitable organizations or engaging in philanthropic activities such as volunteering with local nonprofits or environmental cleanup projects. Ultimately, the goal of socially responsible businesses is to create a sustainable and ethical future for the company and all its stakeholders.

By taking into account the needs of their customers, employees, environment and communities, these companies are able to demonstrate that they are truly making an effort to be good corporate citizens. Additionally, by investing in their communities, socially responsible businesses can create goodwill, build customer loyalty and attract more talent and resources. All of these benefits help create a sustainable business that can stand the test of time.

Overall, socially responsible businesses are a great way for companies to show their commitment to making a positive impact on society while also creating long-term sustainability for their operations. By taking into account the needs of all stakeholders and investing in their communities, companies can demonstrate that they are truly good corporate citizens. This type of business model helps to create a better world for all.

Ultimately, when customers and employees see a company taking steps to be socially responsible, it shows how much the company values its community and environment. Customers appreciate this and are more likely to choose a socially responsible business over one that doesn’t make these efforts. Furthermore, when employees and customers feel valued by a company, they become more loyal and productive members of the team. This can lead to increased profits and success for the company in the long run.

Socially responsible business includes, but is not limited to:

  • reduces environmental impact
  • engages in fair trade practices
  • respects human rights
  • treats employees fairly and with respect…and more!   

By hiring people with disabilities, businesses can show that they are providing an environment that is accepting of all potential employees, which will help them attract the best talent. It shows that they value inclusion and diversity in their workforce.

At any rate, disability benefits businesses because it broadens their talent pool while simultaneously allowing them to show socially responsible behavior. Disability is simply another aspect of inclusion. Employers that think outside the box about how disability affects their workforce will benefit financially and socially.

Accessible workplaces in Canada

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) makes it compulsory for federally regulated entities to make sure their workplaces are disability-friendly. This includes government buildings, banks, telecommunications providers, transportation and railways. The new law will also apply to construction of new public spaces such as shopping centres, movie theatres and restaurants.

Accessible Canada’s goal according to the Department of Justice is that “people with disabilities have the same opportunities as all members of Canadian society to fully take part in our economy, society and institutions.”

Accessible workplaces in the United States

In the United States, there is a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities called The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA requires organizations to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job candidates with disabilities.

However, most businesses have not been proactive about this so far because they are concerned about costs and lawsuits. In fact, many do not know how to make their workplaces more accessible.

Accessible workplaces in the United Kingdom

In the UK, The Equality Act of 2010 is meant to protect people from discrimination in the workplace. The Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to do normal daily activities.

Under the Act, every employer must make reasonable adjustments in order for everyone to have equal access to work. Reasonable adjustments may include temporarily changing a role, providing special equipment, adjusting hours or even re-assigning an employee altogether.

Accessible workplaces in New Zealand

The Accessibility Act in New Zealand sets out the requirements for employers to make sure their workplace is accessible. The Act ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else, including having access to all areas of a workplace.

Under the Accessibility Act, employers must provide reasonable accommodations or adjustments to enable employees and job seekers with disability to participate in employment activities on an equal basis with other employees and job seekers. This includes providing reasonable adjustments for physical access, information access, communication access and equipment or services.

Employers must also ensure that their workplaces are free from discrimination against people with disabilities. This means they should develop policies to ensure people with disabilities can participate in the workplace without fear of ridicule or exclusion. Employers must also provide staff training and awareness to ensure that everyone is aware of their legal obligations.

Accessible workplaces in Australia

In Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) is responsible for promoting and protecting the human rights of people with disability. They are responsible for developing laws, policies, and programs to ensure that Australians with disabilities have access to quality education, employment opportunities, and a safe and accessible workplace.

Accessible workplaces in Australia must comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) which prohibits direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of a disability. As part of their responsibility, the Commission works to ensure that employers are meeting accessibility requirements through compliance with applicable standards and guidelines.

Under the DDA, all employers must make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate people with disabilities. This includes providing accessible premises and equipment, making reasonable changes to working arrangements, and providing accessible information. Employers should also consider adjusting recruitment processes to ensure that people with disabilities are able to apply for jobs on an equal basis with other candidates.

Why is disability important to your organization?

Job candidates with disabilities are already disadvantaged because of the current hiring process due to lack of accommodations. If companies want to increase diversity, they should be willing and open-minded about assisting prospective employees with disabilities. Having a diverse workforce is not just about hiring employees with disabilities, but also understanding how to work with people who have disabilities. An organization that is compassionate and willing to go the extra mile for their employees will be able to attract the best talent, which will bring more diversity into their workforce.

Offer Accessibility Tools or Assistive Technology

Microsoft has developed accessibility tools that are practical, intelligent and integrated in Windows 10 and Office 365. These include closing captions, live call transcriptions and text-to-narrator communication. They even provide built in software tools that will help employees check that messages can be accessed by others. Other assistive technologies include voice recognition, screen readers and text-to-speech programs.

Train Your Workforce

Employees have to know how to use these tools if they are going to be effective. Therefore it is your responsibility as an employer to train all employees on how assistive technologies work. Giving more people access means you need more skilled professionals who understand disability and are able to implement accessibility tools effectively.

The Last Word on Disability in the Workplace

We hope this article has helped you understand why disability is important for your workplace, how to make it accessible, the positive results of hiring people with disabilities and tools you can use to attract talented employees. A company that is compassionate and willing to go the extra mile for their employees will be able to attract the best talent, which will bring more diversity into their workforce.

Caveats and Disclaimers

We have covered many topics in this article and want to be clear that any reference to, or mention of accessible employee’s ability, digital, hiring process, screen, reader, private sector, conscious effort, disabled, constant, evaluation cycles, employment, opportunities, wheelchair, individuals, ever evolving process, friendly, hiring, needs, accommodations, opinion, expert, signage, captioning, benefit, resources, barriers, law, long way, example, productivity, physical or Ontario in the context of this article is purely for informational purposes and not to be misconstrued with investment advice or personal opinion. Thank you for reading.