How to Empower Differently Abled People in a Workspace

Differently abled people are perhaps way more talented and brilliant than we can imagine. They are more dedicated and bring healthy diversity to the workplace. However, being aware of this doesn’t simply mean that a workplace is inclusive of such people. It is extremely important for the leadership team of any workplace to lay down the essential groundwork for an inclusive work environment by raising awareness.

Apart from administrative norms and good intentions, there are also certain things that a workplace can do to make the workplace more supportive, warm, and inviting for differently abled people. Here are some tips that will help you empower your differently abled employees and help in making your workplace more inclusive:

  • The Helping Hands Project: Companies can consider funding their differently-abled employees to treat their disability. One great example of this is The Build-a-Hand program by Odyssey Teams. Through this program, they aim to change lives by building hands for amputees who otherwise cannot afford prosthetic devices. 
  • Recognizing and Reinterpreting behaviors: Workplaces should consider organizing training sessions for other employees to teach them to identify both visible and invisible disabilities of differently-abled people. For instance, employees should understand if a differently-abled person is walking slowly because of mobility impairments or if someone with a sensory disability is talking or communicating differently.
  • A Special Committee for them: Just like your workplace has teams for learning and development, harassment complaints, and cafeteria issues – it is recommended to have a dedicated committee for differently abled people who listen to their concerns and come up with the best possible solutions. This will make disabled people valued in the workplace.
  • Be subtle about the things you do: It is a good idea to make accommodations and special arrangements for your differently-abled people, but it is also vital to ensure that you do it subtly and resist the temptation of broadcasting it to the world. This will help you prevent any unrequired feelings of biasedness, resentment, and gossip in the workplace.

What not to say to differently abled people?

  • Don’t call them strong and brave: Just because a person is coming to work every day to make themselves a living, you don’t have to keep throwing words like “brave” and “inspiring” in their faces all the time. Give them a break. Coming to work or buying groceries isn’t something extraordinary – not even for the differently abled people – which is why we should stop patronizing them.
  •  Don’t ask about the details: When you encounter a disabled person, all you need to know is their access needs. Don’t keep asking them about their disabilities or what their medical conditions are. If they want to tell you, they will tell you!
  • Don’t give a helping hand without asking: Don’t just assume that a disabled person would need your help and assistance. It can be frustrating and embarrassing for differently abled people if people try to keep helping them all the time.
  • Don’t baby talk: Just because someone has a hearing impairment doesn’t mean you’ll start treating them like a baby. What they need is more clarity and loudness in your speech and not in comprehension. Baby talking can be very irritating and disheartening for an adult.
  • Don’t evade their privacy: Lastly, give people their space. Do not touch their access needs without asking them. Always ask for their permission if you want to handle their wheelchair or other mobility aids. Furthermore, don’t discuss their disabilities with other people. Always knock before you enter their rooms, and always make eye contact when you speak to them.

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