Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital dispels disability stigma in the workplace.
In Canada, more than one-third of employees within the 25 to 64 age group with disabilities require at least one type of workplace accommodation. However, only 59 per cent of those who need accommodations actually get the support they need. It’s a reminder of a heavy truth: disability inclusion and accommodations aren’t where they need to be.
“Many job seekers encounter stigma in the form of myths about disability. It’s important to combat those myths through education and conversation,” says Carolyn McDougall, the manager of employment pathways at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. “I don’t want employers to miss out on stellar candidates, or lose essential team members because they haven’t considered what employees with disabilities need to do their jobs.”
Many job seekers encounter stigma in the form of myths about disability. It’s important to combat those myths through education and conversation.
One of the major barriers people with disabilities face when it comes to employment is the ongoing misconception that accommodations are expensive and difficult. This belief often stems from a lack of awareness about the wide range of disabilities and the accommodations available. In fact, most accommodations cost nothing or less than $500 – and when you consider hiring challenges and the cost of employee turnover, this investment starts to look well worth it.
To debunk the myth that accommodations are hard, here are five tangible supports that every employer invested in disability inclusion should prioritize:
1. Flexible work arrangements:
The COVID-19 pandemic proved that providing flexible work hours or remote work options can greatly benefit employees with disabilities. This type of accommodation is not only valuable for those with physical limitations but also for those who work best in quiet spaces. Flexible arrangements can also look like ensuring employees who can’t stand for long periods of time have accommodations or have their work adjusted to limit fatigue or pain.
2. Workstation modifications:
Simple changes like adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs and noise-cancelling headphones can make a substantial difference for employees with and without disabilities. These modifications can increase comfort and productivity. It’s also important to ensure that the paths between desks can accommodate employees who need mobility devices to get around.
3. Technical supports:
Offering assistive technology, such as screen readers or speech recognition software, can empower employees with disabilities. It ensures they can perform their tasks effectively, without any communication barriers.
4. Training and sensitivity programs:
Creating disability inclusive workplaces starts with ending the stigmas surrounding it. That means talking about it. Educating the entire workforce about disability inclusion — through workshops and resources — is a simple accommodation that can help reduce misconceptions and bias.
5. Mental health support:
It’s important to realize that disabilities can be both visible and invisible. Providing mental health support services is crucial. This can include access to counseling, mental health days, benefits that help cover mental health resources, or flexible work arrangements to accommodate mental health requirements.
These are just some of the accommodations organizations can embrace. Maybe you’re already incorporating one or more of these supports for your team — a very solid start. Another safe bet — asking employees a simple question, “What do you need to do your best at work?”
To learn more about what it takes to create an inclusive workplace, and to access free helpful resources, you can visit hollandbloorview.ca/readytowork.