National Disability Employment Awareness Month is observed every October, and this year’s theme serves as a poignant reminder to all of us: “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”
In recent years, efforts to advance equity for marginalized populations have led to some promising progress. That said, however, there is more that can be done, particularly when it comes to the workplace.
As people with disabilities are extended well-deserved employment offers, it is critical that employers review company policies to ensure that new hires will have what is needed to be successful. In evaluating those policies, ask questions such as: What kind of assistive technology is being made available to those with disabilities? What coaching or mentoring programs can be carried out? In what ways can the physical atmosphere and workplace culture be modified or enhanced to ensure that employees feel safe and comfortable? Are the compensation packages and advancement opportunities truly equitable? How can flexible scheduling be used to accommodate any special needs? What professional development programs can be created and offered to maximize potential for success? If I had a disability, what would I most need from my employer?
In addition to crafting appropriate company policies, it is key that colleagues understand what it looks like to be supportive. Educate and enlighten your team. Training programs designed to build awareness and cultivate compassion will undoubtedly lead to better outcomes for everyone.
I encourage emerging and established workplace leaders to consider these ideas, and any other ways that can help our society address inequities and advance equity for people with disabilities. Although not all disabilities are visible, every person deserves to be seen — just as all of us do.
Patrick D. Paul
The writer is chief executive officer and executive director of the Anderson Center for Autism.