Creating an inclusive work environment is the best way to ensure both accessibility and productivity are fully realized in our dynamic business world. No two persons have the same problem solving processes, ideals, or passions, regardless of physical or mental ability. An inclusive environment accommodates workers of various ability levels, in turn providing a diverse assortment of individual talents and strengths that can be utilized to develop new ideas. The celebration and respect for diversity among coworkers are essential components in developing new ideas, and new ideas are the foundation for future growth across all industries.

At the heart of the inclusive workplace lie the management team and their ability to implement environmental supports to encourage an accepting and communicative company culture. Behavior, individual workers’ attitudes, and internal processes must be harnessed to support environmental inclusivity, as determined by the unique landscape of each institution or company. Managers serve a vital role in aligning themselves with the resulting vision while leading employees through the implementation of inclusive practices.

Managers must consider the uniqueness of each individual when designing a program to help employees of all physical and intellectual ability levels engage with one another. The following provides an outline for managers and disability program advisors to lead employees in respectful communication with coworkers with visual, aural, physical, and developmental disabilities, respectfully (i):

Communicating with Coworkers with Visual Impairments

• Identify yourself as well as anyone accompanying you

• Mention any previous interactions to help the employee remember prior engagements he or she may have had with you

• Name the individual with whom you are speaking when speaking to a group of coworkers

• If the conversation has ended, indicate you are moving to another location

• Courteously clear the area of obstacles

• If necessary, describe the environment to the coworker

• If offering to lead the coworker to another location, invite the coworker to take your arm

• If the coworker would rather walk independently, walk about a half step ahead and listen intently for instructions and questions

• Offer to read written information when appropriate

• Do not pet or play with guide dogs, if present, as it is distracting and inappropriate

Communicating with Coworkers with Aural Impairment

• Identify the language required if employing interpreter services

• Speak clearly and at a moderate pace that allows the interpreter to use sign language to relay the message to the coworker

• Allow the coworker time to communicate in return, through the interpreter

• Use written or clear nonverbal body language when communicating one on one

• To facilitate lip reading, face the coworker and keep hands and objects away from your face

• Face the coworker and speak in a clear and slow voice

• When possible, converse in a quiet environment and move to eliminate disruptive background noises

Communicating with Coworkers with Physical Impairments

• Facilitate movement via wheelchair, scooter, or other mobility aid by rearranging furniture in the room

• When standing in close proximity, do not lean or excessively touch another’s mobility device as it is considered personal space

• Always conscientiously consider what may or may not constitute accessible for those in wheelchairs and other mobility aids

• Do not push or move a coworker in his or her wheelchair unless asked to do so

Communicating with Coworkers with Developmental Disabilities

• Inclusion starts with a fundamental knowledge of the person, their background, and their general personality: Get to know the person so that you may include them

• Offer assistance when necessary

• Slowly and articulately repeat information when necessary

• Speak directly at the coworker

• Listen actively and intently

Managers, disability program advisors, and disability training consultants are charged with developing and clearly communicating policies that provide an unwavering framework for respectful employee diversification and interaction. Policies must first seek to maximize the range of talent and unique strengths among workers by hiring individuals of all abilities.

Essential to management’s creation of an inclusive workplace is their ability to provide diversity education for employees. Tantamount importance lies in management’s ability to foster an environment that encourages courteous and independent communication among persons of all physical and mental abilities. Several disability training resources and disability training DVDs highlight the importance of fostering an environment where all individuals, ranging from those with high intellectual capacities to persons with mental and physical disabilities, feel accepted, unified, and valued. Ongoing disability education is crucial in ensuring all members of the company or institution are up to speed on the nature of different disabilities, the availability of training resources, and evolving strategies for inclusion in the workplace.


(i) Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat,

Source by Ellen Theresa

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