Second Sunday Series — Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of 12 work and disability columns that will appear on the second Sunday of each month through August. In previous columns, I have discussed career tips for family caregivers, my limitations as a disabled worker, the dilemma of revealing my disability while seeking employment, and the overall concept of disability in the workplace.
Lose five pounds, ask for a raise, learn to speak a second language—these are big resolutions for the new year. If you are a disabled worker, there is another option. Advocate for yourself at work this year.
Work can be more difficult than it should be for individuals with disabilities. Not only are workplaces generally designed for people who are fully capable, but our workloads, work processes, and work tools are also designed to be used by no one but her healthy 30-year-old. is created.
But a look around the typical workplace quickly belies the assumption of perfect health. In any group of workers, we see individuals with hearing aids, glasses, leg braces, and walking aids, but those with unobservable disabilities are not considered.
However, I decided that the workplace and processes should be one-size-fits-all, but it just doesn’t work. People with disabilities have always known it, but their voices were not always heard.
Even protection laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only work so far in everyday practice. Many disability rights advocates point out that the ADA and related policies mostly serve as templates or guidelines rather than legal obligations.
It’s not that employers don’t want to comply with the law. However, a combination of understaffing, lack of training, and lack of awareness leads workplace managers to make false assumptions about the needs of people with disabilities.
Now, back to your New Year’s resolutions. It may not be fair that the burden of creating better workplaces for workers with disabilities falls on the workers themselves. Still, who better to frame the discussion than those most directly affected?
If this concept applies, then don’t worry about making things better for everyone. Maybe later, but for now, focus on what you personally need to be successful at work. for example:
Auxiliary equipment: For the majority of workers, the devices they need to do their jobs better are relatively simple and inexpensive. Magnifying screens for computers, adaptive grips for forklifts, noise-blocking headphones, light boxes to combat seasonal affective disorder.
Revised process: The process is often habit-based, but it’s fairly easy to change. For example, sending meeting agendas and related materials in advance can help people with neurological differences or processing disabilities. Help some workers.
project assignments. Workers who are easily overwhelmed are more likely to stay on track when the project is broken down into smaller pieces. Well-informed and clear deadlines reduce anxiety for others.
training. Using multiple training methods, including hands-on, videos, written instructions, and physical examples, means more learning styles can be accommodated. Employees are better able to assimilate information, increasing their chances of success.
These are just some of the ways a workplace or work process can be adjusted to accommodate an employee’s disability without adversely affecting other employees. But that is unlikely unless affected workers take the first step.
If advocating for yourself at work is one of your resolutions this year, start with these three steps: First, consider your situation and what would most improve your work life. This analysis may include actual products and their costs, or specific processes that may be modified.
Then select the appropriate person to handle the request. This is most often your manager, but it could also be someone in your human resources department, purchasing department, etc.
Finally, ask clearly without apologies. You may not need to frame it as a disability issue unless you find it more effective. If you don’t mind, I will set it. ”
Try not to think of fairness or unfairness as you approach this issue. Assuming your manager doesn’t know, make it your goal to improve things.
Amy Lindgren runs a career consulting firm in St. Paul. Her contact is her firstname.lastname@example.org.