According to the US Department of Labor, approximately 18.6 million workers in the US have a disability. And only 21% of people with disabilities aged 16 and over are employed or actively looking for work.
Zac Bradley is a disability advocate and professional at The Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital focused on the treatment and rehabilitation of people with brain and spinal cord injuries and diseases.in an interview with
SHRM OnlineWe discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the importance of remote work for employees with disabilities, and easy ways companies can support these employees.
SHRM Online: The pandemic has helped in some ways to secure employment for people with disabilities through increased remote work options. How will this affect workers with disabilities?
Bradley: I hope not. Over the past two years, the pandemic has provided evidence that people with disabilities can do their jobs effectively while working remotely. Reasonable accommodation should be given to persons with disabilities who are able to perform basic duties. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers were able to prove it. they work at home
However, employers have discretion through the ADA as to what is classed as reasonable. The ADA does not mandate anything, and employers have the right to say “no” based on considerations that cause undue hardship. You can’t go to your employer and say, “Give me this.” i’ve heard that many times. The “you owe me” attitude doesn’t work.
For example, an employer might have a general rule of thumb that everyone must be in the building to work. They can say, “Everyone wants to be in the building, so we don’t have to deal with this.”
Legally, an interactive process is required when an employer denies a request for accommodation. I hope to meet you at the halfway point. If you can’t meet on the way, there is a possibility that you will be sued for discrimination. However, this must be proven by facts based on the refusal of the accommodation request.
Workers with disabilities are encouraged to inquire about their employer’s flexibility to work from home before making an accommodation request.
Workers with disabilities should approach their employers with humility and say things like, “I am doing well during the pandemic and would like to continue working from home someday.” We also encourage you to tie your request to work from home to a reason why working from home is beneficial with respect to your disability. This should be a practical reason, not an arbitrary one.
I wish my employer had some humility too. My hope is that the employer values the person. They should consider whether this person has benefited the company and whether they really want to train new employees.
When considering productivity and business flow, companies should consider how they can support this person. They should try to provide some flexibility for workers with disabilities.
SHRM Online: Many people with disabilities grapple with deciding whether to disclose their disability to their employer. When is the right time to notify my employer?
Bradley: Disability disclosure is a give or take. It can be too early or too late. What I tell people is, “How happy are you with your disability? Do you ‘own’ the diagnosis you have?” is. If so, we can discuss when to disclose it. If you feel that consideration is necessary, we recommend that you disclose it.
If I go to work and use a wheelchair, I cannot hide that I have one. However, people with hidden disabilities struggle to tell their employers or not. They may refuse to disclose their disability because they have done their job well in the past and do not require consideration.
But if they get a more difficult job and their disability is interfering with their ability to do the job, it means, “I have a disability and I need help to prepare myself for success.” It’s time to say
Usually you have to do it in good time before your job performance suffers. Waiting is a little too late. They should strongly consider notifying their manager the moment a problem arises so they can be more effective.
Employers will find disability stigmatized when employees share their invisible disabilities in casual conversation. In my work experience, disability is mixed into the culture. You know people’s needs and you respect and care for them, so you provide support so that everyone can thrive. It was when I learned that I was inclusive of people with disabilities.
SHRM Online: What are some simple ways organizations can create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities?
Bradley: One way is to celebrate the recognition of disability. Not just National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but all specific Disability Awareness Months.This shows that employees are aware and care [about their well-being]Conversations on these topics will then begin to create even more awareness.
Supervisors should ask, “How can I help you?” That question paves the way for helping workers with disabilities. Getting your employer to say it shows that they really want you here. As an employer, it’s important to listen to their feedback and understand what it takes to be successful in order to let their talents and skills shine.
This is not an accommodation request. It just helps people become more effective.
Disability is part of that equation in diversity, equity and inclusion. People should never forget it. Workers do not always voice their disability. Some voices are strong. But employers should be aware that the voices of people with disabilities may not be as strong due to the nature of their constant stigma. it won’t work.