At a recent SHRM conference on inclusion, two speakers – Tricia Downing and Erik Kondo – shared their personal experiences as disabled people in the corporate world and urged companies to further support their disabled employees.
Compliance is only one piece of the puzzle, although a crucial one. Companies must provide their employees, both able-bodied and disabled, with access to career development opportunities as well as reasonable workplace accommodations.
This is the absolute bare minimum. To create a welcoming work environment for disabled employees, companies and corporations must go beyond mere compliance. Employers and HR Departments must create a safe workplace for people with disabilities, including addressing microaggressions in the workplace and allowing disabled employees to take up space alongside other employees.
Disabled people aren’t just “objects for inspiration.” They’re real people who can be many things… Hardworking, burnt out, homebodies, extraverts, and son on. But one thing is certain, all disabled people want and deserve to be treated with respect.
How do companies do this?
When it comes to disability advocacy, there are a couple of different strategies… the Medical Model (also known as the “charity” model) and the Social Model. Here’s an explanation:
The medical model of disability says people are disabled by their impairments or differences. The medical model looks at what is ‘wrong’ with the person and not what the person needs. It creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives.
The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organized, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society with choice and control over their own lives.
The social model is being embraced more and more, putting the responsibility on society’s barriers to disabled people, rather than on the individuals themselves. Employers can take a proactive approach to accessibility by removing these barriers and allowing their employees to be who they are… EMPLOYEES, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!
My HR Department can assist you if you’re wondering how you can take a fresh approach to accessibility, compliance, and disability allyship.