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Experts from Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) bring out ways for employers to create opportunities for employees with disabilities.
Progressive organisations understand the importance of leveraging the strengths of a diverse workforce. While 3.4% of residents aged 18 to 49 in Singapore have a disability, they make up only 0.55% of the resident labour force¹.
How can employers create opportunities for employees with disabilities?
To do so, organisations can follow these tips to cultivate a conducive work environment to successfully engage and retain Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
(i) Adjust mindset and workplace culture
Creating an inclusive work environment requires a cultural shift, and leadership can make the single biggest impact in inciting this change. Start with setting the tone at the top by working with your leadership team to commit to a vision of an accessible and inclusive workplace. Ensure the lines of communication are always kept open by encouraging an ongoing dialogue about the importance of disability inclusion and workplace accessibility.
(ii) Review and refine job roles and workplace processes
In situations where potential employees do not fit into traditional job roles, or when current employees become disabled, organisations can do a review of job requirements and workplace processes. By doing so, employers can better develop or redeploy PWDs to match roles that leverage on their strengths.
To achieve this, try asking yourself these questions: Are there suitable tasks that you can extract from various positions to create a new role which will capitalise on the strengths of PWDs? Can you make adjustments to the work environment to facilitate themobility and work of employees with disabilities?
If the lack of workplace accessibility and transportation is a concern for PWDs, consider offering flexible work arrangements or home-based work to enable them to continue contributing effectively to your organisation.
(iii) Relook organisation’s programmes and practices
Ensure your existing employee programmes, such as onboarding or career development programmes accurately reflect a culture that is inclusive of PWDs. For example, a customised onboarding programme for new employees with disabilities should include disability-specific information such as procedures when requesting for workplace accommodations. Always put in place a clear and objective performance management process to ensure all employees are fairly considered for training and career development opportunities.
Proper training and education for all staff can also help to dispel wrong assumptions of PWDs’ abilities and in turn, minimise potential disruptions between PWDs and co-workers while maximising the organisation’s productivity. One way to achieve this is by providing sensitivity or disability etiquette training to employees so that they can learn how to effectively work with PWDs.
(iv) Improve workplace design and accessibility
Improved accessibility benefits everyone. Yet, it does not necessarily require significant expense. Some cost-effective ways include providing accommodations such as removing a cubicle panel to widen the entrance to the workspace, and installing larger screens for those with visual impairment. All these can have a large impact on PWDs’ productivity. In addition, assistive technology, such as screen readers and magnifiers, can be tapped on to enable those who are visually impaired to use computers. Other measures like having proper cable management and accessible plug sockets will not only benefit employees with limited mobility but also create a safer workplace for all employees.
At the end of the day, employing the right employee is vital to your organisation’s performance. You can increase the probability of hiring a successful applicant by considering individuals based on their ability to perform the job, rather than being influenced by their disabilities. Together with a good retention strategy in place, organisations can help create a workplace that values and recognises the contributions of PWDs.