According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), people with disabilities make up the world’s largest minority group. Specifically, there are about one billion people worldwide who live with some kind of disability.
With this information in mind, it’s important to ensure your workers are made aware of disability discrimination facts. There are several things you can do to spread information without making disabled members of your workplace feel singled out.
Explain the Americans With Disabilities Act
Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 states employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified, disabled workers in job proceedings, including but not limited to hiring, firing or providing employment privileges and training opportunities. All companies that have 15 or more employees must abide by the Act.
One way to keep everyone informed is to distribute handouts that explain the Act and why it is important, using language everyone can understand. Also, be sure to remain available in case team members read the content and want to approach you later with questions.
Emphasize That Some Disabilities Are Not Visible
One of the unfortunate facts about disability discrimination is that some people can become discriminatory because they forget some disabilities are invisible. In terms of the law, a person is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more of the major life activities plus has been regarded as having that impairment. Furthermore, there should be a verifiable record of the disability, such as a doctor’s letter.
However, it’s crucial to remind your employees there is a wide range of disabilities. A person who uses a wheelchair to get around would be seen as physically disabled, but an individual who has a severe heart condition may also have a legitimate disability that cannot be noticed with the naked eye.
Furthermore, a person could be considered disabled if he or she has a history of a disability. One common example is receiving a cancer diagnosis years ago but now being in remission. Even though the cancer is not progressing, a person could still be disabled in the eyes of the law.
Talk About How Disability Discrimination Is Not a Rare Occurrence
People may more commonly hear about discrimination cases that relate to race and religion than disabilities, but that does not mean disability discrimination rarely happens. In fact, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics show there were 26,968 such discrimination cases filed in 2015.
Discuss with workers how discrimination can take many forms and may occur even when the person responsible is not intentionally being discriminatory. For example, if a coworker tells a joke that could be offensive to someone who is disabled, that incident could potentially lead to a charge of disability discrimination.
Clarify That Businesses Can Inexpensively Adapt Workplaces for Disabled Employees
There’s a pervasive myth that people with disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage because human resources personnel are reluctant to make the required adaptations to workplaces so people can perform tasks alongside peers. However, data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy indicates 57 percent of adaptions can be made at no cost. Furthermore, the majority of disabled workers do not require special modifications.
It’s essential to provide your employees with the proper perspectives as you start conversations about disability discrimination facts. More than likely, this subject is one that members of your workforce who are not disabled may not have thought about at length.
When having these discussions, remember it’s always better to wait and get the correct answer for someone rather than respond to a question with information that may not be right. Talking about disability discrimination at work could help everyone feel more informed, and you could play a big role in sparking fruitful chats.
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