Working With People With Disabilities

There are many different kinds of disability.  Some disabilities are severe, and limit the career and lifestyle options of their sufferers quite seriously.  Other disabilities, however, can be worked around, and with supported living assistance, those disabled people can go on to lead relatively normal lives, joining the workforce and enjoying a good degree of independence.


PHOTO CREDITS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/polandmfa/5299710183/

Work Options for People With Disabilities

People with disabilities can bring a range of skills to the workplace.  Those with disabilities that affect their mobility may be able to work in clerical or information centric roles, and perform just as well as someone who has no disabilities. Those with learning disabilities have a range of jobs open to them, depending on the type and severity of their impairment.  They may be able to work in a clerical role, as a labourer, or in a customer-service based position.

Awareness and Training

The biggest barrier faced by many disabled people is the attitudes of their co-workers, and the general lack of understanding in the workplace.  Even people who are quite positive about working with disabled people sometimes fail to understand the different kinds of learning disabilities, and the challenges that someone with a hearing or eyesight disability might face.

Pro-active training can go a long way towards reducing these problems.  Usually, only some small changes are needed to make it easy for someone with a disability to work in an office environment.  The disabled person’s co-workers may need reminded to keep the aisles clear so that the disabled person can move their wheelchair in and out.  Or, people may need to keep noise levels down so that their hard-of-hearing co-worker doesn’t struggle to hear conversations over background noise.

Small changes to the office, such as high-contrast monitors or coloured screens to enable a person with dyslexia to focus, may also be beneficial.  Those with other learning disabilities may need more time in training, or a more fixed routine than an able-bodied colleague, but once they are settled in their job, they will likely cope quite well.

It’s always good practice to provide lots of feedback to your employees on their performance, whether they are disabled or not.  For a disabled person, however, feedback could be particularly valuable as it will give you a chance to discuss their difficulties with them, and find solutions wherever possible.

Socializing at Work

Work related social events can sometimes be quite stressful for people with disabilities.  They may feel uncomfortable going out for Friday night drinks, or attending a sporting event during the weekend, especially if this is a massive break from their usual supported living routine.

If a disabled person in your workplace seems to be uninterested in socializing, don’t assume that they simply don’t care about what’s going on outside of the office.  It could be that they are concerned that they will be an inconvenience, or spoil the fun for people that want to go to venues that aren’t easily accessible for people with their disability.  Try to organize some social events with them in mind, and see if they take an interest.

This post was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Voyage who provide supported living services for people with learning disabilities. Please visit their site for more info.

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