Inclusivity of Differently-Abled People in the Workforce
It is estimated that more than 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability in terms of mental, physical or sensory impairments. Due to these disabilities, these people face various social barriers within the society on a daily basis that hinder their participation in the workplace.
The experiences of differently abled people in terms of the social barriers they face need to be acknowledged and addressed. According to a report published by British Council Pakistan (2014), Pakistan has approximately 27 million people with some form of disability. The lack of engagement of these people within the society due to social barriers costs the economy between 4.9% and 6.3% of GDP each year.
Although disabled persons have the capacity and potential to provide various benefits to the company, the societal and physical barriers restrict them from participation in the workforce. Often times, companies are reluctant in hiring employees with some form of disability as they believe catering to their specific needs would end up costing them more. In this way, the recruitment process serves as a barrier as the employers’ attitudes aren’t flexible and adaptive towards people with disabilities.
Apart from the employers, persons with disabilities also feel uncomfortable within an office culture that does not cater to their specific health needs. These people are worried about the negative bias they’ll be subjected to because of their health conditions and won’t get any promotions or be assigned to important tasks. This fear of lack of support from the organization ends up making these people reluctant in even applying for jobs.
Contrary to popular belief, it is beneficial for a company to hire employees with disabilities. People with disabilities are a unique source of knowledge due to their diverse experiences. Unfortunately, these experiences are overlooked by employers when hiring differently abled people. It should be noted that persons with disabilities have the potential to increase the profits of the organizations as they are good for the bottom-line (Owen, 2012). This is because as you bring in people that function and think differently, you’ll have someone who analyzes and solves problems in a different and more effective way.
Several studies (Murillo, 2016) have proved the benefits persons with different abilities can provide to an organization. They are known to take less absent days leading to increased productivity, they are less likely to get into work related accidents because of being extra cautious of safety in the workplace and they have a higher retention rate.
Moreover, including disabled persons into the workforce diversifies the workforce. The diverse setting creates a culture of acceptance and inclusivity as more people get the opportunity to know about and befriend disabled persons. This ends up enriching the entire workplace community and experience. By working with different abled people, individuals who are not disabled will become more aware on how to make the workplace accessible. Moreover, employees with disabilities can teach their coworkers on how to handle and solve tasks differently in a more creative manner.
Individuals working with disabilities also need to be accommodated physically. This includes the installation of elevators, broad doors, ramps, important announcements written in large font, loudspeaker announcements etc. Thus, in order to cater to the physical impairments of an individual and create a welcoming environment, an organization must implement a design in their office structure that doesn’t cause problems for people with different abilities. In this way, a barrier free environment will ensure full and equal participation in society by all, regardless of age, gender or ability.
The first step towards developing an inclusive culture is by being proactive. Companies should start with ensuring that the information provided for the job is accessible in all formats. Furthermore, they should set a goal for how many people they should recruit as is required by the law and support job application from those with a disability. Moreover, companies should make changes by offering flexible options to their employees in consideration of their special needs. Alterations need to be made to the workplace to make it easily accessible for everyone. Employers should promote their employees on the basis of strength and potential rather than qualifications or experience (Mahony, 2017). In this way, the organization’s values of providing an inclusive culture will be signified.
Hence, it is evident that as more people with different abilities are recruited, both the company and employee will benefit in the long run. There is a long way to go till policies are implemented to include people with special abilities in the workplace. Regardless, the culture within companies should start changing as a country cannot progress without devising a plan to cater to the needs of people with special abilities. Therefore, these people need to be a part of the mainstream society and workforce.