With 2022 here, there’s no better time than now to have a conversation about our vision to build a more inclusive world in two main areas: schools and workplaces.
Why? As Jake, PYD Youth Participant for Access to Theater and Online Mentoring, says, “People with disabilities are becoming a very large part of our society.”
Learn how you can make your school or workplace more inclusive by following these suggestions.
Hire Individuals with Disabilities
Although we wish this weren’t the case, employment statistics for people with disabilities are staggeringly low, especially when compared to those without a disability. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only 19.3% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 66.3% of nondisabled people. Last year, employment numbers dropped drastically due to the pandemic.
Not only does hiring individuals with disabilities give them a rightfully deserved opportunity to build a career they’re passionate about, but according to Business.com, it provides various benefits for the company:
- Companies noticed an increased profit margin.
- Employees became a part of a diversified company culture.
- Companies witnessed increased employee motivation and reduced turnover rates.
Think about how important this is in a school setting: if a youth with disabilities sees an educator with disabilities working in the school, it encourages the youth to know that having a successful education and career themselves is possible.
Make Accommodations for People with Disabilities
Providing an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to succeed in their education or career involves making accommodations, because especially as Maureen Finerty, PYD Movement Director, reminds us, “It’s important to be inclusive because the world is not just one set of people.”
These accommodations may be tangible or intangible and can consist of the following suggestions, according to the ADA.
Is your employee with disabilities unable to complete a specific task in their role due to their disability? An example of this may require the person to lift heavy objects when they are physically incapable of doing so. Have a conversation with your employee to understand what they are and aren’t able to do — and more importantly, knowing what they feel comfortable and uncomfortable doing — to create a role that best suits their strengths, capabilities, and comfort level.
Offer a Flexible Schedule
In addition to changing responsibilities, offering a flexible schedule can be a great option. This may include allowing your employee to work from home if that works better for their situation or scheduling them to come into your workplace to work shifts that fit within the timeframe that someone is available to bring them to and from work, if they are in need of someone to drive them.
Create a Physically Accessible Environment
Whether it’s a school or a workplace (or maybe even both!), having a physically accessible environment is important. Examples of this includes:
- Reserving parking
- Installing ramps, elevators, and power-operated doors
- Designing bathroom stalls for people with disabilities
- Writing signs in Braille
This is important to have in schools and companies not only for students and employees who have disabilities but also visitors and customers who have them, too.
Provide an Aide or Service
Professionals such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, nurses, special education aides, and more may be required to work with the individual to guarantee their success in their education or career.
Adjust Materials and Softwares
Do you provide materials and softwares that your students and employees are able to read, use, and understand? It’s important to design materials and softwares that:
- Have alt text and image descriptions
- Avoid excess animation
- Can be accessed through a physical copy
- Allow for screen readers
- Provide an audio transcript
The ultimate goal is to provide materials and softwares that any individual will be able to interpret and use.
Leverage Trainings and Resources
There are a multitude of trainings and resources available that help you to become a more inclusive provider, employer, coworker, educator, and mentor. PYD alone offers eleven training sessions! From inclusive marketing to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and everything in between, our training sessions offer several opportunities to increase the inclusivity in your school or workplace.
After going through our courses, Tina Weber, Voice Mentor Program Specialist in the Issaquah School District, said, “There are some lessons that have been so eye-opening, but I can say they have made me a better person in how I interact with people.”
Be Consistent with Your Efforts
Inclusion isn’t a one-and-done type of deal — it requires consistent, ongoing efforts and adjusting as situations and needs arise.
As Genelle Thomas, PYD’s Director of National Initiatives, informs us, “Inclusion isn’t just a great idea for the people with disabilities, it’s a great idea for all of us. It’s about creating a program, a community, a society that is proactive in its approach to include everybody. And when everybody is included, we really all win.”