With the world beginning to open up again, many people are excited about the fact that we’ll soon be back in the offices and back with our own teammates, just as we’ve been missing for the past year!
For many of us, working away from our team has been difficult to get used to, but for some, things may have been a little bit more relaxed, especially those with hidden disabilities who may have found it easier to work in a home environment.
What Are Hidden Disabilities?
The term hidden disabilities cover a wide array of disabilities and different abilities, from more physical impairments such as hearing loss or eyesight loss to neurological conditions such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.
‘Hidden disabilities’ also covers learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia and even mental health problems such as anxiety and bipolar disorder. For people struggling with hidden disabilities, the world can be an incredibly difficult place, and they may never quite feel included, and this is especially true in the workplace.
How To Support Hidden Disabilities In The Workplace
Places that are more inclusive to people with hidden disabilities actually have an advantage over other companies that don’t. For instance, these employees may have a different outlook on life and are better at understanding what different people, especially your customers, may be going through.
Employing people with hidden disabilities, however, can be a difficult task, especially if your team doesn’t understand the accessibility needs and how to accommodate those disabilities so that you can get the best out of your team members. However, even simple changes such as adapting your website to meet web accessibility standards will make a big difference. This is the first step to becoming a more inclusive organization. You might find that taking this step makes you appeal to more people with hidden disabilities, as a place people desire to work. Plus, by making it accessible by more customers, you can be certain that you can have the profits to enable this drive and employee those who are seeking you out.
Most people with hidden disabilities are perfectly able to do jobs to the same standard, and sometimes even better, than neurotypical and fully-abled people. For example, NASA state that around half of their employees are actually dyslexic, and they hire dyslexic people specifically because they have a different outlook on life which is a benefit to their role.
Here are five more ways you can make your workplace more inclusive and more accommodating to all kinds of people and get the benefit of working with people with all kinds of different ways of thinking and seeing the world.
1. Ask The Person How You Can Support Them
The very first thing to remember is that everyone is unique, disability or no disability. That being said, it’s important to actually communicate with the person who you are trying to help create accommodations for, as their disability may manifest itself differently from somebody else with the same disability.
Be honest when they start with you, sit down and have a proper conversation with them about what makes them work to the best of their ability, and come up with a plan to accommodate them personally.
2. Make Your Team Aware Accommodations Are Not Privileges
It stands to reason that if you are making special accommodations for one particular member of your team, the rest of your team may feel slightly out of place and assume that that person is getting special treatment or privileges.
This attitude needs to be stamped out immediately. Just as you have a ramp at the entrance of your building to help people in a wheelchair gain access to the building, accommodations for people with hidden disabilities are there to help them thrive in the workplace. Any team members who do not agree with the accommodations should be sat down and included in a conversation, and they should be offered some training to let them know why are these accommodations are happening and what the team is hoping to get out of it.
3. Make Accommodations Available To Everyone Who Needs Them
The issue with hidden disabilities is that it’s not always easy to diagnose, and it’s not always easy for even the person who has the disability to realize they have one.
For example, there is a huge swath of people who are being diagnosed with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and neurological disorders such as ADHD as adults, and these adults would have never known were if not for somebody else in their lives being diagnosed with a similar problem.
To this end, it’s better if accommodations are made available for everyone who thinks they might help. If your dyslexic employees ask for a colored screen overlay, other members of your team may also find this useful, so it’s worth giving it a try if at all possible.
By allowing all members of your team access to accessibility requirements, you create a more inclusive and more understanding team.
4. Be Open And Honest About Your Inclusiveness
One of the most vital things that you can do as a management team is to be open and honest about how you want to be inclusive and take guidance from experts on how to do this. Being inclusive to hidden disabilities is a difficult task for any team, and there is a very fine balance to be drawn between being inclusive and being patronizing.
People with disabilities are not incapable of doing their jobs; they may just need a bit of extra support, which is not a lot if you are hoping to get the best out of them.
By being open and honest about how you intend to approach the support that you’ll give them, and anyone else who needs it, there is more of a chance that you can be guided in the right direction and learn more about your staff as you go. This approach to being open and honest about hidden disabilities, and indeed visible disabilities, leads to a more open and honest culture within your team and within your organization.
5. Give (and expect) Respect To Your Team
As well as being open and honest with your team, it’s vital that you give respect to your disabled team members and to your fully-abled team members.
For many people with hidden disabilities, coming forward and coming out as disabled is very difficult, and they may have faced a lot of stigmatism throughout their life. By being open and respectful, you are allowing them the space they need to grow as an employee and as a human being.