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  • Writer's pictureHifza Farooqi

Disability in the workplace

Hifza uncovers and solves a huge problem: discrimination against disabled individuals in the workplace.

Despite the creation of anti-discriminatory laws, many individuals are mistreated due to disabilities, particularly in the hiring process and workplace accommodations. Disabilities, temporary or permanent, can impair anyone. It is estimated that 15% of the worldwide population above the age of 15 are affected by disabilities, according to World Health Organization.

People with disabilities are also often the targets of harassment in the workplace. Be it mental, physical, long-term, or temporary, there are stigmas attached to anyone different. Progress has been made in society as a whole; however, in the workplace, there is a perception of disabilities being a burden to accommodate. Many employers are unwilling to adjust at all and even if they are willing to accommodate in the beginning, they are unwilling to ensure their continual fulfillment of basic needs in their employees. Supervisors, coworkers, and/or upper management may choose to harass or pressurize individuals with disabilities until the employee is forced to resign.

"Be it mental, physical, long-term, or temporary, there are stigmas attached to anyone different."

One-third of adults with disabilities do not have a designated healthcare provider, mostly due to the high cost of healthcare and the inability to find work for people who are disabled. Only 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed in 2020 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Often, people can be left unable to find work suitable to them and struggle to make ends meet. People with impairments are then forced to have a greater reliance on federal or community support.

Currently, laws that cover hiring, employment, and dismissal require that an employer may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and that employers must provide accommodations for impairments as long as it is not an undue hardship to do so. However, many employers feel that treating a disabled employee differently equates to discrimination against non-impaired employees when it is just what is necessary to reduce the effect of their impairment on their jobs.

Some managers mistreat their employees with disabilities by putting them in difficult positions, forcing them to work in difficult or overburdening conditions, or even plainly harass their subordinates for their disabilities. Such people should be identified and stopped by creating assessments of accessibility and reviewal procedures for workplace rules, guidelines, and behavior. There should be a framework of standard requirements for accessibility outlined within the policy, as well as training. Disabled people are entitled to procedural changes that enable them to work at the same level of productivity and safety as those without impairments. Workplaces that do not provide adequate accommodations should be held accountable.

Of course, this solution is not foolproof but it would put more accountability on employers instead of relying on voluntary reporting or lawsuits for addressing problems in the workplace. The risk remains that employers could be discriminating in less visible ways. Not all mistreatment is obvious and some accommodations are case by case and therefore, not encompassed by this policy. However, it will still make significant gains towards creating equitable workplaces.

Although requiring training about disability accommodations is a good approach to the issue, it would require a lot more funds and energy to ensure that the training is equal and effective. Ill-suited material, delivery methods, or instructors could breed resentment due to a lack of understanding of the needs of disabled people.

Therefore, it is better for employers if they were able to simply create by-laws within their organization about disability accommodation and impairment. Already, many big organizations have made strides towards creating equity in the workplace. Workplaces are already required to make accommodations for religious practices and observances. Research shows that the costs to accommodate are often much less than anticipated. Additionally, there are many benefits to diversifying a workplace as well as hiring someone with disabilities. Providing accommodations improve workplace culture and inclusiveness, as well as create the impression that employers value their employees as human beings. Impairments do not take away from an individual’s character, work ethic, or any of the qualities that make a good employee. By requiring assessments of the accessibility in workplaces, employers will need to make the effort to accommodate disabilities, reducing the amount of discrimination that disabled individuals face in the workforce.


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