Turning disability in the workplace around

Turning disability in the workplace around

by Evigan Xiao 06 Feb 2020

The stigma that exists around hiring people with disabilities is an unfortunate precedent that was built on an absence of empathy and a number of false premises. However, nothing factual has ever been presented to substantiate these claims. On the contrary, a three-year study by DuPaul University showed that employees with disabilities averaged a similar productivity rating as their non-disabled peers. The same study also found that these workers actually displayed few absences than those without disabilities.


Workplace disability management may happen to be something that's often confined to a case- by-case basis, but having a wider programme in place can have significant benefits for both employers and employees. Preventative wellness programmes have been shown to be highly successful in that regard, so it stands to reason that a similar programme that caters to workers with disabilities will perform just as well.


An effective workplace disability programme can:

  • Increase the number of employees who successfully return to the workforce post-injury/illness.
  • Reduce the cost of disability for both parties.
  • Creates a safer and more assured environment of employment (i.e. benefits and income level).
  • Minimise the negative impact disability has on the worker's family and colleagues/superiors.
  • Foster mutual trust between all stakeholders through co-operation.


Such a programme is pre-emptive in nature and should take the needs of the greater disability community into account. Examples include chronic conditions, mental health disorders, long-term pain, musculoskeletal conditions and vision/hearing loss. To put the necessity of having a comprehensive plan into context, consider that a 2016 report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in every four adults in the U.S. suffers from a disability that negatively affects life activities. Engaging a qualified consultant will allow you to develop a workplace disability programme that is suited to your company's profile. Employers can expect for a number of adjustments to be recommended, such as:


  • Modifications to premises (e.g. wheelchair ramps)
  • Changing a disabled worker's hours
  • Providing specialised training or mentoring
  • Obtaining or modifying equipment
  • Modifying procedures for employee testing/assessment
  • Making allowances in employee attendance for rehabilitation, treatment and assessment


Disability can and does have a significant impact on a person and their family. However, its intrusion on one's ability to perform in a workplace setting can be minimised by taking a proactive stance when it comes to making the workplace disability-friendly. Furthermore, this creates the reassurance that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against or ostracised. By turning the workplace into a more inclusive environment, you ensure that everyone – not just the minorities – receives fair and just treatment.