to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #46 — ACCOMMODATE FOR INCREASED NUMBERS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Many of the requests for accommodation entail disability and religion. With these two grounds, you'd better be open minded, because you'll be seeing a lot more of them.
Take, for example, disabilities. In years past, persons with disabilities had limited opportunities to get around and were expected to stay in their homes or institutions. In my youth, I remember hearing radio broadcasters in Winnipeg refer to people as "shut-ins." I pictured an old person with limited mobility in a dark room, staring out the window through a small crack in the drapes. In reality, I saw few people with disabilities in the general population, and when I did, I didn't know what to make of them.
We've come a long way since then, first in the technology and equipment that allows more people to get around, and second, in our accepting people with differences into the general population. The walker, in various forms, has made a huge difference in allowing thousands to have the stability and confidence to go outside and carry on basic tasks such as grocery shopping and mailing a letter.
Advances in technology and treatment are allowing people to work and consume in ways never imagined in the past. As we age, more of us have disabilities. Given our aging population in Canada, more of our employment and customer pool will have disabilities in the future.
As well, for financial or personal reasons, as well as the end of most mandatory retirement, more people are opting to work beyond the age of 65. And since more older people have more disabilities, finding ways to accommodate persons with disabilities is an issue of growing importance. Human Rights Commissions across Canada figure more people are asserting their rights regarding accommodation by the massive increase in their numbers of complaints in the categories of age and disability.
1) Create openness for people to disclose their disability (if they want to) - there is still a lot of stigma to having any kind of disability. Hence people are reluctant to let others know about disabilities for fear of losing opportunities. If you show by example that a disability is not a ticket out the door, then people are more willing to be up front. They won't have to lie about the true nature of sick days or hiding doctor appointments.
2) Look for shifting responsibilities - if an employee can do 90% of their work, but needs an accommodation for the other 10%, then look to see what can be switched or swapped with other employees. Don't just load up others with all the tasks. And also, listen to people if they complain about the work load. They might have no difficulty with sharing work; they just won't like to have all the work heaped upon them to accommodate others. Be fair.
3) Be prepared for mental disabilities - when someone has a broken arm, easy to see and easy to figure out what a person can and can't do. Not so with mental disabilities. This is one area, despite all the publicity, we still have trouble with. I'm often thinking "just snap out of it" or "take some initiative" when I see the effects of a person with a depression. Of course I've smartened up to let the wiser part of me kick in and understand that mental health issues aren't that easy to understand. So ask persons with mental health issues what they can do and what they can't and discuss any needed accommodations.