What does an ideal workplace mean to you?
Undeniably, one would equate “ideal” as having a reasonable salary, a positive work culture, personal development, career growth, great perks and benefits, as well as a good employer-employee relationship.
Nevertheless, it is also vital for an employee to feel safe and comfortable at the workplace. This includes all employees, both abled and differently abled. However, the responsibility to ensure comfort, safety, inclusiveness and creating diversity in an organisation is often being neglected by employers.
Many persons with disabilities (PWDs) or Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) face difficulties landing their dream jobs, due to a lack of basic facilities at most workplaces. PWDs can be divided into several categories as follows:
a) Hearing impairment (includes bilateral hearing loss, single sided deafness, etc)
b) Visual impairment / disability (includes albinism)
c) Speech disability (includes pediatric speech and language disorders, Dysphonia, etc)
d) Physical impairment (includes limb defect, Achondroplasia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, etc)
e) Learning disability (includes Attention Defisit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, etc)
f) Mental disability / disorder (includes Schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, etc)
g) Multiple disabilities
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, companies and organizations have become more vigilant about the standard operating procedures (SOP) and safety measures for their employees’ return to offices. However, many are yet to be inclusive of those with special needs. This is usually not intentional, but rather a form of unconscious bias nowadays.
As mentioned, a company’s culture ought to be inclusive of everyone, even for PWDs. Below are some helpful tips on how to create an all-inclusive culture and build a disability-friendly workplace.
Good interaction and engagement
Proper communication is essential between an employer and the employee. This will ensure that both parties are able to deliver their message across a variety of disciplines effectively and eventually the goals can be achieved. In this context, the company can consider creating a committee or support group to discuss any possible issues or difficulties faced by employees, especially those with special needs. This is a key aspect towards the implementation of an inclusive work environment.
Prepare the right equipment or facilities at the workplace
Employers can get the necessary equipment and design the office in a way that it accommodates all employees. This would include having parking spaces for the disabled, handrails, lifts and accessible toilet facilities.
Check and revise the company policy from time to time
It is pivotal for a company to consistently check and revise the company policy, particularly in relation to workplace discrimination and disabled employees. This will aid in creating a workplace where employees from all backgrounds feel comfortable, welcomed, included and valued.
In short, it requires on-going effort towards cultivating a more inclusive and diverse work environment. Nevertheless, the shift will certainly bring about long-term advantages and benefits. Hence, employers are strongly encouraged to be committed in creating a disability-friendly workplace.
Lai Jing Yen
Ee Soon Nam
Yogadevi Gobi Krishnan