How to make workplaces more inclusive for people with invisible disabilities (2023)


Research shows that employers are unaware of the needs of people with invisible disabilities and are often unwilling to provide the necessary supports and accommodations. But the new managers have a chance to change that. This is what you can do.

  • Do not generalize about shortcomings. Making assumptions about someone's abilities can cloud your judgment as a leader and lead to unconscious bias or microaggressions. Take time to understand what symptoms your team members are experiencing and when, how those symptoms affect your work, and what you can do to help them.
  • Find out how you can help your team members succeed in their role. Get used to communicating with your people individually. Ask, “How are you this quarter? I want to make sure you have all the resources you need to be successful at work. Can you tell me what supports or accommodations I might need?”
  • Advocate for Inclusive Practices. Share your ideas and suggestions with your boss or leadership team. As a manager, you have the positional power to create change.
  • Avoid doing food-focused office events. When planning parties, include someone with a food intolerance in the organizing group to create a more complete menu. You can also get creative and recommend a party where everyone has a chance to share their culture and learn from each other.
  • Build an inclusive community. Create spaces like a dedicated Slack channel, regular team chats for open discussions, and formal ERGs (as mentioned above) where people with disabilities can interact with others who are having similar experiences.

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Global,One billion people live with a disability. To put that in perspective, it's one person in seven. While some flaws are visible, others, including but not limited to chronic illness, food (or other) allergies, eating disorders, and mental health issues, are not apparent to viewers. in the United States at least10% of the Landesthey have a disease that can be seen as an invisible disability.

Look forshows that 88% of employees with an invisible disability choose not to disclose it at work to avoid stigma and discrimination. Those who open up about invisible long-term disabilities are oftensocially isolated, resulting in lower morale and decreased productivity.

To understand the long-term needs of people with invisible disabilities, we conducted a seven-year study of 58 professionals with invisible disabilities in different sectors across Europe and the United States. We also interviewed 19 HR professionals to gain insight into the feasibility and challenges of implementing some of the recommendations that emerged from the survey.

Our study confirmed that people with invisible disabilities often feel marginalized at work and are less likely to receive benefits or access education and promotion. This can cause them physical and psychological discomfort and put them at risk of social exclusion, lack of well-being and reduced work performance. We have also found that employers are unaware of the needs of people with invisible disabilities and are often unwilling to provide the necessary supports and accommodations. Employees with invisible disabilities can struggle in silence, feeling unsupported and misunderstood.

There is a real opportunity for new and aspiring leaders to drive change in organizations by increasing their awareness and practicing more vulnerable and empathetic leadership. As a manager, you can create a space where people feel more confident disclosing and asking about what they need. She can encourage diversity and make sure differences are valued, not feared, on her team.

Based on the results of our study, we recommend some best practices for new managers to create a more inclusive workplace.

1) Do not generalize shortcomings.

It is common for people without disabilities to not understand what it means to live with a particular condition. The reality is that two people with the same disability can have very different experiences. For example, two colleagues who suffer from chronic migraines may have different triggers or symptoms. Also, generalized anxiety disorderinclude a variety of symptomsThey appear and manifest themselves very differently depending on the person.

This means that what you know about a disability and what it looks or feels like may not match your partner's experience of the condition. Do not argue with them on this point. Making assumptions about someone's abilities can cloud their judgment and lead to unconscious bias or microaggressions. As a leader, your role in this scenario is to listen. Take time to understand what symptoms your team members are experiencing and when, how those symptoms affect your work, and what you can do to help them.

Our research shows that managers who are empathetic, patient, and willing to listen to their team members' experiences and respond to their requests are more successful leaders. Their teams reported a 63% increase in well-being and a 71% increase in engagement compared to average.

When you engage in sensitive health conversations out of curiosity, you create a safe environment for people to discuss their shortcomings. Active listening can help you pay attention to the experiences of others and build trust with your team members. If you are not familiar with a particular condition, feel free to ask where you can find more information. You can also conduct your research online to avoid placing an educational burden on your team members. These actions show genuine interest on your part and help your team members do their best work.

2) Find out how you can help your team member succeed in their role.

Our research has shown that creating a comprehensive disability policy without understanding an individual's specific needs does not work. Employees with disabilities may feel stigmatized by a blanket policy that classifies them in ways they don't identify with. Accommodations offered may not meet your requirements.

For this reason, it is important to have a more personalized treatment, adapted to the needs of each employee and guaranteeing access to the appropriate resources. The best way to find out is to ask your team members which shelters would work for them.

Our research found that managers who used language that linked an individual's needs or arrangements to their performance and success at work helped employees express their concerns more freely. When managers used phrases like "How do I set you up for success?" or “As a leader, what can I do to help you be your best?” Your team members rated you as 92% more approachable. For example, if your team member requests a quiet work space or flexible hours on certain days to manage doctor appointments, find ways to achieve this. If you need to speak with your boss before approving a request, let the team member know you'll be in touch and be sure to follow up as soon as possible.

In general, make it a habit to check on the well-being of all your employees from time to time. In one-on-one conversations, you could say something like, "How are you doing this term? I want to make sure you have all the resources you need to be successful at work. Can you tell me what supports or accommodations I might need?"

Finally, if your team member asks for confidentiality, respect their decision and do not force them to open up or disclose their medical condition to others. Let them know that any conversation you have with them is private and not shared with the whole team unless they decide to open up. If your company policy requires you to notify Human Resources, please let your team member know.

3) Advocate for inclusive policies and practices.

If your company doesn't have a disability and accommodations policy, an important part of your job as a manager is to advocate for a policy or make your current policies more inclusive. While this may seem difficult for a middle manager, he can start by sharing his ideas and suggestions with his boss or leadership team. He now has the (positional) power to bring new ideas to the table.

Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss how to prioritize inclusion in your organization, and share what you've learned from your conversations with your team members. You may be aware that some employees could benefit from more flexible work policies, employee resource groups (ERGs), or closed captioning or sign language translation on calls and important company events. Remember to respect people's privacy as requested.

In our research, we found that organizations that implemented inclusion initiatives like the ones listed above experienced a 26% increase in productivity. Another idea is to hire an inclusion advocate or consultant to help you review your company's policies, hold awareness workshops, and suggest changes. When companies do this, employee well-being is likely to increase by 45%, according to our study.

Whatever you propose, advocating for change that makes it easier for people with disabilities to succeed can go a long way toward creating an inclusive workplace.

4)Avoid activities around food.

Food is vital to the modern workplace, whether it's an office party, birthday bash, or house lunch. It's ideal for long days, networking events, and happy hours; it can help build camaraderie, foster a sense of belonging, and break down the barriers between the formal and informal lives of workers. But for employees with food allergies,The workplace can be a minefield..

Nearly 60% of millennials have food allergiesreported being anxious at workby your condition. In addition, a study conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found precisely that17% of employers are very knowledgeable about food allergies.. This leaves many workers in the dark about the needs of their colleagues and how to meet them.

As a manager, don't let your employees explain the consequences of food intolerance to you. The symptoms of food intolerance are often highly personal, and employees may think twice about voluntarily disclosing information that could make them vulnerable to stigma or ridicule at work. Managers who open up conversations about food allergies with their team before an important meeting or event are 72% more accommodating than their peers.

When planning office parties, include someone with food intolerances in the organizing group so they can create a more complete menu. You can also find creative ways to host food-themed events. For example, throw a party and ask everyone to bring a dish that will help you get to know them. This can help your team members to be open about their intolerances or allergies and make it easier for other team members to support their colleagues.

5) Build an inclusive community.

Ninety percent of people with disabilities in our survey felt like they didn't belong in the workplace. When peer support networks are in place, people have space to share their experiences without fear of shame or guilt.

Our research shows that managers who encourage their team to open up and create safe spaces while being vulnerable themselves were seen as 75% more approachable than those who didn't. These "rooms" can include a dedicated Slack channel, regular team chats for open discussions, as well as formal ERGs (as mentioned above) where people with disabilities can interact with others who are having similar experiences. Advocating for these spaces and encouraging people to join them can make employees with disabilities feel seen.

Another idea is to create anonymous surveys to get employee feedback on inclusion. This not only helps leaders learn where the organization can improve. It is also a time to show genuine interest and intent to change the status quo.

. . .

Making your workplace more inclusive of employees with disabilities doesn't have to be complicated. If you're a new manager, you know you can take action and create a warm and welcoming team culture. And when you do, you make your workplace not only more inclusive for people with disabilities, but also a better place to work for everyone.


How to create an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities? ›

5 steps to build an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities
  1. Step #1: Implement company-wide training. ...
  2. Step #2: Build a sourcing and retention plan. ...
  3. Step #3: Provide supports for employees with disabilities. ...
  4. Step #4: Communicate your disability inclusion plan internally. ...
  5. Step #5: Measure your return on investment.

How can we support people with invisible disabilities? ›

Listen to what they have to say without interrupting or offering suggestions, and make it clear that they don't have to talk about their disability right then and there if they don't want to, but that you're open to listening when they do want to talk.

How will you be more inclusive towards people with disabilities? ›

Instead of describing someone as “special needs” or “wheelchair-bound,” you can say that they “require accommodations” or “use a wheelchair.” It's also best to describe accessible spaces or resources as such. “Accessible parking” is a more inclusive sentiment than “handicapped parking,” for example.

How can the world be made more inclusive for people with disabilities? ›

Employ Persons with Disabilities

One way of changing this perception is by offering employment to PWDs. They deserve working opportunities just like non-disabled people. According to a 2022 United Nations (UN) report, 80 percent to 90percentof PWDs of employment age are employed in first world countries.

How can workplace be more inclusive? ›

7 ways to be more inclusive at work
  1. Be yourself – be your authentic self.
  2. Speak up about inclusion.
  3. Think about how you communicate.
  4. Respond from a place of personal experience.
  5. Pronouns.
  6. Challenge stereotypes.
  7. Support your co-workers' differences.

What is workplace inclusivity for people with disabilities? ›

Disability inclusion at work is about more than hiring people with disabilities. An inclusive workplace values all employees for their strengths. It offers employees with disabilities — whether visible or invisible — an equal opportunity to succeed, to learn, to be compensated fairly, and to advance.

What is an example of inclusion for people with disabilities? ›

Examples of these activities include: Education and counselling programs that promote physical activity, improve nutrition or reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs; and. Blood pressure and cholesterol assessment during annual health exams, and screening for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

How can you make the workplace accessible for the blind? ›

Workplace Accessibility Tips for Companies
  1. Utilize assistive technology. ...
  2. Have a website that is easily accessible for visually impaired employees. ...
  3. Make written materials accessible for those with visual impairments. ...
  4. Make training accessible. ...
  5. Offer flexible scheduling. ...
  6. Offer time off. ...
  7. Allow guide dogs.
Dec 28, 2021

What is one way to adapt the workplace to be more accessible for employees with disabilities? ›

Pay attention to digital improvement. Large keyboards, voice recordings, screen enlargement apps, and other assistive technologies will go a long way in getting the job done by your disabled employees. Accommodate disabled employees' means of assistance, especially If it poses no threat to the general workplace.

How do you handle disabilities in the workplace? ›

Etiquette Basics
  1. Use person-first language. ...
  2. Speak directly to the person, rather than through an interpreter or friend.
  3. Make eye contact with the person, regardless of the disability.
  4. Ask before you help; the person will request assistance when needed.
  5. Treat people with disabilities just as you would anyone else.

What are the best ways to help people with disabilities? ›

General Etiquette Tips
  1. Practice the Golden Rule. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. ...
  2. Always Ask Before Giving Assistance. Just because a person has a disability, they don't necessarily need or want your assistance. ...
  3. Think Before You Speak. ...
  4. Avoid Showing Pity or Being Patronizing.

How do you support and encourage people with disabilities? ›

  1. Ask before you help; it's not always wanted. ...
  2. Be patient with how others communicate. ...
  3. Communicate naturally and with expressions. ...
  4. Don't ask intrusive questions. ...
  5. Communicate at eye level. ...
  6. Focus on the person, not their disability. ...
  7. Don't use patronising gestures like patting a head or shoulder.

What special challenges do people with invisible disabilities face? ›

Those with an invisible illness or disability often face continual judgment from others. Symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog can lead to feelings of anger, isolation, and helplessness. Coping skills include lowering your expectations, picking your battles, and practicing self-compassion.

How do you encourage people to be inclusive? ›

Five Ways to Encourage Inclusion in Your Office
  1. Educate yourself and your leaders. ...
  2. Lead by example. ...
  3. Create a culture of respect and openness. ...
  4. Change up the power dynamics. ...
  5. Get outside the office.
Oct 23, 2019

What is inclusive communication for people with disabilities? ›

Accessible and inclusive communication means ensuring that messaging and information meets the communication needs of everyone within the community so that the target audience, whether employees or customers can access, understand and engage with the information you are sharing.

What are five things you can do to become more intentionally inclusive? ›

5 Ways to Be More Intentionally Inclusive
  • Ask explicitly for help and money. ...
  • Coordinate with someone who can do the work. ...
  • Offer accessible experiences. ...
  • Consider diversity outside of race. ...
  • Ask about institutional support.
Nov 13, 2022

How will I create a more inclusive environment? ›

How to Create a More Inclusive Work Environment
  1. #1. Make your vision clear. ...
  2. #2. Establish a D&I committee. ...
  3. #3. Set goals and monitor progress. ...
  4. #4. Provide training to managers. ...
  5. #5. Promote inclusive language. ...
  6. #6. Ensure physical and digital accessibility. ...
  7. #7. Encourage open communication and accountability.

How does inclusion of people with and without disabilities benefit us all? ›

Some of the benefits of inclusion for children with (or without) disabilities are friendship skills, peer models, problem solving skills, positive self-image, and respect for others. This can trickle down to their families as well, teaching parents and families to be more accepting of differences.

What is an example of inclusivity in the workplace? ›

Offering equal access to company resources is a fantastic example of inclusive behaviors in the workplace. For instance, do not limit access to senior management to some workers. Instead, ensure that all employees have equal support from team leaders and other company resources.

What are 5 benefits of an inclusive workplace? ›

Five benefits a diverse and inclusive workplace has for employees:
  • Greater sense of safety and belonging.
  • Stronger resilience and ability to adapt to change.
  • More open to discuss and manage mental health issues.
  • Improved conflict resolution and problem-solving skills.
  • Increased empathy and understanding of customer needs.
Feb 2, 2021

What are at least three characteristics of an inclusive workplace? ›

An inclusive workplace is cooperative, collaborative, open, fair, curious, accountable and so much more. Take a look at these seven components of inclusion, plus tips for helping to create an inclusive workplace: 1. Access to resources: Give employees the support necessary to be inclusive.

What are simple examples of inclusion? ›

Inclusion is defined as the state of being included or being made a part of something. When multiple people are all invited to be part of a group, this is an example of inclusion.

What is an example of inclusive practice? ›

For example if you're planning a sports activity make sure you adapt it for a child who is in a wheelchair. This ensures that they feel included and part of the activity despite their condition. This will improve their confidence and allows them to join in and socialise with other children.

What can we do to make visually impaired blind people's lives easier? ›

Tips to make life easier for someone with vision loss
  1. Lighting. Most people with low vision prefer natural light, the kind that comes through windows or from the sun. ...
  2. Contrast. High contrast between an object and the background, against which it is seen, is often helpful to individuals who are visually impaired. ...
  3. Labeling.

What accommodations do blind people need? ›

"Low Vision" Accommodations
  • Glare Protection Screen.
  • Large Monitor with High Resolution (19" - 25")
  • Magnified Display of Computer Screen.
  • Magnified Display of Hardcopy Material.
  • Large Print Production.
  • Copy Machine with Enlarging and Reducing Capability.
  • Color and Contrast Selection.
  • Keyboard Orientation Aids.

What are five 5 main communication strategies you would implement as disability support worker to maintain positive interaction with your client? ›

Some general tips for successful communication:
  • use a normal tone of voice—do not raise your voice unless asked to.
  • be polite and patient—do not rush the conversation.
  • speak directly to the person rather than the person with them.
  • ask the person what will help with communication—there are different ways to communicate.
Sep 5, 2018

How do you think workplaces can be more inclusive and adapt to meet the changing needs of future generations? ›

Innovating to tackle ageism in the workplace
  1. Maintaining good health.
  2. Building knowledge, skills, and competence.
  3. Addressing discrimination and supporting diversity.
  4. Adapting the workplace.
Dec 15, 2020

What are the 5 barriers for persons with disabilities? ›

Five of the most common kinds of barriers are:
  • Physical or Architectural Barriers.
  • Informational or Communicational Barriers.
  • Technological Barriers.
  • Organizational Barriers.
  • Attitudinal Barriers.
Nov 11, 2019

What are some advantages to an employer to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities? ›

Indirect Benefits
  • Improved interactions with co-workers: 57%
  • Increased overall company morale: 55%
  • Increased overall company productivity: 49%
  • Increased safety: 46%
  • Improved interactions with customers: 38%
  • Increased overall company attendance: 35%
  • Increased profitability: 20%
  • Increased customer base: 13%

What are examples of disability friendly solutions? ›

  • Parking spaces are close to entrances.
  • Floor spaces and hallways are free of equipment and other barriers.
  • Staff and healthcare professionals can use sign language or have access to someone who can use sign language.

Why is it important to empower people with disabilities? ›

By giving equal opportunities and the corresponding respect, we grow a sense of confidence in the people with disabilities and cultivate a sense of belonging. This makes for positive growth attitudes, and despite any disability, a person will pursue and work on their goals, thus contributing positively to society.

What everyday things help people with disabilities? ›

Examples include:
  • bathing aids.
  • walking frames.
  • bed levers.
  • toilet frames.
  • stair lifts.
  • hospital beds.
  • hoists.

How do I become inclusive for disability? ›

Ensure the space is physically accessible.
  1. Language matters. ...
  2. Treat adults with disabilities as adults. ...
  3. Speak directly to people with disabilities, not at their aide or sign language interpreter. ...
  4. Listen patiently and attentively to a person who has difficulty speaking; do not try to finish their thoughts for them.

How can you raise awareness for people with disabilities? ›

Start off with a lesson teaching them about disabilities and what different types of disabilities there are. Talk through each disability and how it can affect the person's life. Allow for children to ask questions because this will help to spread awareness of disability and help them to understand.

What are three challenges individuals with disabilities face in today's work environment? ›

A physical environment that is inaccessible or hard to navigate. Lack of assistive tools or technologies to help the person be effective. Negative attitudes within the work environment. A lack of relevant systems, services, and policies.

How can I be inclusive of special education? ›

Making Classrooms Inclusive for Special Needs
  1. Review Individual Education Plans. ...
  2. Create a Safe Space. ...
  3. Consider How Students Interact With Their Environment. ...
  4. Differentiate Instruction. ...
  5. Rely on Your Fellow Teachers.

How can cities be inclusive of people with disabilities? ›

Create more accessible buildings and public spaces

City planners should focus on how they can make buildings and public spaces accessible for people of all abilities. This can include creating ramps, automatic doors, brail on signs, and more accessible features to all buildings.

What are some inclusion strategies? ›

10 Effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
  • Using inclusive language. ...
  • Challenging unconscious biases. ...
  • Educating leadership. ...
  • Mentoring. ...
  • Cultural events. ...
  • Diversity training. ...
  • Core company values. ...
  • Create an environment that is suited to everyone.

How do you create an inclusive learning environment? ›

Tips for Making Classrooms More Inclusive as Students Head Back To School
  1. Use inclusive language on all forms. ...
  2. Stock your library shelves with diverse books. ...
  3. Create a welcoming bulletin board. ...
  4. Develop clear classroom and/or school agreements. ...
  5. Prepare for teachable moments. ...
  6. Model inclusive language.
Aug 24, 2018

How do you think we can build a more inclusive society? ›

6 Simple Ways We Can All Do To Be An Inclusive Society
  1. Refer to people respectfully. ...
  2. Mind your language. ...
  3. Offer help. ...
  4. Some disabilities are invisible and may appear subtle, so never assume. ...
  5. Create opportunities for children with and without disabilities to interact with each other. ...
  6. Respect differences, we are all humans!
Feb 9, 2021


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