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First golden rule: Be open to new learnings –then relax!
If this is new to you - Remember there is a first time for everything. And over a period of time, you will get familiar with it. Increase your awareness. Find out the needs of your employee with physical disability such as workplace solutions and removing barriers. Have similar expectations and targets just like you would do for other employees. Set expectations. Ensure inclusion for the employee with physical disability just like you should do for all. Treat each person in your team including persons with disability as individuals – with different talent, abilities and needs. When they are enabled, they can give their best.
Create awareness on persons with physical disability by displaying posters in your company after you have hired
Order this awareness poster kit to display on your company walls
Before you initiate the on-boarding, induction and training process, check the accessibility needs of your employee with physical disability and compare with the premise where onboarding or induction or training will happen. Very often training is done at a vendor premise. Based on the level or type of disability, you may need to provide information on the following:
If the location is not accessible, find alternate locations where training is happening or find workarounds to include the employee. For example, if there is no lift and the training is on 2nd floor, shift the training if possible to the ground floor and check if the restroom on ground floor is accessible.
Provide a scribe who can assist employee with upper limb disability to fill out the paper work in case their hand writing is not legible or allow them to fill on the computer. Also find out if the employee with upper limb disability requires any special hardware / software requirement such as one-handed keyboard to operate computer and if there are any logistics arrangement needed such as placing mouse on left hand side or keyboard on ground for employee with upper limb disability.
Be prepared with an alternate activity for any physical ice breakers or games during induction and training.
Wheelchair users may need to know the location of different accessible areas such as designated parking (if any) for persons with disability, where the wheelchair is stored and available for use on a daily basis within the premise, location of accessible restrooms, pantry and so on.
It is recommended that over a period of time your company premise become accessible and compliant as per global standards. However in the absence of this, ensure the work place is reasonably accessible for employee with physical disability especially persons on wheelchair
Ensure there is ramp in entrance and exit and the work station is wide enough for wheel chair persons to fit comfortably and move around easily. Ensure eating can be done in pantry in case cafeteria is inaccessible. Assign a buddy to assist in providing overall support and for inaccessible areas till the problem is resolved.
See this 1 minute video of person with physical disability being assisted from parking area and moving around
Employee with physical disability may not require any major solutions. Some may be using their own walker, crutch or wheelchair. Some may require keyboard or mouse height to be different. Some may use In built Windows features on accessibility such as on-screen keyboard or Sticky Keys. Person with one hand or upper limb disability may use one hand keyboard or a foot pedal or access switch to work better.
If your company provides pick up and drop for employees working in different shifts, you may want to modify the transportation policy to suit the needs of employee with physical disability. For example, if pick up is from a particular location, you may make an exception for employee with physical disability (on a case by case basis or based on need) and do home pick up and drop. Ensure cab drivers provide assistance required during boarding the cab. It would also be a good practice to keep a wheel chair in the vehicle and the parking area.
In the initial days, the team and manager may not be aware of how to get started with the employee with physical disability. It is very important to understand more about your colleague with physical disability even before assigning work. We advise having a sensitization session for everybody in the team and HR and support staff. This is not a general sensitization but a specific session to get to know your physically disabled colleague and each other better.
Contact service providers who can help you conduct sensitization sessions.
If the work involves travel to client place or for meetings in different locations, do not hesitate to send your employee with physical disability. Make sure you enable by understanding the needs of your employee with physical disability when there are meetings outside the company. Choose reasonably accessible location for team outings and offsite meetings. In general, ensure the meeting is in ground floor with a washroom if place is otherwise inaccessible. Do check with the client for their premise accessibility if the employee with physical disability has to travel to client location.
Are you worried that you don't have much experience in working with physically disabled? Do you feel you do not know how to create the right environment for employees with physical disability?
Can I have similar targets and expectations for physically disabled employees? The answer is yes!
Read on to clarify your concerns
See VP of MNC sharing his experiences on performance management
See Director of Fibrelink sharing his experiences on performance management
See this document on giving feedback
Remember, the employee with physical disability encounters access issues on a daily basis and has found ways and means of resolving it or living with the access issues. Ask the employee with physical disability when the person has to travel. Mostly the employee would be eager to travel to do his or her responsibility well. Encourage the employee to share their concerns and see if they can be resolved.
You will be surprised to know that with practice, people with one hand can type from 25 to 60 WPM. Some do this without any solution but only though constant practice. Some require solutions such as one handed keyboard which also requires practice before good speed can be achieved. If you have an employee with slow speed, give feedback, give assistance and time for practice, but expect the same as you do from other employees.
Question to ask yourself is- do all employees react the same way regarding targets?
The answer is some are ok with targets, some don't like targets, some ignore, some want relaxation or use excuses all the time. Persons with physical disability are no different. The manager has to set expectations with all employees (including the disabled) and enable employees to give their best.
Check out our resources section for more videos, publications, tools and knowledge base.
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