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5 Ways to Create Inclusive Environments for People with Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrating the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "Disability: Part of the Equity Equation," an initiative that recognizes the important role people with disabilities play in a diverse and inclusive workforce.

In celebration of NDEAM, here are "5 Ways to Create Inclusive Environments for People with Disabilities.”

1. Ask Before Giving Assistance

If you see someone struggling to do something, ask the person if they need help before jumping in to assist them. It is better to ask before helping someone to avoid offending or making the situation worse.

Example: Marcy was walking on crutches while crossing the street when two college students rushed to her side to “help” causing her to fall face flat because the students bumped the crutches from under her arms.

2. Don’t Pity or Patronize

Don’t treat or refer to people with disabilities as “victims.” When communicating with people with disabilities, avoid using pet names or physical gestures that create mental barriers between able-bodied people and disabled persons. i.e. pat on the back, head, and pet names.

3. Think Before You Speak

Avoid using words like “handicap” or anything directly referring to an individual’s specific disability when describing them. Practice “people-first language,” a type of language that puts the person first before their diagnosis or disability.

Here’s a shortlist of examples of offensive and people-first language for people with disabilities.

4. Be an Ally for People with Disabilities

If you witness a disabled coworker being wrongly discriminated against or not receiving proper accommodation, step in and speak up. If there are no ADA amenities in the workplace, follow up with Human Resources (HR) and insist change. Like all marginalized groups, people with disabilities can be supported by those who work to create inclusive environments.

5. Treat Everyone the Same

People with disabilities should be thought of first, before their disability. Communicating with your co-workers creates awareness and helps foster a better understanding of diversity in the workplace.

Let us know how you are creating inclusive environments for people with disabilities.

For more resources and information about NDEAM, visit the Department of Labor’s dedicated page on their website.

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