Inclusivity in The Workplace
Writer Grace Dow breaks down inclusivity in the workplace for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
By Grace Dow
Have you heard about efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Perhaps you have even seen these initiatives in your community or at your place of work. Many employers are increasingly becoming public about the importance of a diverse and inclusive in professional settings. In the summer, Disability: IN released its annual “Best Places to Work” Disability Equality Index, and many well-known companies, like Amazon and Nestlé, received a perfect score, but that doesn’t mean they’re an inclusive place of employment.
Over the past few years, investigations by The New York State Division of Human Rights, found that Amazon has denied reasonable accommodations to employees on several occasions in New York. In one instance, they forced an employee to take unpaid leave after injuring herself at work, according to Reuters.
In the state of Pennsylvania, reasonable accommodations are supposed to be provided to disabled employees. They can only be denied under certain circumstances, and if they must decline accommodations, they must determine whether an accommodation would create an undue hardship.
Undue hardship occurs when providing the required accommodation would be extremely difficult or expensive for the employer, alter their business’s operations, or if providing it would result in the loss of crucial job functions. If a company can show proof of these difficult hardships, they are not required to provide them.
However, there are instances where an employer denies accommodations essential for employees. For example, as a person with Cerebral Palsy, I require help with activities of daily living, such as using the restroom and setting up my lunch. But according to The Job Accommodation Network, unfortunately, employers are not required to accommodate personal assistance services, for people like me with specific disabilities, which is perhaps the most crucial.
Without my personal care assistants, I wouldn’t be able to work, and by denying access to personal care services in the workplace, employers are missing out on an entire segment of the population. People cannot perform well at work if they don’t have a way to take care of basic needs while there. What would it be like if you couldn’t eat lunch or use the restroom at work? My personal care assistants also assist me with transportation because I cannot drive. So, without them, I couldn’t get to and from work.
With the rise in remote work, many disabled people find it easier to do their jobs, according to Bloomberg. In the future, I hope to find a remote position that will allow me to work from home most of the time so I can have more independence and work in an environment that’s already accessible to me.
In addition, many disabled people rely on Medicaid for health coverage, which provides healthcare services and a wide range of home and community-based services. Unfortunately, Medicaid adds another complex aspect to inclusion in the workplace due to income and asset limits that Medicaid beneficiaries must meet. If people make too much money, they often risk losing their benefits.
I hope the labor market will continue to become more accessible for people with different disabilities. Disabled people can be outstanding employees, and data has shown disabled people are creative, hardworking, and reliable, bringing so much to the workplace.
Grace Dow is a writer from Massachusetts with Cerebral Palsy who has been covering topics on disabilities for several years. She has been published in Easterseals and the Westfield Voice. Check her out at GraceDowWrites.com.
Want to learn more about how KenCrest supports people with disabilities in the workplace? Click the link below!
All in: Easterseals Plan for Disability Equity.” Easterseals,https://www.easterseals.com/our-programs/employment-training/all-in/.
Métraux, Julia. “Amazon Got a Perfect Score on Disability Inclusion-from a Group It Helps Fund.” Mother Jones, 14 July 2023, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2023/07/amazon-got-a-perfect-score-on-disability-inclusion-from-a-group-it-helps-fund/.
“Personal Assistance in the Workplace.” Job Accommodation Network, Job Accommodation Network, https://askjan.org/topics/persassist.cfm.
Stempel, Jonathan. “Amazon Discriminates against Pregnant and Disabled Workers, New York Alleges.” Reuters, 18 May 2022, http://www.reuters.com/markets/us/new-york-agency-accuses-amazon-pregnancy-disability-discrimination-2022-05-18/.
Smith, Molly. “Disabled US Workers See Highest-Ever Employment Figures from Remote Work.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 3 Oct. 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-03/disabled-us-workers-see-highest-ever-employment-figures-from-remote-work.