People with disabilities require proper care and attention, be it a physical disability, vision or hearing impairment, or a mental health condition. The same goes for disabled workers, staff or employees who need the understanding and patience of their employers and colleagues the most. Some people in the same workplace may find it difficult to understand or fairly treat colleagues that have impairments or disabilities—difficult, true, but not impossible.
If you have a co-worker, office mate or teammate with a disability, you need to be educated properly on disabilities to understand the condition and know the steps to be taken to make your colleague feel comfortable, welcome and accepted.
Conducting safety talks about disabilities will help everyone, including the employers, to comprehend the needs and special treatments required for their disabled employees/colleagues. So, what preparations should be done when arranging for discussions on disabilities in your workplace?
Know your “special” employees/colleagues
There is no point in conducting safety talks on disabilities if you do not know who they are. As an employer or co-worker, you cannot just take a guess on the kind of disabilities some people in your workplace have and discuss them randomly. It will not only make your special workers feel insulted, it will also make them feel insignificant. Get to know these people individually and let them feel that you care enough to seek them out.
Pick the best speaker for the job
The person who will educate the employers or employees on disabilities should be someone who is well-versed on the matter. Pick an expert on the subject – someone who has the proper credentials on dealing with disabilities, or people who have experience with disabilities. They can be people who have loved ones who are disabled, or they themselves could have disabilities. These people are the most suitable speakers because they have actual experiences on disabilities and therefore, can give the most accurate information. Safety talks on disabilities and impairments can also boost the morale of disabled workers and allow them to talk freely about their feelings and experiences.
Choose the most convenient venue
You cannot hold talks on disabilities without knowing the kind of disabilities your workers have. It is important that you identify them early on and choose the most convenient and comfortable venue to hold your safety talk. Make sure that the location can easily be accessed by your disabled workers or colleagues, especially the ones with physical disabilities. You should also consider having emergency equipment available for your handicapped workers in case there is a need to use them at the venue.
Make use reading materials, visual aids or presentations if necessary
Sometimes, hearing about disabilities and the importance of understanding them is not enough for other people. For some, they need to see concrete examples in order to understand the situation better. In these cases, you may include reading materials, visual aids, or presentations in your discussions for an interactive and more engaging discussion. Your employees or colleagues will more likely respond if they have a clear vision of the subject, and if the idea is explained in a way that they can understand.
Include activities or games in your safety talks
Conducting safety talks about disabilities does not need to be a one-way street. You can also include activities or games to make the talk more fun, informative and interactive. This way, you can promote engagement of employers, employees, or colleagues with their disabled workers in a more enjoyable and non-threatening environment or scenario. Direct interaction with handicapped workers will help other workers learn about the disabilities naturally.
When dealing with disabled employees or co-workers, it is important that you stop and think about what to do or what you are doing; analyze the situation carefully and lastly, listen to what these disabled workers are telling you. Make them feel like normal people; after all, their disabilities do not make them any less than any other person.