Before you begin interviewing and hiring people with disabilities for your open roles, it’s important to provide training to your current workforce on disabilities. Investing in this training upfront will help foster the culture of inclusion you want to achieve.

This training is often done by outside consultants or non-profit partners, who can provide sensitivity awareness training and best practices on hiring and integrating people disabilities into the workforce.

Training can run the gamut from immersive, in-person trainings for all employees to custom-developed “train the trainer” sessions, to online training. But be sure resources on common types of disabilities are always easily available for employees.

Of course, the specifics of your training will depend on your organization, but it should cover why your company has created a disability employment initiative in the first place, why it’s important, and what the program is – and isn’t.

Goals of this training include:

  • Providing a basic overview of the disability community
  • Helping employees get comfortable working with coworkers who have disabilities
  • Improving communication techniques and skills, and reducing misunderstandings
  • Providing employees with strategies and resources to handle their own fears and anxieties, if any, related to disability

An important part of fostering an inclusive culture is making sure your current employees treat people with disabilities with respect, so make sure your workforce is aware of these best practices:

Basics of Disability Etiquette:

  • Treat people with disabilities as you would like to be treated
  • Smile and be friendly
  • Use a normal tone of voice
  • Talk to the person with the disability, not to his aide, coach or sign language interpreter
  • Resist talking about disability unless it’s relevant to the task at hand
  • Never assume that a person with disabilities needs help. Ask if he or she needs help before taking action
  • Never touch a person with disability’s assistance tools (canes, wheelchairs, prosthetics) or pet a service animal without asking.

Also be aware that your current employees may also have disabilities you (or they) do not know about. So, use this time ahead of your hiring initiative to get used to using inclusive language and building a culture where your current employees feel safe and celebrated enough to be open about their own disabilities.

After all, if your current employees aren’t comfortable enough to self-identify as individuals with disabilities, it signals you have more room to grow as an inclusive workplace.

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