As with any new organizational initiative, communicating openly with employees is essential to ensuring buy-in from the workplace and the success of your disability employment and inclusion program. Additionally, you may decide you want to communicate to external audiences for reasons such as helping to grow your recruiting pipeline or building awareness and excitement around your leadership in diversity and inclusion.

Read more about Building a Culture in our PDF Guide

“The positive energy fostered by a diverse and inclusive team is exemplified in Toys “R” Us’s distribution centers, through the team's "Differently-Abled" hiring initiative. Over the past few years, our DC's have hired over 250 team members with disabilities, many of whom have had difficulty securing a job throughout their lives. This concerted talent strategy has reminded us that valuing each team member's strengths means valuing diversity. That, in turn, has enhanced our collective team's contribution and commitment to delivering joy to children of all ages!”

Jeff Kellan
Vice President - Supply Chain, Toys “R” Us

Establishing Communication Channels

You will work with your site communications team or your corporate communications team to develop a plan based on your communications goals. It will contain specific messages, channels of delivery and timing for each of your relevant audiences.

Internal Audiences

  • Employees at large
  • Managers and team leads
  • Executive leadership
  • Employee resource group
  • Site leadership
  • Frontline supervisors
  • Union leadership

External Audiences

  • Local and area public school system
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Provider agencies (when applicable)
  • Local government
  • State government
  • Corporate customers
  • Individual customers
  • Local media

Fostering an Inclusive Workplace

Before you begin interviewing and hiring people with disabilities, it is important to provide training to your current workforce on disabilities. Investing in this training upfront will help foster that culture of inclusion you want to achieve. Goals of this training include:

  • Providing a basic overview of the disability community
  • Supporting employees in becoming comfortable working with their coworkers with disabilities
  • Improving communication techniques and skills, and reducing misunderstandings
  • Providing workers with strategies to handle their own fears and anxieties related to disability

Interacting with a Person Who:

Uses a Wheelchair

  • Rearrange objects to accommodate a wheelchair before the person arrives
  • Consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles when giving directions
  • Do not push, lean on or hold onto a person’s wheelchair

Is Deaf/Hard of Hearing

  • Let the person establish the communication mode, such as lip-reading, sign language or writing notes
  • Talk directly to the person, even when a sign language interpreter is present
  • If the person lip-reads, face him or her directly, speak clearly and with a moderate pace

Has a Speech Impairment

  • Pay attention, be patient and wait for the person to complete a word or thought
  • Ask the person to repeat what is said if you do not understand
  • Be prepared for various devices or techniques used to enhance or augment speech

Has Vision Loss/Impairment, Blindness

  • When greeting the person, identify yourself and introduce others who may be present
  • When asked to guide someone with a sight disability, never push or pull the person
  • As you enter a room with the person, describe the layout and location of furniture, etc

Has a Cognitive Disability

  • Keep your communication simple
  • Stay focused on the person as he or she responds to you
  • Allow the person time to tell or show you what he or she wants

Has a Mobility Challenge

  • Ensure accessible location for work areas and meetings, wide aisles that are kept clear of obstacles and accessible bathrooms close to primary work space
  • Provide extra time to get from one work area to another
  • Provide priority seating in meetings and trainings

Has a Mental Health Condition

  • Avoid stereotypes and assumptions about the individual and how he or she might act
  • Recognize but respect when people are acting differently than they typically do
  • Be patient and allow the individual time to think and answer questions

Read more about Building a Culture in our PDF Guide