Hiring a worker with a disability doesn’t have to be a difficult process -- though it may involve taking a few extra steps to ensure the new worker settles into his role efficiently. By keeping the lines of communication open and informing yourself of what’s necessary, you can ensure a smooth transition.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re preparing to bring on a new worker.
Review any labor or discrimination laws pertaining to your location
As an employer, it’s important for you to understand your new employee’s rights -- as well as what’s expected of you under laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or other state or country-specific law. Part of those laws include non-discrimination in hiring but now that you’re onto the training and work phase, you have other considerations. If you need help, consult your human resources department for access to information.
Talk to the new employee about what she needs
Open communication between you and your new employee can help avoid misunderstandings, as well as giving you tools for helping the new employee do his job. When the employee starts his job, sit down and ask him how you and your team can support him and help him be most successful. Take careful notes and ask questions if you don’t understand something, so that you’re showing your new employee that you’re committed to getting it right.
Make reasonable accommodations
In some cases, your new employee might alert you to accommodations he’ll need in the workplace. For example, a person with a visual impairment might require more lighting in certain area or a special keyboard. In many countries, it’s your legal responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for your employee -- and in any case, it will demonstrate to him that you’re committed to helping him be successful. If your business needs financial support, some states and federal programs also offer financial assistance to businesses needing to make more significant accommodations for employees.
Ask the employee for suggestions about sharing information with co-workers
As the employer, you’re not the only person who needs to be kept informed of how to support the new worker. Once again, talk to the new employee and ask how she feels most comfortable sharing information about her disability with other workers -- or if she does at all. Some people might prefer a simple explanation over email, while others might prefer to work one-on-one with fellow workers to help them understand the disability and how to work with it in the workplace.
Create trainings when necessary
In some cases, it might be necessary to hold more significant training sessions for an entire staff to learn about an accommodation. For example, the staff might need to learn how to use a new phone system for the hearing impaired. If that’s the case, get help from your human resources department in developing positive, efficient training sessions. You might also ask a fellow co-worker to be a "buddy" that can help the new worker with things he might need during the work day.
With a welcoming attitude and often some basic accommodations, workers with disabilities will be able to fit in well in your workplace, and can become productive, satisfied members of your team.
Image courtesy Official U.S. Navy Page, Flickr