Organizations often begin with a policy regarding the hiring of differently-abled individuals. Many of the organizations that have made significant strides have put in place some or many of the following:
- Sessions to sensitize the senior management and also the managers who directly deal with such employees.
- Special arrangement to cater to the special needs of such employees.
- Development plan which outlines how these differently-abled employees will rise in the organization, in other words, their growth path.
- Training these differently-abled employees—some of them may require additional training to bring them up to speed.
- Identify individuals who can be champions for this cause.
- Have systems and processes which specifically address the needs of the differently-abled employees.
- Raising the awareness of other employees towards the employees with disabilities, in particular, those who interact with them directly or indirectly.
But this would be just the beginning. To a certain extent, it is easy to implement these things—most being one-time activities. It is most crucial that the culture of the organization and the team, in particular, be an inclusive one.
Based on the study of initiatives across various organizations to include differently-abled individuals, we have identified four values that are most crucial in creating a culture of inclusiveness:
- Respect: Such individuals do not expect any pity, but respect. They expect to be respected for what they are and respected for the special abilities they bring to the organization.
- Empathy: While this is a value which is applicable in every context, an empathetic attitude towards persons with disabilities will go a long way in making them an integral part of the team they belong to.
- Flexibility: People with physical challenges or neurological conditions may not have the usual skills which are so talked about—good communication skills, management skills, some commonly accepted social skills, etc. Here is where management has to be highly flexible in their attitude towards such individuals.
- Patience: Particularly in the initial stages after recruitment and induction, when these employees with disabilities start off in their roles, co-employees need to demonstrate patience in many of the cases. This gives these differently-abled employees confidence and helps them slowly but surely to settle into their roles.
These values have to be instilled and lived at all levels—from the senior management and the immediate supervisors to the peers and subordinates.