In Review: Painting a deeper picture of disability inclusiveness

“It will take more than formal trainings and nice posters in the hallway to truly change organizational climates in ways that will enhance disability inclusiveness.”          

What comes to mind when you read, “disability in the workplace”?  For many, it might bring to mind thoughts of paperwork, Human Resource meetings and training manuals. But what happens after the paperwork?

An article we recently read, “Painting a deeper picture of disability inclusiveness: Changing organizational culture and climate,” suggests when it comes to actually incorporating disability inclusiveness in the workplace, there’s a pretty big void.

“After all the forms are filled in and all the boxes are checked, organizational leaders are now recognizing that something is still missing – something intangible that prevents the organization from fully leveraging all their talent,” write Hannah Rudstam, Ph.D., Northeast ADA Center, Cornell University and Wendy Strobel Gower, Project Director, Northeast ADA Center, Cornell University.


What is the “something” they suggest is missing?

Organizational climate.

Oh, like company culture?

No, they mean climate.  What’s the difference?


Organizational Climate:

  • Encompasses both the work involved within your organization and what it’s like to spend your days there.

  • It refers to aspects of the emotional and social tone of everyday life in the workplace.

  • Organizational climate is seen to predict employees’ decisions and actions that are key to success in meeting the larger organization’s business goals, such as engagement, performance, productivity, innovation, decision to stay, discretionary effort, and learning efforts.


Organizational Culture:

  • This is a broad term that refers to the shared values, beliefs and worldviews of a group of people.

The article highlights that organizations generally understand the requirements filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.  But beyond taking action of what is required by law, organizations are missing the core of it – The "social and emotional tone of the workplace."


What are some possible obstacles to changing / creating your organization’s climate to foster disability inclusiveness?

The article mentions stigma around disability and “assumptions that must be overcome for people to feel safe to come forward when a disability arises,” write Hannah and Wendy.


How can your organization enhance disability inclusiveness through a company-specific organizational climate?

  • Start with asking questions. And not just transactional questions; ones that involve compliance and take on a business perspective. Be transformative – Ask questions such as:

How can we align our people, practices and our inclusion efforts with our business goals?

How can we create conditions so that everyone within the organization, including those with disabilities, are fully embedded in their jobs and included in the social connections in the workplace? 

How can we build trust so that our employees are willing to come forward when a disability impacts their job performance? 

  • Walking the talk: Top leadership commitment. An organization’s leaders should put into place specific action items and measurable goals focusing on disability inclusiveness in the workplace.

  • Unconscious bias and organizational climate. Your organization having guidelines and policies in place, as well as consistently implementing these policies as they relate to disability, can help prevent unconscious bias.

Want to learn of other ways your organization can take action to enhance disability inclusiveness?  You can read the full article here

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