Jamf Blog
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August 12, 2022 by Haddayr Copley-Woods

How to accommodate disabled employees

In the last of our three-part series on hiring people with disabilities, we tackle how to retain these valuable employees. We'll cover resources, how to plan for accommodations in your business, and how to learn which will be best for each individual.

Part three in a three-part series. Read part two: How to recruit disabled workers. Read part one: Hiring disabled workers is good for business.

Embrace accommodations

Some organizations worry about accommodations and their perhaps nebulous implications: 1. What if we hire someone and can’t offer them a good working environment? 2. How can we think of everything every disabled person might need? 3. What if it costs too much?

1. You probably can, 2. you can't and nobody expects it, and 3. it probably won't cost much.

A 2020 study on the benefits and costs of accommodation shows that most employers report no or low costs for accommodating employees with disabilities. In fact, 56% of those surveyed said the accommodations cost absolutely nothing. Another 39% reported a one-time cost; the median expenditure was $500. All told, employers surveyed reported that the cost beyond what they would have paid for an employee without a disability was around $20.

Most important, the study found that 75% of those surveyed reported accommodations were either very effective or extremely effective. And they reported multiple direct and indirect benefits after making accommodations.

Make offices and other workspaces accessible

Beyond responding to accommodation requests (see below), you can make your organization accessible to a wider range of people with a little creativity and very little money, with measures such as:

  • Designated quiet and low-light workspaces for those with light or sound sensitivities, and for those who can find environmental sounds and sights distracting
  • Raised stripes at the top and bottom of stairwells and for visually-impaired people using canes to navigate
  • Braille descriptions and raised numbers outside of offices and meeting spaces
  • Closed captioning for videos and online meetings, and/or a good partnership with an organization that provides on-call sign language interpreters
  • Movable seating and tables in varying heights. One of the cheapest ways to make spaces more accessible is simply to use tape and lightweight chairs. You can move seating into configurations allowing for more maneuverability, you can mark out spots for power chairs or reserve seats for those who must sit closer or have an unobstructed view of interpreters.

Create a disability-friendly culture

Include disability-focused instructions in all workflows and instructions, not as a separate document. Remind people to always use their mics, to identify themselves when they speak, and to allow for varying levels of participation. Offer training on disability etiquette and awareness, and keep disabled people in mind (and ask for their input) when planning events.

Be a door opener, not a gatekeeper

Prominently display how to ask for accommodations in all onboarding materials. Get feedback from those requesting accommodations about how quick and efficient your accommodations vendor or your in-house disability office was in providing the accommodations, and respond swiftly to issues.

You'd be surprised by how many organizations have set up systems that work quite slowly (imagine not being able to work efficiently for an entire month as you wait for a simple accommodation), or that are set up with the mindset of forcing employees to prove their disability with unnecessary doctor's notes and repeated documentation. Removing that hurdle will get you far in retaining disabled employees.

Keep learning and genuinely encourage feedback

The best people to consult on disability accommodations are disabled people themselves. They have far more experience with what does and doesn't help them to work at their best.

Have a very clear and simple way for employees to speak up if something is inaccessible (with a phone, chat or email that people respond to quickly). Post it everywhere and often. This will let you know on the spot if someone is having accessibility issues, which will help them and other people in the long run.

Addressing one person’s issue, and asking them about related ones, is an excellent way to incrementally and iteratively improve accessibility at your organization.

Use tech that best supports disabled employees

While it’s impossible to plan for every contingency, offering flexible devices that already have state-of-the-art accessibility features installed will prepare you for on-the-spot accommodations. And if you’re looking for that, you’re looking for Apple.

Apple

Not only do Apple devices have a higher ROI and lower TCO than PC, but the built-in accessibility features that come standard on every Apple device simply have no parallel.

Jamf

Welcome your new disabled employees with their devices already set up for them, out of the box! You can manage many of these accessibility configurations individually and in groups using a powerful management system such as Jamf Pro or Jamf Now. You can tweak those settings after getting feedback, and ensure that all staff is on updated devices so that accessibility features run smoothly.

Get started!

As I mentioned in part two of this series, a small start is still a start. This is not the time for perfectionism or the time to do nothing until you think you have absolutely everything in place.

Start small. Be incremental. Keep asking questions, keep listening and keep improving.

You've got this.

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Part three in a three-part series. Read part two: How to recruit disabled workers. Read part one: Hiring disabled workers is good for business.

At-a-glance employee accommodation resources

Photo of Haddayr Copley-Woods
Haddayr Copley-Woods
Jamf
Haddayr Copley-Woods is a senior copywriter in Jamf's marketing department. She blogs about education, accessibility, security and other issues affecting Mac admins.
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