Written by: William Robertson – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
Disability inclusion is a vital part of a progressive and effective workplace. As the New South Wales government reports, disability inclusiveness in the workplace has a wide range of proven benefits. This ranges from increasing productivity, bringing new problem-solving perspectives, and augmenting workplace morale and teamwork. On a more personal note, as someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and ADHD, I speak from experience when I say that inclusivity often means the world to someone with a disability. Before we continue, I want to talk about my journey with my disability for a bit.
As I was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism at a young age, these conditions have been a constant part of my life, and as such, I have experience inclusion in a broad range of contexts. Thankfully, I have rarely felt excluded from stuff or lesser because of my disabilities, and I count myself lucky to have an amazing support network of friends and family. During my schooling, I was always somewhat included in activities and by my peers. This situation has only improved since the change to University and, more recently, to work. Especially given that this is my first job, the folks at Pro Leaders Academy have gone above and beyond to make me feel a part of the team.
However, there have been times in my life when I have felt left out or held back because of my disability. Furthermore, a large part of why I enjoyed such inclusion was because my parents and I have put a lot of effort into being “normal” to the point where I stopped using specific supports to avoid standing out. This is known as masking or camouflaging, where people with ASD try to mimic other people’s social cues and the like. Masking can have mixed success and is also quite draining and anxiety-inducing. One of the main reasons people mask is to avoid being stigmatised. This fear of stigma or being labelled is why some people are often reluctant to mention that they have Autism/ADHD, including during job interviews or on their CVs.
With all this being said, how can you improve disability inclusion? Well, for starters, there are several big-picture adjustments that you can make to improve workplace inclusion. These include building awareness and ensuring your workplace has disability accessibility. Another great place to start with disability inclusion in the workplace is to have a conversation about it with the people in your workplace.
Talking with your team about disability inclusion and those affected by it is absolutely vital and, in my opinion, one of the most important steps. The scope and scale of disability is immense, and ASD alone contains a vast scale of nuance. Not to mention each person has their own opinions and strategies regarding their disability, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. So, instead of creating blanket cure-all solutions, talk to these people in your workplace to see what they need. The benefits of having this conversation can help figure out the finer details of any workplace inclusion policy and fine-tune existing measures. Having this dialogue also gets people involved in the process, which can help build connections between staff. Talking about inclusion with your staff also builds awareness and develops workplace accessibility.
If you are interested in doing some further reading on workplace inclusion, a link to the Queensland Government has been provided below and not to mention that there is a vast wealth of resources online.