In South Africa, with its diverse cultures, people of all shapes, sizes, colours, ethnic backgrounds, live and work together. Still, discrimination, exclusion, and stereotypical mind-sets negatively impact businesses and morale in the workplace. Most of the time, these unconstructive outlooks transpire because of a lack of awareness and understanding on how to accommodate someone who is different. But as Helen Keller said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
Millions of people across the globe deal with some form of disability, whether it is physical or mental; whether they were born with it or acquired the disability later on. In many cases the physical disability is the person’s only limitation. He or she might still have the mental or intellectual capacity which is actually needed to perform their specific job duties, but the office itself, might not be disability-friendly in terms of accessibility. They too have a right to work and provide for themselves and their families. Following are three reasons why we think every employee should receive disability awareness and sensitivity training.
1. To Change a Stereotypical Mindset
A quote by Bruce Lee sums it up as, “People fear what they do not understand.” Learning more about people with disability in the workplace makes it easier for co-workers to understand what a disabled person goes through and the challenges they face on a daily basis. High quality training offers solutions to changing the stereotypical mindset of employees. They will be able to “see the world and challenges” through the eyes of people living with disabilities and will be able to understand certain reactions, limitations and situations better.
2. To Create a Positive and Inclusive Corporate Culture
By creating awareness and offering high quality training, employees’ will be able to treat people living with disabilities with a better sense of inclusion because they will have a better understanding of their challenges and limitations. Offices which are designed or changed to be more disability-friendly forms a good foundation for a positive and inclusive Corporate Culture. It will give all staff a more positive experience as a team because there is a sense of showing the staff you as a business make an effort to care about including everyone.
At one training session, abled bodied employees were confined to a wheelchair for a normal workday. Afterwards, the group was amazed at how difficult it was to do simple tasks. They had much more empathy with disability in general. One person said that she will never stop in a disabled parking bay again as she now saw how difficult accessibility was at most places. When someone goes through similar experiences, they tend to become more aware of someone else’s frustrations and feelings. Training employees in awareness and sensitivity of disability in the workplace opens their eyes to a world full of limitations. They suddenly become more compassionate towards people living with disability because they empathise with what they have to go through on a daily basis. Judith Orloff said, “Empathy is the Medicine the world needs.”
High quality training and creating awareness of people living with disability will not only break social barriers but also increase people’s empathy towards them. It will not only allow easier acceptance, but also help people embrace diversity within the workplace.