Disability in the company as a trigger for people-focused communication

At DSE we tested a workshop on the barriers that people with disabilities face when being included in a company.

Photo of three men sitting at a table. One man in a wheelchair shows his colleagues something on a laptop.

One of the deliverables of the workshop is that participants learn to identify the barriers in their workplace that would hinder the inclusion of people with disabilities.

To do this, we form groups where the participants (employees - generally without disabilities - from the company) work together with one inclusionists – a person with a disability from our side.

While moderating the workshop, I mentioned that generally barriers are usually of three main types: physical (bathrooms, stairs, signage, etc., and with which we are very familiar), digital (apps, websites, software and documents that are not accessible - this barrier is taking great relevance in our time) and psychological (our prejudices, preconceived ideas, beliefs and automatic attitudes towards disability).

One participant with a disability, in listing the barriers, mentioned a very interesting situation: "The lack of communication in the company is my barrier. I live with so much pressure to deliver results in a timely manner that I never have time to express my needs. I think sitting down to talk about needs is seen more as a waste of time in a results-driven culture."

In my ranking of the three types of barriers I had overlooked this one, of great relevance, and perhaps one of the most difficult to remove: organizational culture.

Doing without reflecting is a cancer in many organizations, and not only in organizations, since this tendency also invades our society. The pressure to deliver eats away at us and today any activity that we cannot translate into production or added value is considered wasted time.

During the workshop, we not only asked participants to identify barriers, but also to explore some solutions that in the first instance do not require neither budget nor large resources to overcome them.

The solution of the one who exposed this barrier was simple: reserve as a team, one hour a month to meet with no agenda other than to share the needs of the team members.

Another participant confirmed from his experience as an organizational coach, the prevalence of work cultures focused exclusively on production and results and added a very important comment.

"I believe that the presence of employees with disabilities in a company can be the perfect trigger to cultivate a culture of more communication and listening to the needs of all employees in general. We know that employees with disabilities face more barriers in the workplace compared to their non-disabled colleagues, but we face some barriers too. Having their presence in the organization, if we want it, can foster a culture of greater care for all employees, and eventually lead to a higher level of engagement and also results."

The culture of corporations was grounded in their productive nature and grew with a focus on profitability, often without regard for people or the environment. Today, inclusion in organizations implies a cultural shift. And that will take a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of debate. It's a small elephant rider trying to get his big animal to change its path./p>