Working With Disabilities
Approximately 4.2 million Canadians have disabilities, while 13% of those are working aged adults. Persons with disability are not so uncommon in the workplace. Not all disabilities are evident; someone may be hearing impaired and you will not be able to tell. Other may have trouble with their vision, movement or comprehension.
No one but you and your doctor can tell you you are unable to do a job. Employers are often unaware that they can not express any doubt of your ability to fill a position or complete a task – to do so is considered discrimination. You know your strengths and weaknesses and it is up to you to communicate any weaknesses you may have if you need help. I, for example, have dyslexia and though many do not consider this to be a disability, it certainly can be difficult to deal with in the workplace. It causes me stress and I make mistakes that others wouldn’t make, such as superimposing numbers. Even something like this is important to inform your employer and co-workers about – creating an open dialogue is vital to both your success and the success of the company you work for.
Do not tolerate any abuse or harassment from co-workers, your employer or even clients. Do not let anyone address you in any way you find insulting. Correct them to be sure it doesn’t happen again. If you are physically disabled, your employer is responsible to make any changes to the working environment in order to allow you to work safely. Make sure you know your rights.
It is important not to treat a disabled co-worker any different from how you treat anyone else. Chances are they are not new to their disability and have mastered other ways of doing things that many even be more efficient than your own. It is likely a disabled person will tell you if they can’t do something or if they need help. Imagine how insulted you would be if someone insisted on helping you with something you could very well do on your own. Allow them to let you know their abilities and limitations.
People with disabilities deserve to be treated with the same respect and given the same opportunities as those who do not have disabilities. Together we can make all Canadian workplaces a friendly environment for everyone!