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Strategies for Working with People with Disabilities

Accommodations for people with disabilities at work can be simple and creative alternatives for the traditional ways of doing things. The most important qualities to have when working with people affected by disabilities include kindness and patience.

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Disabilities can, but don't have to, limit an individual’s capability to perform work well. Employment specialists and career development specialists have a task to ensure that people with various disabilities are fully accommodated to ensure their workforce participation. Levels of disability vary from one person to another. For this reason, it is crucial to be aware of the general employees’ needs as an employer.   

Accommodations for people with disabilities at work can be simple and creative alternatives for the traditional ways of doing things. The most important qualities to have when working with people affected by disabilities include kindness and patience.   

Here are a few suggestions that employers, career development staff and general work platforms can adopt to improve and make work easier for people with disabilities;  

People with Mobility Impairment

Mobility impairments can affect the normal performance of work as it may be harder for people with such problems to move from one work site to another. Mobility disabilities range from lower body impairments that require the use of canes, wheelchairs and walkers, to upper body impairments that cause limited or complete use of the hands. In a work environment, people who are affected require special accommodations for them to access various worksites and off-site meetings stress-free.  

Some people with mobility problems find it hard to manipulate simple work objects, hold a pen, type or retrieve important work without specific accommodations. Employers should consider some simple adjustments such as;  

  • Providing assistants for specific office tasks  

  • Making work-related materials available in electronic format  

  • Online job-access platforms and resources  

  • Computers can be equipped with special software like Morse code and alternative keyboards  

For people with advance mobility problems such as wheelchair users, special hallways can be put in place to ease movements from place to place. Parking lots and corridors can be adjusted properly to accommodate easier movement. More accommodations include providing accessible office locations and placing work equipment easily reachable. Avoiding clutter and organizing the workspace to accommodate all persons, will reduce the risk of work-related accidents. 

People with Vision Impairment

Some people have a vision impairment but do have some usable sight. People with low vision experience difficulty while reading standard written material. They have blurry vision, can only see objects within a specific field of scope and objects with sections missing or blacked out. Due to the straining of the eyes, work is made harder and mentally fatiguing for those affected.   

In the work setting, simple accommodations such as the following can be put in place to aid workmates with low vision work better;  

  • Providing handouts, signs and equipment labels in large print text. Most photocopying machines can print large texts 

  • Recording job instructions, publications, and other printed materials on audiotape make it easier for people with low vision to stay updated with work announcements and meetings.  

  • Equipping computers with large monitors, screen enlargement software and projectors  

  • Providing seating positions where the light best suits individual needs 

People with Speech Impairment

Some disabilities can affect one’s ability to speak. People with speech impairment can communicate through sign language and electronic mail in work settings. Electronic mail is the most efficient way of communication since it does not require the ability to speak.  

Effective work relations with people who have speech impairment can be achieved by learning how to approach and handle affected persons. Here are some points to note when working with a person with speech impairment;  

  • Concentrate on what the person is saying and be patient   

  • Appropriately, ask questions that require short answers or a nod  

  • Do not speak for the person or try to finish sentences  

  • If you do not understand, use alternative communication like writing down  

  • Encourage people with a speech impairment to participate in work discussions 

People with Hearing Impairments

People born with hearing impairments may have a harder time understanding the structure of language compared to those who lost their hearing later in life. Lip-reading, sign language and amplification are some ways which people with hearing impairments can use to understand spoken information.   

It may be difficult for people with this problem to follow instructions especially in large and open settings where acoustics cause echoes and the speaker talks unclearly. It may also be a problem to coordinate lip movement and verbal descriptions in cases of an interpreter.  

Apply some of the following tips when working with people with hearing problems;  

  • Provide sound amplification systems and interpreters  

  • Offer clear visual aids like signs and equipment labels and visual warning systems for emergencies  

  • Provide electronic mail for meetings and office discussions 

People with Psychiatric disabilities

People who have psychiatric disabilities may not be considered mentally ill. However, when triggered, a person with psychiatric disabilities can act randomly in ways that may be unproductive in the work environment. Individuals with psychiatric problems need to be provided with unique on-the-job accommodations to prevent unexpected behaviour.  

To ensure a smooth-running work relationship with people dealing with psychiatric problems, consider the following tips;  

  • Show positiveness and expect them to do well, being kind boosts self-esteem  

  • Be consistent and open so that the person knows what to expect in work progress  

  • Make instructions clear by writing them down and explaining verbally  

  • Reward good performance and when criticizing, do it privately and calmly

People with Health Impairments

Some people suffer from various health complications and cannot work efficiently without proper accommodations. Health impairments vary from mild to chronic and severe allergies. Here are some ways to accommodate people with health complications;  

  • Employers can offer part-time jobs and provide flexible schedules that can enable affected persons to access proper medical care  

  • Modify placements, assignments and methods to accommodate people affected with severe allergies   

  • Be observant of employees who have health complications to know when they are more productive to determine a reasonable schedule  

  • Providing flexible attendance requirements and electronic mail for office information 


Generally, the most important qualities to consider when working with people affected by various disabilities are kindness and patience. Empathy fosters positive attitudes and greater self-esteem. 

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