Workplace accommodation describes a situation where changes are made at work to help someone with a disability do their job well. These changes could include things like using special tools or working hours that suit them. The idea is to make sure everyone can work fairly and comfortably, regardless of disability.

Based on the Youth Leadership Initiative study results, a lack of workplace accommodation is one of the main employment barriers for youth with disabilities.

The Role of Employer Understanding

Arranging for needed accommodations is affected by the employer’s understanding of disability. YLI focus group participants indicated that employers would help if they understood their employee’s needs. But when bosses don’t understand what’s required, asking for necessary accommodations becomes harder and less likely to be offered. Study participants described worrying about what coworkers might think if they get accommodation, taking longer or more frequent breaks for example. Most people prefer to keep disability details private but also want to build strong relationships with colleagues.

Building Trust and Effective Communication

Disclosing a disability and asking for accommodation come together. Both need mutual trust, talking openly, and understanding each other empathetically.

YLI Advisory Committee members encouraged young adults with disabilities to explain their condition and any limitations coming from their disability. This can be tough for young workers with disabilities. YLI advisors also suggest learning about the type of accommodation(s) a person needs and consulting medical practitioners beforehand. Starting the discussion with additional information in hand can make discussing accommodation needs more comfortable and effective.

Building a rapport with employers also helps build mutual trust. Although there is a human rights obligation around accommodation, there is also an empathetic approach young employees can take. When requesting accommodation, young adults can take the opportunity to educate and break down biases.

A smiling young woman in wheelchair in a meeting with her manager.

Encouraging Inclusive Dialogue

To encourage dialogue around accommodation and accessibility, employers can demonstrate inclusivity by embracing the uniqueness of each person and empowering individuals with disabilities to lead the conversation and control their own narrative.

Debunking Myths about Accommodations

There are misconceptions about accommodations being costly to provide. In fact, many accommodations are low-cost or even free. Providing accommodation not only makes employees healthier, but also helps them work better, and saves the costs of losing an employee and hiring a replacement. Ultimately, making workplaces more inclusive and barrier-free is possible with universal design, and it’s a concept we encourage organizations to investigate.

This toolkit is a constant work in progress; we’ll always be adding and updating resources as new information is found and as we expand our database. Please enjoy what we have so far and stay tuned for more updates coming soon!

Are you curious about how universal design helps foster workplace accessibility?

Also known as inclusive or barrier-free design, universal design allows people, regardless of their age, size, and ability, to understand, access, and use the product, service, and environment to the greatest extent possible. Learning the principle helps equip us to understand and create a truly inclusive society where everyone can enjoy and participate.



Are you looking for ways to create a more accessible work environment in your organization?

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