By Esther S. Hernandez
In terms of disabilities, it is not unusual for any of us to feel intimidated or uncomfortable when we are in a situation that we are not familiar with. People who do not have a disability often feel uncomfortable or are afraid of working with a person with a disability, because they have little or no experience with these individuals. Even the most caring and inclusive individuals and organizations may find themselves in a situation where they are not certain what is acceptable behavior or language when interacting with someone with a disability.
The business imperative for diversity is clear. The more diverse the workforce, the greater the diversity of thought and innovation. Persons with disabilities will bring a unique perspective and a different way of solving a problem. Additionally, statistics show that persons with disabilities tend to have great loyalty to their employers and in many professions have a lower attrition rate than their colleagues who do not have a disability.
During my career I have had the opportunity to work for, and with, persons with disabilities. These individuals have contributed immensely to the success of our organization and have been amongst my greatest mentors. In some instances I did not even know about the person’s disability until long after we had been working together. This taught me that true inclusivity means we must focus on their abilities and stop focusing on the individual’s disability.
It is our responsibility as individuals and organizations to recognize, respect, and value the differences of all individuals which provide the opportunity to learn from our colleagues and the diversity of their background.