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 Assisting the disabled: A good management decision

Organisations can reap immense benefits by providing necessary tools for those with special needs, thus turning disabilities into skills.

Workforce 2000, a study by the U.S. Department of Labour has revealed that in this millennium, 85% of new additions to the work force will represent a diversity of race, culture or national origin. In order to meet these challenges, employers will have to learn to value diversity and hire employees from non-traditional sources. They can find a pool of qualified, motivated employees among people with disabilities.

For 35 years, surveys have consistently shown that DuPont employees with disabilities equal or exceed their co-workers without disabilities in terms of job performance, attendance and safety commitment. The President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities named DuPont, ‘Larger Employer of the Year for People with Disabilities’ in 1990.  DuPont believes that people with disabilities are a valuable resource, which can help meet the challenges of “Workforce 2000” and maintain the diversity they need in their work force to achieve a competitive edge.

The accommodations DuPont makes for employees with disabilities span the simple - eliminating the responsibility for lifting heavy objects from the job duties of a person with back problems, to the high-tech -- installing a computer that can ‘talk’ to a person who is blind. By simply adjusting job duties, DuPont has been able to accommodate many specific disabilities and most accommodations have been inexpensive and easy to make. For instance, job training a mentally challenged employee may require a slightly longer training cycle or a sign language interpreter may be needed temporarily to facilitate training an employee who is deaf.

Throughout DuPont, a variety of facility modifications have been made which range from ramps and raised decks to electric chair lifts and Braille elevator control panels. Equipment purchases include, talking clocks for the blind and light touch typewriters for the employees who have arthritis. In all phases of employment DuPont creates an environment in which employees with disabilities can do their jobs comfortably, safely and effectively. DuPont recognises that the contributions of people with disabilities far outweigh the cost of the accommodations the company incurs.

Businesses can’t always afford to accommodate disabled persons in their offices, but they can accommodate their ability to work from a remote location. In today’s increasingly high-tech world, where many fear their jobs will be replaced by automation, people with disabilities realise that technology gives them hope for a better tomorrow. Today there are more devices to aid the hearing-, visually- and mobility- impaired employees. Often all that is needed is a minor modification.

A wide range of hardware and software is available for the computer user, which addresses the needs for a variety of disabilities. Some examples:

  • For the hearing impaired: speech amplification devices in specially made telephones, flashing lights in place of ringers and vibrating beepers.
  • For the mobility impaired: hands-free infrared pointing devices consisting of a receiver, a reflector and software that can be used in place of a keyboard for those who are unable to use their arms.
  • For the visually impaired: special monitors, speech synthesisers and electronic Braille devices.

A mandate to include the disabled is simply a good business practice. It opens doors for the best people to be a part of the company. By providing the necessary tools for people with special needs, disabilities become invisible and the company surge ahead.

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