COLUMBUS, Ga — Employees living with disabilities should be treated with the same respect and sensitivity given to anyone else in the workplace. That is the message behind the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s latest Lunch and Learn.
Jay O’Neal, Executive Director of the Columbus Disability Service Center, says it all comes down to one word: Courtesy. O’Neal offered employers a crash course on making the workplace more inclusive to the disabled– from interview tips to ideas on welcoming new employees to the office.
Making the workplace comfortable for everyone starts with the realization that people with disabilities want to be treated like everyone else.
“A joke we have at my house is normal is just a setting on a washing machine,” says O’Neal. “There is no normal; there is no set standard. Actually, about 70% of unemployed America is actually disabled, so it’s like an untapped resource.”
O’Neal understands the struggle disabled persons face. He made a miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury that left him in various stages of disability along his route to recovery.
He says sensitivity in language use is also important. For example, when referring to persons with a disability, one should not use words such as “handicapped,” “crippled,” or “lame.”
Above all, it comes down to good manners and respect.