For far too long, the term ‘disabled’ has been used to describe a person without the same abilities as the ‘average person’. With this term, we’ve unintentionally labelled so many individuals as ‘less than’ and ‘inferior,’ and have gone on to treat them as a liability rather than an asset.
Whether in or out of the workplace, it’s time we begin to challenge the way we see and speak about the ‘disabled’ and make way for a culture that embraces and celebrates differences.
Look at it this way, would you ever pity someone who didn’t have good organizational skills? Or would you ever refuse to work with someone with a bad sense of direction? No, you wouldn’t. What you would most likely do is acknowledge the fact that while this one area may be a weakness for this person, their strengths must be in something else.
So why don’t we give this same credit to people with ‘disabilities’? Instead of looking at them as lacking something, we need to acknowledge the fact that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and start recognizing how much these individuals can bring to the table. For example, while we may view deafness as a disability, in reality, people that are deaf often have heightened senses (ie. a stronger sense of smell) and have the ability to see the world differently than the average person.
Once again, the term ‘disabled’ suggests there is something lacking or wrong with the person. The term ‘differently-abled’, however, acknowledges the differences and potential challenges without inferring that they are somehow less important, less valuable, or someone to be pitied.
We want to see this distinction made in workplace all over the world, as it will not only change how differently-abled people are viewed, but what opportunities they are given and how they are treated.
Everybody has abilities. Everybody has strengths and weakness, and it’s time that employers start seeing it this way.
Hiring differently-abled workers is not something that employers should do to avoid a lawsuit or keep up appearances. These people are not a burden nor a liability, but an asset to workplaces. Diversity in personality, background, way of life, and abilities is key to maximizing the potential of any organization, and if employers aren’t understanding this, they’re missing out on a whole lot of greatness.