Should a supervisor prepare employees for the arrival of a new employee with a disability?

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An employer does not necessarily need to prepare existing employees for the arrival of a new employee who happens to have a disability. In fact, the supervisor should let the new employee decide if and when to disclose a disability to coworkers.

The employer should take stock of the company culture to determine whether current employees need general information or training regarding working with individuals who have disabilities. The following actions may be appropriate:

  • Disability awareness could be included in any diversity awareness training at the organization.
  • Safety and emergency plans and procedures should consider issues related to disabilities. Examples include the ability to perceive fire alarms and the existence of wheelchair-accessible evacuation plans.
  • Requested accommodations should be arranged in a timely manner, preferably before the new employee's first day of work.

The employer is responsible for maintaining a workplace free from discrimination. Managers should set the tone for how a new employee with a disability is to be treated, assuring that the employee is treated fairly and equally. Upper management should be explicit and public about their commitment to diversity and to hiring people with disabilities. Coworkers should treat the person who has a disability with courtesy.

Employers may obtain tips on disability etiquette, including guide dog etiquette, from local disability-related agencies, at Disability Awareness at Disability Resouces, and at Communicating With and About People with Disabilities.

Last update or review: January 23, 2013