Disability icon - Inclusive workplace symbol

Contributed by Janitorial Manager 

Disability inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a feel-good policy. There are real benefits to both employers and employees.  

The janitorial business is competitive, and every move made is measured. Building service contractors frequently evaluate return on investment (ROI), the potential for new clients, what a new service will cost, and how it will help acquire and retain clients. Top BSCs want strategies and policies to make good business sense.  

So how does disability inclusion in the workplace fit into that?  

It sounds nice, sure. The employment rate among those with intellectual or developmental disabilities is dismal. BSCs could make positive changes in the world by hiring people with disabilities. But where do they begin, and for that matter, how will it help business?  

Research from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), found that inclusive workplaces have up to 30 percent lower staff turnover and are up to four times more likely to outperform their peers. In addition, they report that 78 percent of consumers will patronize businesses that “take steps to ensure easy access for individuals with disabilities.”  

Want more? The Internal Revenue Service offers tax incentives to businesses for following through with a plan for disability inclusion in the workplace. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) cites the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Disabled Access Credit as two primary tax incentives, but there are others, such as the Barrier Removal Tax Credit and individual state tax credits and incentives. 

When BSCs are ready to bring a disability inclusion in the workplace program to life, the DOL has several resources to help them get started. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of how to get a program up and running: 

1. Recruit employees. Get in touch with the vocational rehabilitation agency in the state. These agencies connect employees and employers to help create meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. BSCs can also connect with Disability:IN, a “national nonprofit organization that helps businesses meet and exceed their goals through disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace.” 

2. Be open to accommodations. This doesn’t mean a need to revamp the entire commercial cleaning operation. What it does mean is being a little flexible here and there. The Center for Workforce Preparation, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reports that the most requested accommodation is a flexible schedule. However, they also note that 73 percent of employers found that “their workers with disabilities did not require accommodations.” And to be honest, BSCs probably already accommodate employees all the time with schedule or assignment requests or using a janitorial app that lets workers view and read checklists in their native language.  

3. Use People First Language (PFL). This one is pretty simple. It just means to put the person first. For example, hire people with disabilities rather than disabled people.  

4. Institute a mentorship program. A mentor can be helpful for many reasons. For a BSC, a mentorship program can help create a more inclusive workplace, reduce turnover and help develop skilled employees. The mentor can build leadership skills, and the mentee may feel more welcome and appreciated in a new job.  

5. Train the team. Disability inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a catchphrase or a box to check off. For true inclusiveness, the entire team needs to be on board. Mentoring programs are one way to do that. But it’s also important to be open with the team about what to expect and what management expectations are. Get them excited by sharing how an inclusive environment is better for everyone.  

6. Maintain high expectations. There’s a theory about performance that, to paraphrase, states that people will perform to the level expected of them. Teachers who believe their students are intelligent and can learn tend to have stronger students. Similarly, it’s fair to maintain the expectation of high-quality work from everyone on the team. That may require some of those previously mentioned accommodations, but having different expectations for different employees won’t help anyone.  

7. Talk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to new employees. They’re the experts on this. Focus on the abilities and not the disabilities. Get in touch with any of these resources below and ask questions.  

For more guidance and help, check out any of these resources: 

The Campaign for Disability Employment: “Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the CDE is a highly collaborative effort among several disability and business organizations working to change attitudes about disability and employment.” 

Job Accommodation Network: JAN “is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.” 

Disability:IN:  “Disability:IN is the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide.” 

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion: EARN “is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities.”