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6 Best Practices for Supporting Your Employee After a Disability Disclosure

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In recent years, the corporate landscape has shown a marketed openness towards hiring a more diverse workforce, including persons with disabilities. This shift comes from a growing awareness among business leaders who want to deepen their understanding of the true meaning of inclusion. They recognize that creating a work environment that truly helps persons with disabilities is a moral imperative and an opportunity to foster diverse perspectives.

However, many companies still face the complexities of building a culture that fully supports employees with disabilities. There remains a large gap between the intent to be inclusive and the practical implementation of inclusive practices, and many great employees are left underemployed or unemployed as a result. In fact, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is 9.2% — more than double the unemployment rate of those without.

Moreover, employees often remain hesitant to disclose their disabilities. For business leaders, it is important to learn more about disabilities and all that employees need to thrive within an organization.

1. React Empathetically and Create a Supportive Environment

More than 70% of people with disabilities fear repercussions such as being fired when disclosing a disability. Thus, when an employee discloses a disability, the manager's immediate response is crucial in easing that employee’s mind and fostering an environment of trust. It is essential to respond with empathy and reassurance, expressing gratitude for their trust and affirming their value to the team.

A simple acknowledgment such as “Thank you for sharing this with me. I appreciate your trust and want to ensure you feel supported here” sets a positive tone. This response is mind-easing, informing them that their disclosure will not impact their job security or opportunities for advancement.

Managers should also consider offering immediate supportive measures. These could include flexible work arrangements or accessibility adjustments. Making these changes shows that you are being proactive in helping the employee. An empathic and supportive environment will boost workplace success, as 85% of company leaders saw increased team productivity.

2. Understand and Document the Employee’s Needs

Engaging in respectful dialogue is crucial once an employee has disclosed their disability. Managers should initiate a thoughtful discussion, asking open-ended questions like, “What adjustments can make your work environment better?” or “Are there specific tools that could enhance your productivity?”. This method allows the worker to express their needs without feeling pressured.

Documentation is also critical to this process. It is imperative to record the details of the accommodations needed and make sure these records are confidential. Of course, you should only keep records of these if you have the employee’s consent and ensure they are secure. 

Next, managers should outline clear next steps and establish a timeline for implementing accommodations and communicating this openly. Schedule regular follow-up meetings to ensure the accommodations work effectively and make necessary adjustments. Demonstrating this commitment will ensure they feel comfortable and succeed at work. 

3. Develop an Accommodation Plan

Crafting an accommodation plan is critical in helping an employee with a disability. Since employees spend about one-third of their day at work, ensuring this portion of their daily life is comfortable and productive is crucial. This process should be collaborative, involving communication and mutual agreement on the best accommodations.

Still, many employers shy away from discussions of accommodation, fearing financial repercussions for the company. However, in reality, most accommodations cost less than $500 and most cost nothing at all. Clearly, the cost of making reasonable accommodations is far less than the cost of losing a great employee over a lack of collaboration and communication surrounding their needs.

Start by mapping out the specific adjustments required. These could include rearranging the scheduling, modifying the workplace or providing access to specialized equipment. During this process, managers should remain flexible and open-minded. Sometimes, these changes involve trial and adjustment periods alongside creative thinking. Ensure the plan is detailed and includes timelines for implementing each one.

4. Training and Sensitivity Awareness for Teams

Training and raising sensitivity awareness among all team members is essential for creating an inclusive work environment. With one in five Americans being neurodivergent and 13% of the population having some kind of disability, it becomes increasingly important for workplaces to understand the range of cognitive, neurological and physical disabilities that affect people. The training should also cover the importance of inclusion and the best ways to provide support.

It should cover topics such as:

  • The different disabilities, including invisible conditions.

  • An understanding of each disability and relative terminology.

  • The barriers persons with disabilities face in the workplace.

  • How to be respectful in communicating with disabled coworkers.

  • The appropriate ways to offer aid.

Team members should also feel encouraged to ask questions and learn from each other. Additionally, these sessions should stress the importance of empathy and how even the smallest accommodations can enhance a colleague’s life.

5. Provide Supportive Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are volunteer, employee-led groups that aim to provide opportunities for internal advocacy and professional development. Creating ERGs for employees with disabilities can greatly enhance their work experience. It does so by providing a platform for sharing experiences, addressing common challenges and building a support network.

For instance, groups for neurodivergent employees offer a forum for sharing strategies that enhance focus and productivity. This can be particularly beneficial for those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Groups might also advocate for noise-canceling headphones and promote a better understanding of neurodiversity and their needs.

Another example could be an ERG that provides a supportive space for discussing mental health challenges and coping mechanisms. They might promote policies that sustain cognitive health and increase awareness of the issues they experience.

Similarly, ERGs can raise awareness about the 70% of disabilities that are not immediately apparent, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Employees who understand hidden disabilities ensure their coworkers receive the help needed to perform their best. As long as management actively backs these groups with resources and raised voices, companies can create an inclusive environment for all.

6. Help Employees Access Their EAP

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer confidential counseling services, support for mental health, legal assistance and more. Managers must ensure employees are well-informed about EAPs and know how to access services. Ensure you provide an educational session and present the information in ways that help all employees understand.

Facilitating easy access to EAP services is also essential. The process should be seamless, with minimal barriers, and team members should be able to use them without facing hurdles. For instance, offering multiple communication options can cater to different needs. Additionally, encouraging them to use the services and normalizing the discussion around them can destigmatize seeking help.

Embodying Inclusivity in the Workplace

To help disabled employees, create a workplace where empathy, understanding, and proactive support are the norm. By implementing several best practices, managers can lead by example and create a truly inclusive workplace. However, inclusion is more than about accommodations — it also involves valuing every individual’s contribution and ensuring they have the opportunity to succeed.

Written by Content Contributor: 

Eleanor Hecks is a business writer and researcher with a passion for bringing awareness to neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace. You can find her work as Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine or as a staff writer at sites such as and