Able to Just Ask and Just Listen
Ask a question and listen to the answer. That’s my approach to make workplaces more inclusive for students and graduates with disabilities. Just ask them what actions businesses could take to improve environments for workers with visible and non-visible disabilities. Then listen—really listen—to what they have to say.
Three benefits come straight to mind. Asking and listening is a constructive, supportive and, ultimately, inclusive act. It brings to the surface legitimate measures for businesses to increase accessibility for people with visible and non-visible disabilities. And it makes sense for everyone—not only because most of us are likely to experience disability at some point in our lives as a result of advancing age or temporary injury, but also because places in which disabled people can contribute fully are places in which all people are able to do just the same. Inclusion benefits everyone.
I first took this ask-and-listen approach as a university peer mentor for new students with disabilities. I was their peer because I have cerebral palsy and a learning disability. Very often I saw looks of pleasant surprise on the faces of fellow students as they realized someone was asking them to share their thoughts about being students with disabilities on campus. They would invariably tell me they had grown used to having people talk at them rather than hear from them.
Asking and listening can lead to conversations about sensible accommodations and accessible infrastructure. Yet this approach is just as valid anywhere beyond a university—in workplaces, in communities, in countries. Best of all, anyone is able to do it—from the humblest citizen to the most powerful dean, business owner or mayor. So now that I have entered the workforce, I’m going to continue it with my colleagues. Give it a try where you work. Just ask and just listen.