How to include employees with disabilities in corporate wellness activities

India has a vast population of career age people, and is fast transforming itself into a global epicenter of information technology, business, design and manufacturing. Today, the proportion of people who are in full time professional employment is almost 50%, 34% higher than the global mean. Many of these persons have disabilities, and just like other employees, they deserve to be included in corporate wellness activities to improve their performance and wellbeing.

An Associated Chambers of Commerce of India report suggests that implementing wellness programs in companies can lead to huge savings in the corporate domain. Moreover, the promotion of nutrition, exercise to counteract sedentary work practices, and a cognitive behavioral approach to stress reduction, all play a part in reducing the rate of non-communicable disease within the working population. All these can also lead to job satisfaction and longevity. Prioritizing employee wellness is a strategic business move, strengthening productivity and staff retention, and reducing reliance on employer-subsidized medical insurance schemes. However, for employee wellness measures to be truly effective, they need to cater equally to the able bodied and the disabled. Here’s how.

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Finding International Inspiration

Organizations that advocate for people with disabilities are continually reviewing places around the world that are conveniently navigated by disabled persons. For instance, Las Vegas was recently ranked as one of the most accessible cities in the US due to the nature of its transport system, the proximity of accommodation to cultural attractions, shops, and restaurants, and the availability of information around disability services. Indian companies wanting to better tailor their wellness programs towards less able bodied employees should consider these key areas, aiming to ensure that workers have easy access to transportation to and from work, are accommodated at a reasonable distance from the office or other work venues, and can easily access support services.

Wellness-designed

Engendering more equality in employee wellness programs extends to the layout and design of the office space. Functionally designed furniture and fixtures that are specifically targeted towards persons with disabilities should be incorporated into the physical work environment. A great leading example of this can be found in Indian firm Titan Industries, who in 2005 had a workforce that was 5% handicapped in some way.

Titan responded with ergonomically designed offices and mobility supporting features such as handrails on its walking paths. The organization went further, providing emotional, marital, and transitional counselling for employees, and offering training to improve worker competencies in computer literacy and other areas. Titan Industries demonstrated that wellness activities perform most optimally when embedded within the culture and day to day workings of a company.

Focus on Inclusivity

While employees with disabilities may experience challenges and limitations in certain areas, they often compensate in others, such that a physically handicapped person may excel in the cerebral aspects of their role. Structuring wellness activities that foster an accepting environment that celebrates contrast is essential to boosting the morale of disabled employees. Managers can assume a leading role in ensuring that the efforts and achievements of employees with disabilities are appreciated, perhaps scheduling team wellness activities that focus on building employee cooperation and creating a sense of cohesion and community amongst the workforce.

In order for India to continue to thrive on the international stage, it needs to future proof its booming workforce against preventable disease, career burnout, psychological distress, and prejudice. Infuse the corporate environment with structural and behavioral wellness activities that accommodate employees with differing levels of ability and reap the rewards of a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce.