Ep 200 – What We Need to do to Have More Workplace Accessibility

Workplace accessibility isn’t just about compliance with government regulations. It’s a human issue, and as human resource leaders, it’s something that we think about a lot. It affects our physical space, but we also have to consider accessible technology for job applicants and our employees.

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Ep 200: What We Need to do to Have More Workplace Accessibility with JR Harding, @JRhardingfsu

Today I’m joined by Dr. James (JR) Harding, the ‘go-to’ expert on issues and challenges faced by persons with disabilities in today’s society. He is a disability expert, published author, policy influencer, and industry consultant. A two time US Presidential Appointee and a seven-time Florida Gubernatorial Appointee, JR teaches full-time at Florida State University. JR is someone I connected with as a result of my podcast series on employment for people with disabilities. He’s is a leading accessibility advocate having been very involved in the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. JR says he is one of the few living double quadriplegics and this disability provides him a unique perspective and point of view that everyone can learn from.

It’s Not Enough to Be Inclusive. We Need to Seek Out Differences

J.R. is very open, honest, and candid. As someone who has a disability and also works at the University teaches his students about inclusion and accessibility in the workplace, I wanted to hear from him about what he wants managers and HR leaders to know. He reminds me in the interview that his disability is very visible, meaning that people can automatically see. However, there are so many people living and working he says who have an invisible disability which is why it’s important for managers and workplace leaders do not just assume. Just because someone looks or acts like everyone else, doesn’t mean they don’t have a mental disorder, PTSD, or something else. J.R. suggests that managers and leaders walk a mile in the shoes of all employees and think about accommodations that make their workplaces environments that everyone can access.

One such example that J.R. provides is automatic doors. Now, I have used these myself especially when my hands are full or as a new mom who was juggling my daughter, the stroller and an armful of groceries. J.R. says that the automatic doors are things that we all benefit from, but they were originally created as a result of the ADA. Things like wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, parking spaces, and accessible elevators are things we take for granted but for someone like J.R. is the difference between living his life. J.R. mentions a personal example that I want to make sure you tune into the podcast and learn more.

The ADA is the Minimum Compliance Standard for Businesses and Employers

One point that really came through in my conversation with J.R. is that the Americans with Disability Act is the minimum standard for compliance. Companies and organizations that want to create social capital and align themselves with things like inclusion programs have a great opportunity to not set themselves apart but push us all forward in terms of standards and expectations when it comes to accessibility. It’s our responsibility as employers and frankly, as human beings to do more than the minimum. We should be actively finding ways to hire inclusively which includes people with disabilities, but again, this means we need to make our hiring process and  our workplaces accessible whether it’s the career site or offering employees support for mental health.

Conclusion

I’m so pleased to have been able to talk with JR about workplace accessibility. If we want to be truly inclusive in our hiring efforts and in our workplaces, we have to go beyond compliance and into creating an accessible hiring process and employee experience. JR truly is an inspiration and I highly recommend taking a look at his website, which I’ll put in the show resources. JR, thanks for taking the time to discuss accessibility with us today.

Connect with JR Harding.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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