5 Ways to Make Your Workplace More Inclusive for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Around 6.5 million people live with an intellectual or developmental disability in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, many of these individuals are perfectly capable of becoming valuable, productive employees in any workplace. 

Despite this, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities often remain unemployed as workplaces are either non-inclusive or are unsure of how to go about employing these individuals. There a number of things organizations and companies can do to make their workplace more inclusive. 

Start With the Hiring Process


Show That You’re an Equal Opportunity Employer
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities represent a huge, untapped labor force. Companies can benefit greatly by hiring these individuals. In order to appeal to potential employees, make sure your job advertisements include an equal opportunity disclaimer, emphasizing how you value diversity. When promoting your workplace on social media or posting job vacancies, include pictures of accessible working spaces or personal stories from other employees with disabilities.

Make the Hiring Process Accessible 
Your job portal should be as accessible as possible. The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1, provides comprehensive guidelines on making the content on employers’ websites and job portals a better experience for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In your job postings, make sure you mention all the accommodations your workplace will provide for anyone with a disability. Organize career fairs where you mentor and guide adults with I/DD on how they can apply to your organization. 

Make It Easier for People with Disabilities to Integrate into the Workplace

Introductory programs can prove to be very beneficial for new employees with special needs. Through initiatives such as guided internships, work trials, and job shadowing, an adult with an intellectual or developmental disability can learn easily about their workplace and their specific work duties. This also provides an opportunity for them to meet future colleagues. Research thoroughly about how your company can hold trainings and introductory programs that will enable an individual to adjust to their new workplace.


Foster an Inclusive Culture at Work 

Involve Everyone from the Top Down
From the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Managing Directors (MD) to department heads, human resources (HR) and janitorial staff, everyone should know how to communicate with and engage an employee with developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities.

Use Inclusive Language
Whenever possible, use disability-inclusive language to make your employees feel accepted and valued. Conduct disability awareness trainings so that everyone in the workplace is trained in disability etiquette for the workplace and beyond. Remove any biases or misconceptions anyone at work might have about someone with an intellectual or developmental disability. 


Make Adjustments and Accommodations

An adult with an intellectual or developmental disability will have different needs than employees without one. However, this does not mean they cannot become a valuable asset to your company. In fact, any differences an individual has can make them a key player within your organization. Make sure you cater to their needs by ensuring that they know that they’re an integral part of the team, and without being patronizing or making them seem like a burden. 

Every person with a disability is a unique individual and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for everyone. If you can, provide them the option to work from home if they need to. Always ensure that your employee feels comfortable asking for accommodations. 

Some accommodations that employees with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities may require are job coaches/mentors, training modifications, flexible work schedules or assistive devices at their workstation.

Put a System in Place to Report Harassment

It is important to make your new employee feel safe at work. Make sure they are not targets for harassment or inappropriate behavior. Work with HR to draft policies that safeguard the dignity and interests of employees with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. Warn other employees that breach of these policies will be dealt with severely. 

About Stephen’s Place
Stephen’s Place is an independent apartment community for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, located in Vancouver, WA (a 7 min drive from Portland, OR). We’re a nonprofit set up by a mother who had two sons with developmental disabilities. Stephen’s Place is the namesake of one of her two sons, who passed in his early 20s. She wanted to build a place where her son could live his life independently, and with dignity. He recently retired from his job after 40 years!

If you have a loved one with developmental or intellectual disabilities, who is looking for a community to live in, please contact us for more information. Due to our state-of-the-art amenities and programs, Stephen’s Place is a private-pay apartment community. We do not profit from our community. We do spend more to ensure that our residents are comfortable and can safely live their lives with as much independence as possible.