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Physical Disabilities in the Workplace

Physical Disabilities in the Workplace

If you want to know more about physical disabilities in the workplace, the article below will provide you with some helpful information. What exactly do we mean by physical disabilities and how they matter in the workplace are things all of us need to understand. To know more, continue reading...
Neha Joshi
Physical disabilities are a very discussed subject today with the increasing number of people suffering from these, showing their will to work. Do you remember seeing a person suffering from a physical disability working in your office or in any other organization? Did you then wonder how this miracle could have taken place? As humans, it's in our nature to sympathize with a person suffering from a physical disability but if you personally know any cases, you will know that some of these people are much better with their work than we are. For this very reason, there should be no discrimination in the workplace, against people with disabilities. People suffering from physical disabilities can sometimes be referred to as handicapped, although not always. Before we proceed to issues relating to these disabilities, let us understand what exactly do we mean by the term physical disabilities.

What Exactly are Physical Disabilities?

A person is physically disable when one of his limbs, due to an impairment, doesn't allow him to function like normal human beings do.Impaired speech abilities, impaired vision and deafness are also included in physical disabilities. In some cases, people can function just like normal people without physical disabilities but just at a slower rate. There are a lot of reasons and circumstances that may lead to the causing of physical disabilities in a person. To start with, the first stage at which a person might be affected by physical disabilities is the 'prenatal stage', where these disabilities may be developed before the child is born. There are factors that might harm the mother such as accidents, which may in turn affect the child. Sometimes, hormonal or genetic problems from either parent might lead to the formation of a disability. The next stage is the 'perinatal stage', where a disability might be developed during birth of the child. In such cases, various complications during birth can lead to this problem. One of the leading examples here is that of premature births. Later in life, at any age, a person may become physically disabled due to accidents and illnesses of various types. This stage is called the 'postnatal' stage.

Interviewing the Physically Disabled...

What to Ask:
  • Any questions related to the person's previous work experience.
  • Any questions related to the person's academic qualification.
  • Any questions that might need changing of the current processes in the workplace.
  • Any questions that might be related to the compensation.
What Not to Ask:
  • Questions relating to the cause of a person's physical disability.
  • Questions relating to why the person uses a particular equipment for movement.
  • Questions relating to the person's sentiment about the disability.
  • Questions that in one or another way might hurt/ridicule/humiliate the person.
Provisions for These Physical Disabilities...

Training is one of the most important aspects that will eventually deal with most of the factors concerning physical disabilities in your workplace. If you hire a person with physical disabilities, it's important that you train him differently from the rest. You need to form a better training strategy for him to sharpen his skills faster. Non formation of a separate training method will lead to inefficient teaching.

Reasonable Accommodation is another important element. Employees with disabilities deserve an accommodation that suits their rational requirements for expected productivity. These accommodations have to be finalized after discussion and not before. The discussion has to include the employer, the employee and a lawyer, if required.

Communication with these employees is another factor you need to pay heed to. If an employee has problems with speech, ask him again what you don't understand. Just because he cannot take active part, doesn't mean he/she isn't allowed to participate in activities/discussions/meetings. If possible, employers can form a group that will in turn form a program which will set certain guidelines for communication with employees who have disabilities, and train the other employees for the same.

Infrastructure is indeed very important when we talk about a suitable environment for the physically disabled. If an employee needs to use the wheelchair, there should be proper ways in which he can travel around. Uncomfortable environment in the workplace for the physically disabled is a fault of the employer. We have to also understand that a suitable infrastructure is different from suitable accommodation. Clauses relating to accommodation, infrastructure and discrimination are listed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


When we talk about physical disabilities in the workplace, there is an etiquette we need to keep in mind. This etiquette is important in order to maintain a fair and healthy environment in the workplace. Some of them are as follows.
  • A person with disabilities can be directly spoken to even if there is a communicator present.
  • Underestimation is one of the most unfair ways to discriminate between employees.
  • Rights and duties need to be shared equally amongst all employees.
  • If the employee needs to be seated in a wheelchair at all times, it is only fair that the other person sits across while conversing and not stand.
  • 'Do you want to hear it?' is an unfair remark to an employee who is deaf.
  • Questioning an employee on his disability should be avoided at all times, unless he/she initiates the conversation himself/herself.
Amongst all the causes of various types of employment discrimination, physical disability is a major one. We have to understand that just because a person is physically disabled, it does not mean that he/she is incapable of performing too. In the workplace, nothing matters more than the performance and business and workplace ethics tell us that all employees are of equal importance. Every state/country has different laws that govern these disabilities and hence, before reaching a conclusion in respect to any situation, it's best to consult an expert in the concerned field. The key is to be fair and not discriminate. I hope this information provided you with all the answers you were looking for.