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Small Business Toolkit: Create an Inclusive and Welcoming Workplace

Find general guidelines and best practices for interacting with disabled people in the workplace.

As a small business, leading by example is the best way to demonstrate a commitment to inclusion in the workplace and community at large. Small businesses should ensure staff members know how to communicate and interact with disabled people in a respectful way. Doing so will help to create an inclusive and welcoming workplace and a better overall company culture.

The following are some general guidelines and best practices for interacting with people with disabilities in the workplace:

  • Introduce yourself to the person directly, as you would to anyone else. Speak directly to the person, not an interpreter or companion. Avoid intrusive questions. Such questions about disability or other personal characteristics may be illegal in certain circumstances.
  • Ask first before offering assistance, for example, before holding a door for or guiding someone.
  • Use inclusive language and respect that people with disabilities may have different preferences. For example, some prefer “disabled people,” while others prefer “people with disabilities.”
  • Learn about accessibility and make improvements to your business’ facilities, technology, and processes before needs arise.
  • When hiring or supervising employees, focus on skills, not the disability.
  • Act naturally, and if you make a mistake, apologize to the person. Try to remember what you can do better in the future. 
  • Avoid making assumptions about the skills, abilities, or preferences of disabled people.