Different Types of Disabilities

You may come across many disabilities in your work life. Some examples of common disabilities you may find are:

  • vision Impairment
  • deaf or hard of hearing
  • mental health conditions
  • intellectual disability
  • acquired brain injury
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • physical disability.

If your staff member’s disability is not clear to you, ask how it effects their work and if they need adjustments so they can work to the best of their ability.

DO NOT ask the person how they got the disability

Vision impairment

  • Vision impairment refers to people who are blind or who have partial vision.
  • When talking with a person who is blind or has a vision impairment:
  • always identify yourself and any others with you
  • ask if the person requires assistance, and listen for specific instructions, however be prepared for your offer to be refused.
  • If guiding a person, let them take your arm, rather than taking theirs. Describe any changes in the environment such as steps, obstacles, etc.

If the person has a guide dog, please remember the dog is working and should not be patted, fed or distracted.

Tips

  1. Ensure front of office staff are briefed and prepared on how to greet and assist people with vision impairment.
  2. Allow more time and greater flexibility for training and induction.
  3. Be aware that glare and poor lighting may exacerbate vision impairment.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing

Hearing impairments can range from mild to profound. People who are hard of hearing may use a range of strategies and equipment including speech, lip-reading, writing notes, hearing aids or sign language interpreters.

When talking to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing:

  • look and speak directly to them, not just to the people accompanying them, including interpreters
  • speak clearly and use a normal tone of voice unless otherwise instructed by the person with the hearing impairment
  • if you don’t understand what a person is saying, ask them to repeat or rephrase, or alternatively offer them a pen and paper.

Tips

  1. Ensure front of office staff are briefed and prepared on how to greet and assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  2. Allow more time and greater flexibility for training and induction.
  3. Consider workspace location – allowing the employee to see people entering the room and situate the workstation in an area where there is minimal background noise.

People with mental health conditions

Mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that affect the mind or brain. These illnesses, which include bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and personality disorders, affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts.

A person with a mental health condition may experience difficulty concentrating, which can sometimes be a result of medication. Try to avoid overly stressful situations wherever possible so that their condition is not exacerbated.

Tips

  1. Provide clear and thorough explanations and instructions, in writing if required.
  2. Ask the person how they would like to receive information.
  3. Allow more time and greater flexibility for training and induction.
  4. Further information: Mental health in the workplace

People with intellectual disability

A person with an intellectual disability may have significant limitations in the skills needed to live and work in the community, including difficulties with communication, self-care, social skills, safety and self-direction.

The most important thing to remember is to treat each person as an individual:

a person with an intellectual disability is just like everyone else – treat them as you would like to be treated

  • be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with an intellectual disability to do or say something
  • be patient and give your undivided attention, especially with someone who speaks slowly or with great effort.

Tips

  1. Allow more time and greater flexibility for training and induction.
  2. Keep the pressure of any given situation to a minimum as stress can affect a person’s concentration and performance.
  3. Keep instructions simple and in bite-size pieces use demonstration and increase complexity as progress is made.

Link: https://services.anu.edu.au/human-resources/respect-inclusion/different-types-of-disabilities

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