I personally feel that attitudinal barriers are best addressed with education and relationship building. Of course getting an organization to pay for facilitated education can be like pulling teeth. Another option is to deliver bite-sized bits of education one-on-one so as not to overwhelm and drive people away. I've found that there are 4 components we must bring to the table to effectively achieve one's objective of changing attitudes to facilitate accommodation.
1 - CLARITY - We must be willing to find our own solutions (perhaps with the support of an OT) and bring clarity to the table. If a situation isn't working for me and all I do is point out that it's not working, I'm not only conveying confusion to my listener (because it works for everyone else) but I'm also not going to be well-received. On the other hand, if I pose a solution framed in a statement like "this would really help me to be more effective in my job" people are going to be more receptive because I`m giving them clear direction. Focus on what will work as opposed to focusing on what doesn't work.
2 - CONFIDENCE - Approach the subject with confidence; being firm, standing behind the proposal for accommodation. I need to position the accommodation strategy as a positive move; pointing out benefits to the company and even any benefits that other employees may experience as well as a result. If I approach the situation "whining" or "begging", conveying desperation, indignation or frustration, the listener will shut down and not be open to considering my proposal. Be informed, be unemotional but above all be confident.
3 - CONSIDERATION - While as PWD we know full well that receiving the accommodation we're requesting should be our right, PW/outD neither understand the need or the concept that accommodations do not give us an advantage but rather a level playing field. Not only do I NEED them to understand my needs, speaking honestly, I really also WANT them to understand my needs. Further, I want them to WANT to understand my needs. Just as give and take in any relationship must be bi-directional for that relationship to be effective and healthy, so is the case with relationships with employers. Be willing to listen to and consider the challenges that they face when presented with the fiscal or social realities that may result from providing those accommodations that we require. That`s not to say let them off the hook mind you, but be willing to exchange considerations and perhaps compromise.
4 - CONFIRMATION - If after diligent efforts at self-advocacy one actually does get the accommodation that was needed (or some part there of), it's important to provide confirmation to the employer that the action taken was beneficial. If I can find a way to document the improvement in my effectiveness, that will go a long way in providing confirmation to my employer that providing that accommodation was the right thing to do. And actions may speak louder than words but words in addition to action can cement the employers perspective that accommodations do indeed work, not only to the benefit of PWD but also to the benefit of the company as well.
The bottom line, and the essential element in each of these components is effective COMMUNICATION. It`s the magic elixir in all healthy relationships, in love, in life, AND at work.
Trish Robichaud is a Disability Awareness Coach, Work/Life Balance Coach, Author, Advocate & Motivational Speaker. Visit her on the web at http://www.ChangingPaces.com, ;
http://wwwPeopleFirstAccessibilityTraining.com and http://www.InOurShoesBlogCast.com.
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