How to encourage disability inclusion in the expat workplace 

May 28, 2020
A visible disability is an ongoing physical challenge that can be seen by others. A person may be a wheelchair user, have limited use of a limb or have a condition like cerebral palsy or down syndrome.  An invisible disability may be an ongoing chronic illness or mental challenge that may not be seen by others. 

As a multinational employer there is a lot your business can do to support potential or current expat employees with a disability:


Education and training

Consider compulsory disability education and training for all employees. If that isn’t feasible, roll it out amongst managers and the senior management team in your business. The goal of this training is to help people within your organisation empathise with the challenges faced by people with a disability. But also how facing these challenges every day can make employees with disabilities more resilient and productive.  


Speak to people about their needs

If you have existing employees with different needs, speak to them directly. Don’t assume you know the support needed. They will know their challenges better than anyone else so rather than spending time and money on unnecessary things you can take a focused approach to making required changes.  


Restructuring a role

As a HR department you may consider restructuring a role so it works for an expat with a disability. For example, allowing more breaks, carrying out meetings using technology rather than in person or limiting the amount of travel required for an expat role. 


Flexible working

For some employees who face challenges, more flexible working time can of great benefit. Encourage disability inclusion by allowing employees with a disability to work in a way that best suits them where possible. This may mean additional breaks, working to a different schedule or working from home more often. 


Acquiring or modifying equipment

Depending on a person’s disability they may require additional or modified equipment. Common equipment for a typical office environment include adapted keyboards or specialist software.  


Make facilities accessible 

Making existing facilities accessible is particularly useful for people with physical disabilities. It is also likely to be the most costly method ofdisability inclusion for expat employees. However, it is the one that is most beneficial. Accessible offices, desk space and bathrooms are life changing for a wheelchair user. But it isn’t the only way an office can be adapted. If someone in your office has mobility issues but doesn’t rely on a wheelchair there are other modifications that can be made to make life at work easier. Additional handrails, space around furniture and easy grip handles can all make moving around the office space easier. 


Moving overseas with a physical disability

No matter how accessible your overseas office is, it is important to consider the wider environment before an employee with a physical disability takes up an expat role abroad. While it is improving globally, many countries do not have the needed infrastructure for a person with some physical disabilities to commute and live comfortably. The best course of action is to speak to the employee to understand their needs and see if you can work together to build a plan for success. 


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