This essay is an analysis of the transcript of the TomoWork launch event that tries to extract information about people with disabilities (PWDs) and the various issues they face as they find jobs and adjust to various workplaces throughout their careers. It was written by a notetaker hired by TomoWork and provided to the author upon request. Four panelists and a facilitator share their stories and identify pertinent concerns as well as their experiences in addressing them. Then, they answer questions from the audience and clarify misunderstandings or elaborate on specific issues. There are two particularly pertinent questions, and the paper will analyze the responses given by the panelists. Overall, this work will concentrate on the issues faced by PWDs in the workplace instead of the speakers’ specific stories.
The conflict of sensibilities is the first issue highlighted in the discussion, as people with and without disabilities can perceive the world very differently. The panelists note that colors and materials matter more to some people than others, but an overly safe space can be seen as unappealing by the people for whom it has not been designed. The speakers suggest that change should happen from the bottom up, with PWDs suggesting the changes that they would like to see. The adjustment process should happen in small increments to accommodate people with special needs without alienating those who do not have them. These changes should concern smaller environments such as rooms and offices, as it is challenging to alter an entire building after its construction is over.
It is also necessary to account for different types of conditions and people, as can be seen from the example of two people with different wheelchair heights. Various people will have different needs, and those with one variety of disabilities do not need the same accommodations as others. People with the same general type of issue can also require varying conditions due to their personal preferences or characteristics, such as gender. The speakers remind people that everyone loses part of their physical ability as they age and will need assistance later in life. As such, success depends on the creation of a culture where everyone will be welcome regardless of their abilities.
The event concludes with a series of questions, including two that will be of particular interest in this analysis. The first is about organizational cultural change through the use of holistic approaches in an environment of company change resistance. Elena Chipalova, the Regional HR Modernization and D&I Head at BP Asia Pacific, replies that the issue is less resistance and more lack of awareness on how to address PWD issues, which can be remedied through exposure. The second question concerns the use of technology to support people with hearing loss. Patricia Goh, the Senior Employment Support Specialist at SPD, describes several devices and methods that can help and approaches such as positioning such workers to face the rest and adding a disco ball and buddy system for fire alarms. Overall, organizations and companies have developed methods to address the needs of most types of employees, and it is only necessary to find this knowledge.
People with disabilities face numerous issues in the workplace, but companies can address most of them with proper methods and understanding. They should take differences in perception into account to accommodate every worker regardless of their physical abilities. Change from the bottom upwards is central to these adjustments, as each employee will have unique needs. One solution cannot apply to all disabilities or all people with the same disability. Companies that appear unwilling to accommodate PWDs are usually reluctant because they do not know enough about their issues, but they can learn through contact. Due to the general orientation of the event, there is not much information specifically about persons with hearing loss. However, in general, it is possible to accommodate a person with any variety of disabilities by asking them about their needs and finding reliable methods of addressing them.