Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

What Do Coworkers Think?

by Donna J. Jodhan

In the normal scheme of things, many persons would often say that they do not really care what their coworkers think about them but for many persons with disabilities, it may be a bit different. Now, when I say this I should probably expand a bit more. Most persons with disabilities strive fervently to ensure that they can fit into the workplace and this includes being able to get along with their coworkers. They often strive a bit harder to accomplish this and very often this means going a bit more than halfway in order to make friends and be able to socialize more freely. I do not want you to consider this as either a shocker or shaker.

I know that for coworkers of blind persons it means adjusting to a different type of worker; one who uses access or adaptive technology to perform tasks. One who gets around the workplace in a different way; through the use of such devices as canes, wheelchairs, walkers, and dogs. One who uses different techniques in order to find their way around. One who uses different techniques in order to socialize in fit into the workplace. One who uses a different set of strategies to interact with their coworkers.

Now, stop for just one minute and put yourself in the shoes of a coworker. What do they really think about all of this? Are they overwhelmed? Are they hesitant to learn how to communicate with a disabled coworker? Maybe and just maybe, could they often have feelings of being overwhelmed and sometimes put upon to go the additional mile to reach out? Or are they okay with all of this? Having worked for three of Canada's best of breed companies, I can safely say that reactions from coworkers are often a mixed bag. In addition, the need to adjust on the part of both coworker and disabled employee is very vital because without this adjustment, the workplace for all parties can often become a tense and unfriendly environment.

Too often, employers tend to inadvertently omit this piece of the puzzle when planning to hire a disabled employee. Relationships among coworkers are very important when it comes to creating a friendly workplace and it is even much more so for interactions between and among mainstream and disabled coworkers. One suggestion would be for some type of education to take place before the disabled employee starts work.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

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