It’s Time To Stop Ignoring Disability (Transcript)

It’s Time To Stop Ignoring Disability

Tuesday, June 13, 2022

[00:00:00] Jill Griffin:
I was hiking and I fell in the north east corner of Australia. We were crossing like a small river or Creek. So I basically went from my feet to my head almost cartoon, like woop. And then I rolled down.

[00:00:15] Adam Grant:
Jill Griffin was 31 when she got injured on vacation.

[00:00:19] Jill Griffin:
This gentleman just said, can someone get her medical attention? And I was like, who needs medical attention? Like not realizing that I looked that bad. You know, I was pretty banged up, a little bloody.

[00:00:30] Adam Grant:
She returned to her ad agency job, assuming she was fine. She just felt a little hazy. But she quickly discovered she was not the same Jill as before.

[00:00:39] Jill Griffin:
I can hear my eyeballs move. I can hear my cheek muscles move. I slept sitting up because I couldn't lay down. I nestled myself in the corner of my couch and just kind of built a cocoon so that I wouldn't move my head.

[00:00:52] Adam Grant:
How did it affect your work?

[00:00:53] Jill Griffin:
There were times where I would have to grab the desk in order to stand up so that I wouldn't fall over. Loud noises, bright lights. There's a flickering light that's going to put me into a seizure. One of the things that would do me in would be that dang Windows 97 screensaver bouncing around at the corner of your eye. You're like, I just have to be able to stand up and get out of here without falling over.

[00:01:18] Adam Grant:
It took 11 years before Jill was diagnosed with a vestibular balance disorder. Sudden movements or visuals can make her dizzy and disoriented, which makes her prone to falling. Working in marketing and advertising, Jill attended plenty of events. And one day everyone was excited about an event on a yacht. Except Jill.

[00:01:38] Jill Griffin:
And I can't go on a boat. My body doesn't know how to reset when I get off the boat, and that little bit of seasickness of like disorientation, that can stay with my body for days or weeks. I just told people that I can't go, I have a vestibular disorder. And the response was, I think you can, I think you don't want to, maybe if you had a drink and lightened up, it would be okay. It just, again, I was told that I wasn't a team player and I wasn't participating and I was eventually released from the company.

[00:02:04] Adam Grant:
Are you serious? This is so wrong.

[00:02:06] Jill Griffin:
I know. I made a decision that I was no longer going to disclose.

[00:02:10] Adam Grant:
Sadly, Jill's reluctance to disclose her disability at work is all too common, but it doesn't have to be. And the changes she wants to see can benefit us all.


I'm Adam Grant, and this is WorkLife my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work not suck. In this show, I take you inside the minds of fascinating people to help us rethink how we work, lead and live.

Today: disability at work and how we can design practices that benefit people with disabilities and those without.

Thanks to Morgan Stanley for sponsoring this episode.

We tend to think of disability as binary. You either have one or you don't, but it's a lot more fluid than that. While some people are born with lifelong disabilities that affect their mental or physical functioning, each of us can toggle in and out of disability at any point of our lives. An extended illness, like long COVID, a car accident or a slip on vacation like Jill could leave us temporarily or permanently injured.

People with disabilities remain largely underemployed, underpaid, under-promoted and under accommodated at work. Compared with able-bodied people they're 50% more likely to experience poverty. Not only is that obviously wrong, but it's a huge loss to organizations.

And so many leaders don't realize that making their workplaces more accessible to people of different abilities can pay dividends for us all.

Of course workplaces can't accommodate disabilities if they don't know about them, but in a national survey, only about 10% of people with a disability reported it to their employer. Why?

[00:04:09] Michelle Nario-Redmond:

[00:04:11] Adam Grant:
Michelle Nario- Redmond is a social psychologist at Hiram College and a leading expert on ableism.

[00:04:17] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
There are several interesting definitions out there, but the one I sort of liked best is the simplest one. You know, the prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination that people with disabilities experience just because they are a member of that group or thought to be a member of that group. And so that can take a number of forms. We have stigmas, low expectations. Some people may have hostilities or experience disgust. They distance from them. People are going to be afraid of catching their disability, that certain non-contagious conditions are contagious. This is a thing.

[00:04:56] Adam Grant:
Michelle started her career doing research on stereotypes and prejudice.

[00:05:00] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
But we never really looked into disabled people as a minority group. People at that time were primarily focusing on disability
as an impairment. And so I had no real reason to question that and had no interest whatsoever in disability, but then I ended up getting married and having a child in 1995. And she was born with spina bifida.

[00:05:28] Adam Grant:
Michelle began doing research on disability and she found that ableism doesn't always come with bad intentions. Sometimes it's fueled by good ones.

[00:05:37] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
There are also these benevolent forms of ableism where people overcompensate and assume that this group is deserving of pity-- the head turning and the sigh and a lot of unwanted forms of helping. Or "let them win" because they never win. Ableism can also take on this really interesting form of objectification where this term "inspiration porn", where people like never turned down a chance to talk to somebody with a disability. "You never know how much they can inspire you. Look at what they're accomplishing." And often this is for things that aren't so astounding. They're for everyday kinds of activities. They're taking public transportation or going to the prom. And so it's not that disabled people are never worthy of admiration. It's when somehow I should be grateful as a non-disabled person, which can be quite objectifying.

[00:06:35] Adam Grant:
Workplaces are filled with misconceptions about disability. If we want to combat ableism, we need to set the record straight. One common misconception is that disability is rare. It's not. Globally over a billion people live with some form of disability. If you're 20, you have a one in four chance of becoming disabled before retiring at 65. And with long COVID an estimated 22 million more people will now qualify for disability. Even if you haven't been affected by disability at work, you have family members, friends, neighbors, or colleagues who have been, but you may not know it simply by looking at them, which brings us to a second misconception: disability is obvious.

[00:07:22] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
When you think of disability, you think of what we refer to as impairments, like what's going on at the level of the body. What is the diagnosis? Do you have some form of blindness or another sensory disability? Hard of hearing, speech impairments. Now obviously the more physical disabilities which people tend to think of because the international symbol is the wheelchair. There are many learning disabilities from dyslexia. I would include the psychiatric conditions from depression and schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and OCD. So you're right. It's quite broad.

[00:07:58] Adam Grant:
Despite the variety of forms that disability can take people with disabilities do share one familiar experience.

[00:08:04] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
Being stared at, um, being assumed incompetent. And, and so it turns out that the way people think about the broader group is pretty simplistic.

[00:08:15] Adam Grant:
Or in Jill Griffin's case, after her fall in Australia colleagues assumed she had a drinking problem.

[00:08:22] Jill Griffin:
After being out in the sun and then going into fluorescent lighting, my speech might get slurry or I'd be a little uncoordinated.
People would make jokes and say like, are you drinking at work? These are all subtle things. And when they start building up, you're just exhausted. I was killing myself because I was basically trying to fake it.

[00:08:41] Adam Grant:
It seems like you're in this catch 22, because if you don't tell anyone what's going on. Here, I am not being a team player again, and people are going to devalue me. But if you do tell people, then you get stigmatized and they think there's something wrong with you. So what did you do?

[00:08:58] Jill Griffin:
Going to HR was not an option for me. I was just like, that's not going to help me. I'm not going to do that.

[00:09:03] Adam Grant:
Sure enough research shows that employees are more likely to disclose a disability to a direct supervisor than to HR, but Jill hid her disability from her supervisor, too, because she was afraid to be fired again and lose her insurance. Disclosing a disability is scary. And when a workplace isn't supportive, it further complicates the worklife of the person with the disability. You get the stigma, but not the accommodation. And as Michelle has found, people may choose not to disclose for a range of reasons.

[00:09:35] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
Not everyone is super, highly identified as a disabled person. And when you have a relatively invisible or less apparent impairment or disability, you know, the road less traveled is to just not say anything perhaps to pass. What our research shows is that it can be effective to protect people's sense of self-worth because they don't want to be looked at as lesser than, but it doesn't do much for the broader group and it can actually undermine a sense of authenticity and it can undermine one's willingness to ask for extended time or for some physical accommodation or software. And so if you're trying to overcome and keep up with the same standards or pace that you did before, that can often be a recipe for disaster for people.

[00:10:28] Adam Grant:
On the flip side, Michelle's research also showed that owning your disability can have benefits. People who identify as disabled have higher self-esteem and higher esteem for their group.

[00:10:40] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
We've done studies on disability identity, and those that are highly identified, they claim that disability status as an important part, a valued part of who they are. My daughter grew up with a real sense of pride around who she was as a disabled person, as a disabled young woman. People then can claim the status in a way that buffers them from the harms of prejudice that they would otherwise internalize. And they're more motivated to do something about it.

[00:11:16] Adam Grant:
There can be an upside at work, too. Research reveals that we perceive people with visible disabilities as more competentwhen they claim them rather than downplaying or ignoring them. But Jill didn't feel safe revealing her disability until she had built up a lot of job security.

[00:11:32] Jill Griffin:
I told people I could trust because I had enough wins. I had enough public accolades, physical trophies, having HR come to me saying, "I don't know what you're doing, but everybody wants to be on your team." By that point I had enough credential. I had enough proof and evidence of high performance that I felt like it was now safe to say, "Hey, on occasion, this is what happens."

[00:11:56] Adam Grant:
Revealing her disability allowed Jill to get support when she was struggling.

[00:12:01] Jill Griffin:
When I did start to disclose again, never formally, but to colleagues and allies and say like, "Oh, we're going into that auditorium for that event. Can I borrow your arm?" Many a colleague would be like, "grab on Griffin," you know, and give me a bicep for me to hold on to. I had one boss, Erica, if I will never forget her kindness escorting me to a cab because she just looked at me and she's like, you're not okay, let's go. And I also equally had people who were like, "so what do you want me to do with this?" Thanks. Okay. Nothing.

[00:12:29] Adam Grant:
Which brings us to the third misconception: disability is a personal problem. It's not. It's an organizational problem. Ignoring disability at work has widespread negative consequences. When employers fail to support and accommodate disabilities, performance suffers and so does wellbeing. Eventually Jill went public to advocate for a culture change around disability at work. In January, 2022, she wrote about her experience hiding her disability. The response was overwhelming.

[00:13:02] Jill Griffin:
When I wrote the HuffPost article, so many people were like, "wait, what? I always thought you were bad ass, but now knowing this holy moly, I had no idea what you were going through at the time." So just that idea of having enough wins and then feeling like, okay, you're not going to fire me, take away my health insurance and take away my ability to get well.

[00:13:25] Adam Grant:
Sorry, if this is like any version of patronizing or mansplaining, but how broken this is?

[00:13:31] Jill Griffin:
Oh, it's totally broken. I have had my moments of rage and anger. It just doesn't serve me. It doesn't move me forward.

[00:13:38] Adam Grant:
The fact that you had to make it and prove yourself in order to get the support that you needed. That is completely backward.

[00:13:44] Jill Griffin:
The idea that like I was this successful with this situation, bring it. I choose today to use it as an empowerment for myself.

[00:13:54] Adam Grant:
Jill shouldn't have had to work so hard to prove ourself and neither should you. Her employers should have made it easier for Jill to get the support she needed. So she didn't have to worry about being judged as incompetent or a drunk. So, what does that support look like? Designing an environment to be accessible to everyone is called universal design. Think of sidewalk ramps or closed captioning for TV. Universal design typically refers to designing access to buildings or experiences, but it can easily be applied to workplaces, too.

[00:14:26] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
Universal design, which is really somewhat adjacent to disability because we all have varied abilities, sizes, shapes, and we need adjustable chairs and we need flexible schedules. We may actually be able to hire and retain more disabled employees if we are aware of how to communicate and how to accommodate. And so many people can benefit. It doesn't just have to be them over there with the label, with these kinds of things like hybrid meetings and adjustable furniture and readable websites that turns out everybody benefits.

[00:15:03] Adam Grant:
Universal design is necessary, but not sufficient. Michelle says we need to go much further. We need to actively fight ableism. A popular approach in training is to do disability simulations. People are asked to sit in a wheelchair or put on a blindfold, but Michelle has conducted experiments demonstrating that disability simulations can backfire.

[00:15:25] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
When you simulate a disability, you know that you're going to get up out of that wheelchair. You're going to take off your sound canceling headphones or your blindfold and you're not really simulating as it turns out disability at all. Maybe simulating day one of some condition that may or may not reflect the subjective experience, much less the coping that people have had to learn along the way. These simulations ended up sort of instilling this distress reaction. The weirdest finding was that not only did people say they were more embarrassed, they actually endorsed more stereotypes that related to disability, they felt more helpless and dependent, more hostile. They were worried about their own disability status. They were less likely to volunteer, to help make the campus more accessible. Which is just the opposite of what these interventions are supposed to do. We've been trying to get the word out because these simulation activities are still entrenched in graduate programs and medical schools and corporate offices around the country. Even though there have now been multiple calls for them to cease and desist, or at least think about the framing of these things.

[00:16:40] Adam Grant:
So what should we do instead of disability simulations? There's some basic steps we can all take as individuals. For one, you might try actually talking to people and asking them questions.

[00:16:52] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
"How do you want me to refer to you?" Some people may prefer person-first language person with a disability. Others may prefer "disabled person" and put the identity first.

[00:17:02] Adam Grant:
Also, we need to keep disability front of mind when planning events. On stage, I've made the mistake of saying, "I don't need a microphone," forgetting that some people in the audience might have hearing impairments, which is one reason we can all spend more time learning from people with disabilities.

[00:17:20] Michelle Nario-Redmond:
I've found panels to be quite successful. You can do book clubs and assigned reading. And I think it's really important though, that corporate managers, that leaders, really establish that this is not something we're doing because it's the latest diversity training thing to do. But that it means that we are much more likely to be able to work together in ways that don't end up creating microaggressions or misunderstandings. Cultural competency training across not just disability, but all kinds of different groups is useful.

[00:17:53] Adam Grant:
But the most important step an organization can take is to actively hire more people with disabilities and support them. More on that after the break.


Organizations often struggle with diversifying their workforces. "I can't find enough qualified people. I don't know where to begin! Well, we did it once and it didn't work out." It's even worse when it comes to hiring more people with disabilities. Leaders assume it will be costly. Many companies don't even include disability in their definition of diversity. So it may seem ambitious to staff a company entirely with disabled people, but that's exactly what Gill Winch did in Israel.

[00:18:37] Gil Winch:
We were just focusing on the hidden potential. And it sort of grew from there.

[00:18:42] Adam Grant:
Growing up, Gil struggled with attention deficit disorder.

[00:18:45] Gil Winch:
I barely managed to scrape through high school. I got the lowest grades possible in order to get a high school diploma.

[00:18:51] Adam Grant:
He and his identical twin Guy weren't diagnosed until their twenties. Gil ended up getting his master's in clinical psychology. And quickly rethought that path.

[00:19:01] Gil Winch:
I never did have the patience to listen to people complain. At some point I decided I can't be a clinical psychologist. I should be, uh, an organizational one. I was looking for something social I could have an impact with.

[00:19:13] Adam Grant:
And he found it. Thanks to a conversation with a neighbor.

[00:19:16] Gil Winch:
I have this neighbor friend who's paraplegic, and he told me that worldwide, most people with regular disabilities are unemployed. We're making them the poorest amongst us. And we're also isolating them in their homes. When you look at who comprises the group, it just doesn't make sense. What are these people doing at home all day? The unemployed, disabled people, they're doing phones and screens. But that's what most people do at work. So how come they are so out of work? It couldn't be because of the disability. It's gotta be something else. And if it's something else, maybe it's something I could do something about.

[00:19:55] Adam Grant:
That was 20 years ago. Gil was on a mission to figure out why people with disabilities are often out of work. After extensive interviews, he identified three common causes of underemployment and they weren't a question of ability.

[00:20:10] Gil Winch:
The first reason is attendance. People with walkers don't come in when it rains because you can't hold an umbrella, you'll get very wet and sick. Or if you need to have dialysis because you have kidney problems, then you need to go in three times a week. They're not always the same three times a week. Not lots of businesses will put up with that. Single parents have attendance problems too. They're all the same though. The second issue is poverty. Poverty has a capacity to rid you of bandwidth. If all your bandwidth is taken up with basically survival problems where you're going to be getting your next hot meal, where you're going to find the money for a dentist, you need all of your bandwidth to succeed in a new job and to concentrate. The third, most prominent one, I think, and the most overlooked one, is trauma. I call it PTSR-- post traumatic social rejection. I'm sure you know the research about rejection in psychology, expose people to two to five minutes of rejection, and it's surprising how much pain two minutes of rejection can cause people. But if it's a lifetime, when your whole life is rejection, that creates real trauma. And it doesn't really matter what your disability is. Basically, if everybody tells you you're not worthy because nobody wants you it's very easy to buy into that. If you have so many people who want to employ people with disabilities, surprised that the fight or flight, they shouted at me all of a sudden, and they don't have a mental disability. Why did he blow up on me? These are all symptoms of trauma. And if you don't know it's there and you don't know how to cater to it, then you will have a really difficult time. And so will the disabled person.

[00:21:55] Adam Grant:
So you did this detective work, you figured out what these barriers were and then you moved into entrepreneur mode. I'm going to eradicate those barriers.

[00:22:01] Gil Winch:
Right. I thought I'm going to build a showcase, but it's a social business. It's going to be staffed and managed entirely by severely disabled people who have never worked before. And then we will do well because I'll cater to all these things. And then I can prove to everybody that the severely disabled and the disabled worldwide are out of a job not because they lack ability, but just because we lack understanding of what they need in order to bring their ability to bear.

[00:22:31] Adam Grant:
In 2008, Gil launched a call center, Call Yachol. It took a full year to secure his first client. Then he assembled a team of 15 people with various disabilities to start training. And it was not smooth sailing. Every step of the way was a new learning opportunity.

[00:22:48] Gil Winch:
We started to encounter all sorts of problems that you wouldn't really imagine, unless you actually did this.

[00:22:56] Adam Grant:
For example, consider the challenges faced by an employee with hearing loss.

[00:23:00] Gil Winch:
They can't hear the manager and the customer. They have to read the manager's lips and then help the customer. And the manager then has to speak clearly, but the manager in our case was someone who was legally blind and they have to stand in front of the people with a hearing loss. And they're not really sure what that is. So. You know, it's, it's a total learning process. Things that you don't have to mention apparently need to be mentioned.

[00:23:27] Adam Grant:
Many mistakes were made.

[00:23:29] Gil Winch:
We found ourselves going to people's homes to bring them back after they failed at something because they were so sure they're going to be fired. They had to go and convince them. No, no, you're not fired. You can come back.

[00:23:38] Adam Grant:
But things started improving.

[00:23:40] Gil Winch:
After a month, we were supposed to be doing eight calls an hour. We were doing two. And after two months we were doing four, they were constantly improving, but only a bit. We all had to learn how to work as a unit and to put our problems on the table and to address them.

[00:23:55] Adam Grant:
And then they started to flow.

[00:23:57] Gil Winch:
By the third month. They said, you know what? Bring on another team. And we ended the first year with about three teams of people doing this work. And it was amazing that you were seeing husks and anxiety. And now you saw people coming out of their shell and helping others.

[00:24:13] Adam Grant:
Gil didn't just change the way an organization can work with people with disabilities. He also changed the hiring process to set them up for success rather than failure, which is something everyone can benefit from.

[00:24:24] Gil Winch:
Most adults have screening anxiety. If we just use regular screening, we'll have no idea of what the real capabilities are hidden below all that anxiety. So we have to put together a screening process, which is tailored totally to lower any anxiety during the process. We call it the reverse screening process. So people know in advance exactly what they're coming for.

[00:24:46] Adam Grant:
Instead of an interrogation, imagine walking into a welcoming living room with big comfy chairs for your job interview. And instead of talking about your five-year plan or how I handled a difficult situation, you get to share your passion for cooking or your love of penguins. You can go on and on about penguins! So much so you might even forget your nerves. The interviewer watches you light up and gets a preview of the energy you'll bring to work. That's exactly what going for a job interview at Call Yachol is like. Before you arrive, you fill out a questionnaire about your passions, the interviewer reads it and asks you about it.

[00:25:26] Gil Winch:
People are most verbal when they talk about things that they're passionate about.

[00:25:30] Adam Grant:
Which means the interviewer gets to see you shine. And you're not going to simply talk about how great your people skills or organizational skills are. You get to show them through role play exercises. But don't worry. They're all situations you've already handled in your everyday life.

[00:25:47] Gil Winch:
That's where people will feel more comfortable. If you want to see if someone has any ability to convince, we have an exercise where you need to convince your next door neighbor to renovate the lobby in the building, a situation that they might've been in before. If you want to see how people are good with precise work, we have an exercise called don't kill granny. They have to divide the shopping list without killing granny who was allergic to nuts by the way.

[00:26:11] Adam Grant:
If you're still nervous, you can invite your best friend or your brother to the interview with you. Are you tired? Just need a minute. It's fine. You can take a time out. If you get stuck phone a friend, or at least ask the interviewer for help or a hint. You even get a do-over if your first response doesn't go well.

[00:26:31] Gil Winch:
That's when it starts to get interesting. Now you have a chance to see how that person deals with failure, how they learn the interview is this sort of like a game and you can't fail at it. You can just get stuck.

[00:26:45] Adam Grant:
We've all left interviews feeling like we didn't put our best foot forward. You know, the feeling. I blanked that wasn't me. And you wish you could do it over well at Call Yachol you can. If you want a second chance, they'll schedule a second interview and ask you what they can do to get to know you better.

[00:27:05] Gil Winch:
Everything's tailored to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

[00:27:08] Adam Grant:
It almost seems like all interviews should be done this way.

[00:27:11] Gil Winch:
They should.

[00:27:12] Adam Grant:
It would be a really effective recruiting device, too.

[00:27:14] Gil Winch:
They should because when you're looking for an employee, you could have a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. People actually say that the nicer, the interview process is the more they will be willing to invest in and put an effort into their new job. It's good for everyone.

[00:27:34] Adam Grant:
When I've tried to work with employers to make interviews a little bit more supportive, just in general, I've heard, but performance pressure is part of the job. And we want to see how people handle stress and anxiety. And my reaction to that as well. You can do one part of the interview focused on that, but you don't have to make the whole thing a freak out session.

[00:27:51] Gil Winch:
Totally agree, but they're doing these kinds of interviews for every entry level job.

[00:27:56] Adam Grant:
And the support doesn't end with the interview. To set employees up to excel Call Yachol focuses on building confidence throughout their work lives.

[00:28:04] Gil Winch:
So we put an awful lot of effort into social onboarding. So people feel as comfortable as they can the minute they start. Also low lowers anxiety, enhances performance. There's so many things that we do because we neglect the emotional part of what we need in our jobs.

[00:28:20] Adam Grant:
And these efforts are paying off. Call Yachol has not only met expectations. They've exceeded them. In some cases, their teams are outperforming teams without disabilities. For example, the Call Yachol insurance team has more leads per hour and spends more time on the phone with clients than industry benchmarks.

[00:28:39] Gil Winch:
When you sweat personally, invest time and effort in a social purpose, then that will get you people who are so engaged that they'll beat any team. And we're usually better than the other teams.

[00:28:51] Adam Grant:
Which has surprised many people in Israel. Gil says, it's like--

[00:28:55] Gil Winch:
--We're taking the Paralympic team to the regular Olympics and competing well every day on teams that should be so far behind, but we're doing as well as if not better everyday, just because of those things.

[00:29:05] Adam Grant:
And after five successful years, Call Yachol expanded beyond disability.

[00:29:10] Gil Winch:
So we're still 100% underdogs, but it's about 60% severely disabled people and 40% other underdogs, anybody who can't find a place.

[00:29:19] Adam Grant:
Other call centers heard about Call Yachol's work and started hiring more people with disabilities, but the movement wasn't spreading to other industries.

[00:29:27] Gil Winch:
And we realized that in order to create change, we need to export our knowledge. So we opened our training academy in Israel. They don't only learn our model, but they get to train with our employees, imagine the HR team coming over and they're very apprehensive about people with mental disabilities or this or that. And only afterwards, he finds out that they're all 100% mentally disabled and it totally changes people's biases and ideas.

[00:29:54] Adam Grant:
What were your biggest surprises or lessons from primarily employing people with

[00:29:58] Gil Winch:
The one that struck me the most was how desperate so many of them are to just feel normal. The happiness, when they get a name tag with their picture on it, people were framing their first paycheck and hanging it over their bed. And they were so thrilled to be part of society and the job market and becoming an asset. So many people say, yeah, but why should all disabled people just do entry-level work? No, they can do whatever they want, but let's get them into the job market first.

[00:30:30] Adam Grant:
What can the average company do to be more inclusive to people with disabilities?

[00:30:34] Gil Winch:
The policy I think is most important is reserved employment for the opportunity deprived. We do it in parking. We should do exactly the same thing, but for something even more important like employment. For instance, people who are totally deaf or have severe hearing loss out of a job, companies have chat teams. Save a few of those spots for the people who have less options so that everybody will have an opportunity to be employed. People with cognitive disabilities, they can clean tables as well as the next guy. If you're a restaurant chain or a coffee shop chain, save some of those spots for the people with cognitive disabilities.

[00:31:17] Adam Grant:
This practice can also benefit other groups of people who have trouble getting hired, like formerly incarcerated individuals and refugees. As long as they're paid a fair wage.

[00:31:27] Gil Winch:
Everybody has supply chain issues. There's such a shortage of drivers in Europe and you have more than 5 million refugees dying to work. How long will it take to train a few thousand of them to be truck drivers?

[00:31:43] Adam Grant:
Oh, I love that. What a great idea. As I've talked with leaders about disability over the last couple of years, most of them have seen it as a personal problem. How do we get them to recognize that it's actually an organizational problem.

[00:31:54] Gil Winch:
The larger the company, the more it's that company's responsibility to employ those in the community which it's harder to employ. One of the ways we could do it is if every company on their homepage had that diversity label. Just like with food labeling, you don't want to buy food without knowing what's in it. I don't want to buy from a brand I don't know who they're employing. If companies were forced to divulge their true diversity makeup, that would cause an awful lot of pressure on them to actually do something about it.

[00:32:27] Adam Grant:
This isn't just about hiring more people with disabilities. It's also about accommodating the people you have now. So if you're needing accommodations at work, how should you ask for them?

[00:32:38] Gil Winch:
The accommodations are not just physical. They should be stated as in order to me to function at my best this is what I would need for that to happen.

[00:32:47] Adam Grant:
You're not being selfish. Being able to function at your best is good for the organization, too. Accommodations sound like an exception to the rule, but it turns out that 95% of work accommodation requests are made by people without a disability like leaving work early to pick up your kids or taking time off to care for a sick parent.You don't have to be disabled to need accommodation. So we have to stop stigmatizing requests for accommodation from people with disabilities.

[00:33:18] Gil Winch:
We have a large group of women have been horrifically abused and they all have a hundred percent emotional disability. Lots of them really don't like it when it's dark out. So there's a huge variation in their work hours in the summer and in the winter. There's nothing to be ashamed of. They don't have to explain it to us. We get it, but they would have to explain it elsewhere.

[00:33:38] Adam Grant:
One of the things I'm really struck by in this conversation is how many of your disability-inclusive policies and practices are beneficial to people without disabilities. As soon as you say it is totally obvious, we should all be doing and yet has not occurred to any of us.

[00:33:52] Gil Winch:
It's amazing to see what a huge, positive effect this has had on people who have no disabilities whatsoever. And don't even feel that they've been victimized or are underdogs in any kind of way.

[00:34:05] Adam Grant:
And that's the key. Disability-inclusive practices are not just beneficial to people with disabilities. They're just good work practices in general. Parents need flexible schedules to take care of their kids. Teams need more explicit communication and understanding. And we all appreciate a less stressful job interview. And a second chance to demonstrate our potential. Workplaces that provide support for disabilities bring out the best in all of our abilities.

Next week on WorkLife:

A great way of helping people be detectives about the culture that they’re interested in you want to ask, what do people care about here? What do people get really rewarded for? Or if they violate these norms or behaviors, what do they get really punished for?

Adam Grant:
How to recognize a company’s culture from the outside–and strengthen it from the inside.

WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant. The show is produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O’Donnell, Constanza Gallardo, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Banban Cheng and Anna Phelan. This episode was produced by JoAnn DeLuna. Our show is mixed by Ben Chesneau. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Ad stories produced by Pineapple Street Studios.

Special thanks to our sponsors: LinkedIn, Morgan Stanley, ServiceNow, and UKG.

For their research on disability at work, gratitude to Susanne Bruyere, Adrienne Colella, David Dwertmann and Stephen Boehm, and Brent Lyons.


Adam Grant:
This is just incredible. I’m blown away. I do have to point out though that you walked away from clinical psychology because you didn't have patience. And here you are in a position that requires just as much patience.

Gil Winch:
I think, I found the right spot eventually.