A reference guide on understanding various types
of disabilities for Arkansas Employers
Arkansas Department of
Arkansas Rehabilitation Services
ARS Business Engagement
A disability is a permanent
condition that may put a
person at a disadvantage when
competing for employment.
For the detailed definition as it
pertains to Arkansas Vocational
Rehabilitation Services, go to
When it comes to hiring people with disabilities, Arkansas is
leading by example. In fact, Arkansas employers set the national
precedent for disability inclusion in the workplace. Ranked Number
One by U.S. News and World Report for employing people with
disabilities (August 2017), our state remains committed to progress
and equal opportunities for all our citizens.
Inclusion Etiquette is a simple introduction to understanding
various types of disabilities. We hope this information eases
misperceptions, encourages healthy relationships, and enhances
inclusion in your workplace.
It is always better to ask the person how they will perform a job
function, rather than assume they cannot do something required for
a job they are applying for. Some have spent a lifetime learning to
adapt to their disability. As such, don’t be embarrassed if you do or
say the wrong thing. Be patient with yourself and the individual.
As an employer, part of good etiquette is to ensure an employee
is afforded reasonable accommodation, if needed, to perform
the essential functions of their job. If a disability is obvious, it is
ok to ask what adjustments may be needed. Law requires that
reasonable accommodations are provided, and most are free. Your
ARS Business Engagement Representative can assist you with
“I look ‘ok’ on the outside. No one knows what I go through daily.”
Most disabling conditions are not readily apparent. For example,
you may never know that a coworker is struggling with chronic
pain, depression, diabetes, anxiety, etc. unless they disclose their
People with invisible disabilities strive to maintain a persona
of professionalism even when they may be experiencing pain
or discomfort. They may avoid disclosing their disability and
requesting accommodation for fear of being perceived negatively
by their employer and coworkers.
It’s important to remember that people with invisible disabilities
are at a disadvantage that is balanced by their accommodations.
These adjustments are a necessity, not a privilege, to enable the
employee to fulfill the requirements of their job. Your ARS Business
Engagement Representative can assist you with this.
More information on specific hidden disabilities and suggested
accommodations can be found at https://askjan.org/media/atoz.htm.
2017 Minnesota State CareerWise Education, https://goo.gl/oU5LaV
Job Accommodation Network, https://askjan.org/media/atoz.htm.
Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing
“Capability isn’t linked to hearing loss; it’s linked to intelligence,
skills, education and experience.”
• Ask the person how they prefer to communicate.
• Avoid chewing gum when speaking to a deaf or hard of
• Speak directly to the person, not to the interpreter (if
• Ask the person how to get his or her attention (tapping on
• Use visual signaling equipment for incoming calls.*
• Use hands-on demonstrations to assist in training.
• Assign a mentor to work directly with deaf or hard-of-hearing
employees during the training period.
• Allow extra time for communication.
• Share informal information.
• Be sure to include all employees in work break activities and
• Use a Buddy System to alert deaf or hard of hearing
employees to emergency situations.
• Review Safety procedures, including exits and alarms
• Notify security if deaf or hard of hearing employees are
alone in work areas.
*ARS Access and Accommodations team will conduct a workplace
assessment and provide services and/or equipment to accommodate your
employee. For more information, go to https://goo.gl/RFos4A
or call 501-683-6052.
Source: 2017 Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical
Institute for the Deaf https://goo.gl/AJyGBb
Difficulty with Speech
“Never assume a person with speaking difficulties
has nothing to say.”
People with difficulties in speech work to be understood and
will not be embarrassed by your asking for clarification. What is
not acceptable is feigning understanding by nodding your head
and letting the person think you are receiving their message.
Your understanding, patience, and willingness to communicate
show respect for the person as equal to someone without speech
• Only nod your head and say “uh huh” when you really and
truly understand what has been said.
• Ask for clarification when necessary. “Just a minute” or
“Hang on a second” will do. “I’m afraid I lost you” is a bit
more formal. Whatever feels comfortable to you is best.
• Don’t finish their sentences for them.
• Do not assume the person has a hearing impairment.
• Be specific about where you stopped understanding, so
there is no need to start at the beginning all over again. You
can say, “I understood up to the part where you said, ‘It was
an amazing…’ I didn’t get anything after that.” Or you can
say, “I lost you after the part about winning the game. Can
you please go back to that and let me try again?”
• If the situation is stressful, stay calm.
• If necessary, consider writing, texting, typing, or the
assistance of another to interpret as alternative ways to
Source: 2017 “The Mighty” https://goo.gl/SXbaMH
Blind or Vision Impairment
“Don’t be afraid to come up and chat. I would much rather have
someone ask me questions about my blindness than avoid talking to
me at all for fear of offending me.”
• Introduce yourself and identify who you are, “Hi! My name
is John, and I’ll be interviewing you today.” Give the person
verbal information that is visually obvious to those who can
• Face the person when talking. If your eyes are directed to
toward them, your voice will be as well.
• Make sure that paths are clear of obstacles.
• Inform the person of changes in floor conditions, like wet
• Don’t interact with a guide dog while it is working.
• Be descriptive when giving directions. Saying “step up here”
has little meaning to someone who can’t see you point.
“Three steps forward, then two steps up” would be much
• Lead someone who is blind only after he or she has
accepted your offer to do so. Touch the person’s arm, and
then offer your arm to guide him or her. Allow the person to
hold your arm rather than holding theirs. Verbally describe
the area as you go.
• Describe things from their perspective, not yours. Some
people who are blind use a “clock” reference for things
directly in front of them. For example, a desk at 10’oclock.
Before using this method, ask the person if it is useful.
Source: Perkins School for the Blind: https://goo.gl/PKL1Qw
People Who Use Wheelchairs
“I am not ‘wheelchair-bound.’ My chair enables me
to be independent.”
Wheelchair users are people, not equipment. The wheelchair is
an extension of their personal space.
• Do offer a handshake in greeting.
• Do hold the door open for a wheelchair user.
• Respect the person’s space by not asking a wheelchair user
to hold coats.
• Don’t lean over someone in a wheelchair to shake another
• Don’t push or touch a person’s wheelchair without
• Be aware of wheelchair users’ reach limits. Place as many
items as possible within their grasp.
• Make sure that there is a clear path of travel to shelves and
• When talking to a wheelchair user, grab your chair and sit
at her level. If that’s not possible, stand at a slight distance,
so that she isn’t straining her neck to make eye contact with
• If the service counter at your place of business is too high
for a wheelchair user to see over, step around it to provide
service. Have a clipboard handy if filling in forms or providing
signatures are expected.
• If your building has different routes through it, be sure that
signs direct wheelchair users to the most accessible ways
around the facility.
Source: United Spinal Association, https://goo.gl/XiHyaU
Learning Disabilities and Brain Injuries
“I am praised for being a hard worker, but I get in trouble when
I don’t understand the social rules. Why can some employees say
things to each other that I can’t?”
Learning disabilities are lifelong disorders that interfere with a
person’s ability to receive, express or process information. Although
they have certain limitations, most people with learning disabilities
have average or above-average intelligence. You may not realize
that the person has a learning disability because he or she
functions so well. Or you may be confused about why such a high-
functioning person has problems in one aspect of his or her work.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and other acquired forms of cognitive
impairment share similar traits with learning disabilities. A person
with a learning disability or brain injury may have poor impulse
control. He or she may make inappropriate comments and may
not understand social cues or get indications that he or she has
offended someone. In his or her frustration to understand, or to get
his or her ideas across, he or she may seem pushy. All of these
behaviors arise as a result of the injury.
• People with dyslexia or other reading disabilities have trouble
reading written information. Give them verbal explanations and
allow extra time for reading.
• Even very simple instructions may need to be written down.
Because spoken information gets scrambled as he or she
listens, a person who has a learning disability such as auditory
processing disorder, attention deficits or some forms of autism
may need information demonstrated and/or in writing.
• Provide praise and positive reinforcement.
• Provide sensitivity training to coworkers.
• Allow the employee to take a break as a part of a stress
• Do not require this employee to work overtime.
Learning Disabilities and Brain Injuries
• Ask the person how you can best relay information.
• Be direct in your communication. A person with a learning
disability may have trouble grasping subtleties.
• It may be easier for the person to function in a quiet
environment without distractions, such as conflict, people
moving around or high-pitched machinery. If possible, allowing
ear plugs or white noise may make all the difference.
• Bluntness may be part of the person’s natural way of
communication. Respond positively, not defensively.
• Remain patient if the individual does not understand the
direction given. Give one set of instructions in a clear, concise
manner before giving a second set of instructions.
Source: United Spinal Association; Job Accommodation Network;
Employer’s Assistance Guide: Interviewing Individuals with
Disabilities (Courtesy of Orange County Addictions & Disabilities Resources
Disability Etiquette Slideshow: Everything You Wanted to Know, But
Are Afraid to Ask (Courtesy of America’s Job Exchange) https://goo.gl/FLvaUk
Accomodation Ideas: Adult Adult ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and a
Searchable Database (Courtesy of the Job Accommodation Network).
Arkansas Department of Career Education’s Mission:
To prepare a job-ready, career-bound workforce to
meet the needs of Arkansas employers.
Arkansas Rehabilitation Service’s Mission:
To prepare Arkansans with disabilities to work and lead
productive and independent lives.
Arkansas Department of Asa Hutchinson
Career Education/ Arkansas Governor; State of Arkansas
Division Charisse Childers, Ph.D.
Director; Arkansas Dept. of
Business Engagement Services Career Education
501-296-1665 D. Alan McClain
ARCareerEd.org Commissioner; Arkansas
[email protected] Rehabilitation Services