Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.

Communication is central to managing any employee, but there are some useful tips to help improve communication with people with some types of disabilities:

  • If someone with a learning difficulty or intellectual disability has difficulty in remembering a series of instructions, try communicating one task at a time, writing tasks down, providing practical demonstrations of the task and asking for instructions to be repeated.
  • Think about what you say and also what you don’t say. Clear guidance on what is expected of an employee with autism or Aspergers Syndrome is essential as many people have difficulty ‘reading between the lines’ or picking up on unspoken assumptions. People who have been out of the workplace for a long time may also benefit.
  • Ensure that all employees are able to communicate with their Deaf or hearing impaired colleagues. The basics include: talking directly to the person; making sure you have their attention before starting to talk, for example with a light touch to the shoulder; ensuring there is good light for lip reading and maintaining eye contact. If they feel comfortable, ask the person to explain to team members what would make it easier to communicate. Consider providing Deaf awareness training or New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) classes.
  • People may need a NZSL interpreter at meetings (particularly larger meetings and events). Sign Language interpreters can be booked through Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand – make sure you book in advance. Before meetings it is useful to provide hand-outs so that the person can familarise themselves with the topic and any technical aspects. Other accommodations at meetings and events include lip speakers, who soundlessly repeat what has been said, using clear lip patterns, palatypists who produce text at speech speed via specialised equipment or a note taker to record what has been said.
  • Make sure everyone has access to organisation-wide and team communications. This may mean providing verbal updates as well as using notice boards or email communications.