Tool 2 - Setting the Tone: The Importance of Managers and Supervisors

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The Communication Tools to Support Disability Inclusion Toolkit includes 11 templates to help managers with disability inclusion:

What’s Tool 2 About?

The messages in this topic tell managers that they play a key role in disability inclusiveness for your company. Managers and supervisors are on the front line of diversity and disability inclusiveness.

Tips about the Tool 2 template:

  • Research conducted by Cornell University has shown two important points. First, employees with disabilities are more likely to disclose a disability to their manager or supervisor than to anyone else in the company. Second, managers and supervisors don't always recognize when there is a disability issue or an accommodation need.
  • Disabilities that are not obvious to others can sometimes be dismissed as just an excuse to avoid work. It's important to dispel this myth.
  • Where appropriate, when using these messages, insert a very simple, easy-to-use contact process for managers to use when a disability arises for someone on their team.

You can copy and paste the template text below into a word processor and customize it for your organization.

Setting the Tone: The Importance of Managers and Supervisors

What you do is important

As a leader, what you do matters. Managers and supervisors are the foundation of diversity and inclusion. Research shows that managers set the tone for work life, inclusion, and trust-building on their teams. As a manager, your actions and decisions shape how disability will be viewed within your team. Research also shows that managers are usually on the front line of disability inclusiveness. When employees have an issue related to a disability or an accommodation need, they are most likely to approach their manager or supervisor first. At (COMPANY NAME), we appreciate your efforts to foster a team environment that values the contribution of all members, including those with disabilities.

Recognizing a disability

How does a manager know when someone on their team has a disability? Some disabilities are likely to be obvious to others, others are not. At (COMPANY NAME), we accommodate employees whether or not their disabilities are obvious to others. And as a manager, you are often on the frontline for starting the accommodation process. Sometimes, employees will simply tell you they are struggling on the job because of a health condition and won't specifically mention a disability. In any case, when you have a reasonable belief that an employee is struggling because of a disability, something needs to happen. Putting an accommodation into place needs to be explored. To get more information about disability at (COMPANY NAME) contact (CONTACT INFORMATION).

When a disability arises—What the manager should do

  1. Recognize an accommodation request. Accommodations allow each employee to offer us their best. At (COMPANY NAME), any employee with a disability has a right to an accommodation. Employees don't need to use any special words or phrases to tell you about an accommodation need. They only need to say in plain language that they're struggling in their job because of a health condition. When this happens, simply tell the employee that they could have a right to an accommodation and let them know you will get the ball rolling.
  2. Move an accommodation request forward. When an employee talks to you about an accommodation, something needs to happen. At (COMPANY NAME) you should contact (CONTACT INFORMATION) to begin the process.
  3. Keep lines of communication open. Give the employee an idea of what's going to happen. Check in briefly to make sure things are moving forward.

Want to learn more?

For more about this topic, visit or call the Northeast ADA Center at 800-949-4232.

If the above text pastes into Microsoft Word with unwanted gray shading, select the text and use the Paint Bucket tool to choose No Color for the fill. Or, when pasting, try choosing Edit > Paste Special > Formatted Text (RTF).


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