Mentoring Programs for Disabled Employees: Building Confidence and Skills

Everyone, including people with disabilities (PWDs), has the right to work. Disabled employees should have equal career opportunities, enjoy reasonable workplace accommodations, and receive no work discrimination. 

In fact, companies and organizations should go as far as providing these employees with mentoring programs to enhance their knowledge, skills, and overall confidence. But how do you go about doing that?

Fret not; this page covers different mentoring programs for disabled employees. Read on to learn why they are important and how to implement such programs for your organization.

What Are Mentoring Programs for Disabled Employees?

A mentoring program is a talent development strategy exclusively meant for employees with disabilities. This program seeks to enhance the knowledge and skills of disabled employees for professional growth, career advancement, job satisfaction, employee retention, and more.

Generally, mentoring involves a senior employee (the mentor) supporting the junior employee's (the mentee) personal and professional growth. However, in the context of disability, it requires a mentor with specialized knowledge and skills capable of guiding and supporting disabled employees.

Below are examples of mentoring programs exclusively for employees with disabilities:

  • National Organization on Disability or NOD's Mentoring Program: This organization aims to increase employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities. They provide companies with disability employment training delivered in-person or online.

  • Mentoring as a Disability Inclusion Strategy: The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers information and resources to employers for hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities. Its mentoring program helps companies adopt a mentoring culture and implement effective strategies.

  • Disability Mentoring Day (DMD): The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) holds this nationwide event to promote career development for students and job seekers with disabilities. They provide ongoing career exploration and mentoring programs the whole year round.

  • Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities: The National Mentoring Resource Center in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) offers mentoring programs for youths with disabilities. They assist disabled youngsters in their employment decisions, adulthood transitions, and independent living. 

  • Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP): The U.S. Department of Labor provides job training and mentoring programs specifically targeted to veterans with disabilities. They help those from the military who have become disabled transition to civilian careers.

  • Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) Mentorship Program: As the name suggests, this mentorship program targets totally blind or visually impaired employees. They have mentors who help them access assistive technologies and adapt to a visual workplace.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Programs at Fortune 500 Companies: Many large corporations or big companies on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) list offer disability mentoring programs. These programs are usually a part of their diversity and inclusion initiatives to support disabled employees.

The Importance of Mentoring Programs for Employees with Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four American adults has some form of disability. Such disabilities can impact their career and the overall quality of their lives.

However, the law gives everyone the right to work, meaning everyone should have equal employment opportunities. But here’s the problem: The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed an alarming gap between employees with and without disabilities. Take a look at the table below:

Persons with Disabilities (Ages 16 – 64)

Persons without Disabilities (Ages 16 – 64)

Labor Participation Rate



Unemployment Rate



Companies and organizations should have no room for discrimination against PWDs when offering employment. They should consider hiring them as long as they meet the job qualifications and minimum requirements.

Why not? Get inspiration from disabled individuals with different professions, such as Stephen Hawking, Sofía Jirau, and Nick Vujicic. They have all excelled in their fields of expertise, whether as a scientist, model, or entrepreneur. 

And what better way to promote workplace inclusivity and empower PWDs than to provide mentoring programs?

When it comes to fostering inclusivity, it's more than just protecting the rights of employees with disabilities and eliminating unfair treatment at work. It's also about offering mentoring programs to help disabled employees grow and succeed in the workplace.

Here are the benefits of mentoring programs for employees with disabilities:

  • Enhanced Knowledge and Skills: The primary objective of mentoring disabled employees is to boost their knowledge and skills required for the jobs. That way, they can advance their careers and take higher roles amid their disabilities.

  • Increased Confidence Level: There’s a line drawn between employees with and without disabilities. Mentoring helps disabled employees feel good about themselves, making them capable of meeting and exceeding workplace expectations.

  • Boosted Employee Morale: Companies or organizations often set an average career timeline for disabled employees. However, mentoring can empower these employees to extend this timeline, thereby increasing their value and morale in the workplace.

  • Improved Efficiency and Productivity: The enhancement of knowledge and skills through mentoring programs translates to a boost in efficiency and productivity. Regardless of their disabilities, these employees will be more efficient and productive at work.

  • Increased Job Satisfaction and Retention: The boost in confidence and morale makes disabled employees happier and more satisfied. They will likely stay for good and contribute to your overall business success.

  • Promoting Workplace Inclusivity: There’s a need to foster a culture of disability inclusion today. Companies implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives earn good reputations. Aside from hiring PWDs, offering mentoring programs is one of the best ways to support these initiatives.

Looking to implement mentoring programs for your disabled employees? Follow the crucial steps in the next section.

How To Implement Mentoring Programs for Disabled Employees in Your Workplace

Earlier, you learned what mentoring programs are and why they are vital to your organization. It’s time to plan, set, and implement mentoring program initiatives for your disabled employees. Here’s how to get started:

1. Establish an Inclusive and Diverse Workplace

Setting mentoring programs for disabled employees is one thing; establishing an inclusive workplace is another. The latter is the first step you must take to promote diversity and inclusion in your organization. And that entails being open to hiring people with disabilities.

Mark Pierce, CEO of Colorado LLC Attorney, highlights the rights of PWDs to work. “Offering disabled individuals the opportunity to work is the right thing to accomplish. Many companies often see them as a liability and ignore them altogether. They fail to realize how these employees can offer real value to their organizations.”

2. Examine the Needs of Disabled Employees

Establishing an inclusive and diverse workplace means offering employment opportunities to people with disabilities. After setting such for your organization, it’s time to provide them with the utmost help and support. But before doing so, you first need to examine their needs.

For example, you should check your work-from-home (WFH) employees with disabilities. See if they face obstacles and have challenges in their work. Specifically, ask what they need and get to the bottom of their problems. That will help you develop mentoring programs that will help meet and suffice their needs.

3. Choose Qualified Mentors for Disability Programs

Before starting with your mentoring programs, pick mentors qualified to facilitate disability programs. They must have specialized knowledge and skills in handling PWDs. Often, you must hire external mentors to do the job for your organization.

Michael Power, CMO at DTF Transfers, understands the unique needs of disabled employees. “They need special help and assistance at work, whether they are blind, deaf, or mentally challenged. The mentoring programs help them improve their weaknesses and optimize their strengths. That way, they can excel and do better at work.”

4. Develop and Launch Mentoring Programs for Disabled Employees

Now, you are ready to create mentoring programs for your employees with disabilities. Get everyone involved in this initiative, from the top management to immediate colleagues. While the mentors are the ones to facilitate the programs, everyone has a crucial role to play.

Consider some of the mentoring programs outlined above for your reference. The goal is to create and adapt work structures for disabled team members. Along with this is to provide them with learning opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills. That way, they will get empowered and become effective in the workplace.

5. Monitor Performance and Offer Ongoing Support

Mentoring programs don’t necessarily end once the formal training is over. Keep in mind that they are ongoing initiatives you must pursue every single day. Even after the training, you should continue to monitor their performance and measure their progress.

Jesse Hanson, Content Manager at Online Solitaire & World of Card Games, highlights the value of providing ongoing support. “You must ensure you provide disabled employees with regular support. This support entails checking their plight, asking for feedback, and providing real solutions to help them with their day-to-day functions.”

6. Sustain and Expand Mentoring Programs for Disabled Employees

There's no denying the call for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies must follow suit to exercise their social responsibilities and establish good reputations. It’s also a way to access the often untapped talent who can bring significant value to your organization.

As such, Will Ward, Co-Founder at Industry Arabic, recommends sustaining and expanding your mentoring initiatives. “Once you’ve started implementing some programs, consider improving them to meet the needs of your disabled employees. You’ll be surprised how doing so will pay off in the long run.”

Final Words

In today’s business landscape, promoting workplace inclusion is a must. Hiring people with disabilities is the first step, allowing your organization to support this humanitarian initiative. And offering mentoring programs to disabled employees can further uplift this step.

As such, consider the different mentoring programs presented above. More importantly, follow our crucial steps for planning, setting, and implementing programs for your disabled employees. By doing so, you can enhance their knowledge, improve their skills, and build their confidence. 

All these tips and steps will help strengthen and solidify your diverse labor workforce, contributing to your overall business success!