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Ensuring an Inclusive Workplace

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Ensuring an Inclusive Workplace

Ensuring an Inclusive Workplace

“I help people maximize their potential to do their job the best they can.”

—A.J. Nanayakkara

Date: 01/26/2017

Never underestimate A.J. Nanayakkara’s drive.

Paralyzed from a martial arts accident 22 years ago, he since has competed in wheelchair races, has been a standout wheelchair rugby player for 14 years and currently coaches the Kennedy Krieger Institute wheelchair rugby team. In 2005, Nanayakkara won a team gold medal playing for the United States National Wheelchair Rugby team in the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games.

Nanayakkara’s determination not to let his disability define what he can do is equaled only by his passion for helping others.

In November 2015, Nanayakkara joined the Johns Hopkins Health System’s Organizational Equity Office as the Americans with Disability Act and accessibility compliance consultant. In addition to assisting with individual accommodations, he and his colleagues provide guidance and training on equal employment opportunity matters—discrimination, harassment, affirmative action and the ADA—and oversee the health system’s compliance with federal, state and local EEO laws.

“I help people maximize their potential to do their job the best they can,” says Nanayakkara, who also travels to health system sites in Florida and Washington, D.C., to evaluate accessibility.

The Organizational Equity Office guides management in understanding an accommodation request from an employee or patient—which may involve everything from restructuring the work environment and creating checklists for an employee with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to scheduling dog walkers for patients with service animals. 

New initiatives, including training on service animals, disability etiquette and accommodating mental health conditions, are tailored to a variety of audiences—from directors and managers to front-line staff members.

“I show managers what they can do to make sure that we have an inclusive workplace,” says Nanayakkara, who has handled 282 disability-related accommodations since joining Johns Hopkins. “All of us have so much ability, and I have an opportunity to help people tap into that.”