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People with Disabilities and Employment in the Year 2012

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-10-05 - Article examines finding employment in todays society when living with a disability or health condition. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Wendy Taormina-Weiss.

Main Document

The majority of people who are looking for a job find one through networking. Why should it be any different for people with disabilities who are trying to find a job

A person's network can include people such as paid work supervisors, past volunteer supervisors, teachers - either current or past, family members, friends, religious or civic members, employees from the local grocery store where a person shops, or a waiter at a person's favorite restaurant for example. To identify these relationships, it is important for a person to consider their own personal contacts as a job development resource. Many times, people do not consider the value in taking the time to explore their personal networks, even though 85% of the jobs people get come from their personal contacts.

Networks are something people often times keep guarded, so it is important to take the time to gather information and understand that getting personal contact information does not and should not happen in a single meeting. When you meet with a person and their family, bear in mind the location of the meeting. Would it be more appropriate to meet in the person's home, at a favorite restaurant, in the local library, or somewhere else they choose? For a person with a disability who is seeking to build a network and find employment these meetings can be crucial to their growth and the development of their contacts.

Preparing a form to work with can be a positive item for use by the person seeking a job, their family members, and the people in their network. It is an easy way to create records and lists of the people the person with a disability knows. The form can be used when meeting with someone and it is a great idea to leave the form for the person with a disability and their family members to complete or add to as time passes. The form can also be used to review the list of people in the network at future meetings.

Accompanying a person with a disability in the community is another positive way to learn more about their network. Asking about and talking about their personal network is important. It is not unusual for a person to leave out possible network contacts because they may not think of them as someone who is important in their network at the moment. By spending time in a person's community, potential network contacts can be revealed.

As you work to discover the greatest possible extent of a person's community network connections, you have the ability to achieve a number of other benefits too. You can model ways to approach potential employers for a person with disabilities. Spending time with the person demonstrates active engagements in the job seeking process and you will also learn about the person's skills, abilities, likes and dislikes. Spending this time may also lead to business education and discussions about hiring other employees with disabilities.

Building a personal network needs to be accomplished through creative conversations with both the person with a disability and their family members. Doing so has value and is useful to the person and their family members so they become engaged and gain confidence in the process. A number of people might not have large personal networks and it is important to help them to build one. The larger a person's network is, the more people they will come into contact with in integrated settings.

One of the biggest challenges people with disabilities face is presented through the 2010 U.S. Census. Out of the population of Americans who are over the age of 15:

  • 51,454,000 have disabilities
  • 35,683,000 have severe disabilities
  • 4,994,000 need assistance with activities of daily living (ADL)

It is important to note that the numbers from the 2010 Census in America represent only those people who have self-identified as experiencing a form of disability. The fact remains that many people choose not to disclose whether they experience a disability or not. A number of people represented through the numbers above are very intelligent and able, yet remain unemployed or underemployed and have no insurance or benefits. So the questions remains - what can we do as we work together to make a change in the numbers of people with disabilities who cannot find a job

Accommodation Practices in the Hiring Process

Employers in America continue to become more aware of the fact that in order to survive and prosper in a competitive economy they need to hire and retain the most talented employees they can. What this means is they need to reach out to all potential employees for the positions they have open - to include talented employees with disabilities. At the same time, new regulations are taking effect with Federal Executive Order 13548 - Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, as well as the potential changes for Federal Contractors in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' (OFCCP) Notice of Proposed Rule-making (NPRM) for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Due to these, employers are examining their processes, systems, and policies concerning recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing employees with disabilities. One of the main areas employers would be smart to review is their hiring processes.

The purpose of an employer's hiring process is to smoothly integrate new employees into their job positions as well as the culture of the company. If a company already has a hiring process, it is important to consider reasonable accommodation issues related to new employees with disabilities. It is also important to examine the processes a company uses and find out if it needs to incorporate some reasonable accommodation considerations.

One of the keys to success in any process, to include the accommodation process, is education and training of the people who are responsible for implementing the process to begin with. A company must be aware of who does things such as:

  • Providing reasonable accommodations
  • Setting up a new employee's workstation
  • Providing access to the facility or parking
  • Ensuring reasonable accommodations are in place on the employee's first day

Members of a company who will be involved in ensuring these are in place certainly include Human Resources staff, supervisors, and managers. Members of the company's Information Technology department and security department will also be involved. It is important for a company to remember to train the staff to be aware of the need and requirement to keep any and all medical information confidential.

Once the staff has been educated concerning the company's accommodation process related to new employees, it is important to ensure that new employees are aware of their ability to ask for an accommodation and whether or not they may need one. A number of new employees are aware of an accommodation they need to perform they job successfully and will opt to make a request for the accommodation. Other new employees might fear their job is in peril if they make an accommodation request and feel unsure about a need for an accommodation, or might not know how to ask for the accommodation they need. In order to overcome these issues, the person making the job offer may share information concerning the company's desire to facilitate a smooth transition and integration for the new employee, as well as explain different employment policies the company has, to include a policy for implementing reasonable accommodations.

The person who is responsible for responding to someone who has accepted a job offer should also be prepared to describe to the new employee the location of the office, as well as the type of equipment the company will provide. The descriptions do not need to be detailed, although they need to include information such as:

  • If an ID card is needed to access building
  • Whether there is a desk workstation or a cubicle environment
  • If a standard computer, telephone, and/or cell phone will be provided
  • Whether parking is provided onsite or if there is no parking at the site
  • If prior to start date forms need to be filled out online or if the person has to go to a location to obtain an ID

The person who is responding to the new employee should also provide any other relevant information and explain it, giving the new employee the chance for other possible needs to be addressed. Having this information enables new employees to consider whether or not they need to request a reasonable accommodation. Should a new employee request a reasonable accommodation, what might they request? A new employee may ask for reasonable accommodations such as:

  • Accessible parking
  • Access to website and online forms
  • The use of a service animal in the workplace
  • Emergency evacuation and shelter in place plan needs
  • Workspace modifications such as lighting, furniture, space, or noise abatement
  • Work or services-related assistance such as readers, sign language interpreters, or note takers
  • Building access such as keyless entry, access to break rooms, restrooms, exercise rooms, or accommodations with security issues
  • Access to communication and computer technologies such as input devices, screen magnification, screen reading software, smart phone or tablet applications, or telephone amplification

While not every one of these accommodations needs to be in place on an employee's first day of work, a level of awareness of the potential need, as well as a willingness to implement these accommodations as a part of a company's culture, will certainly assist any employer with successfully hiring new employees.

Decreasing Unemployment among People with Disabilities

America's economy has prompted the current Administration and Congress to pay attention to the unemployment rate as a whole and seek solutions to get Americans back to work. What is missing from nearly every major plan that has been presented is a comprehensive approach to the elimination of barriers for people with disabilities who greatly desire to find jobs. People with disabilities are ready to work and represent nearly 20% of the overall population in America. It seems obvious that there should be a meaningful national discussion occurring around the employment of people with disabilities; however, there is not.

What can be done about the unemployment rate of people with disabilities

There is a Presidential election coming up in a few weeks and it is a good idea to vote in this election. Voting for candidates who support reforms that will help people with disabilities to find meaningful employment is very important. You can also do your part to help make employment and economic equity for people with disabilities a part of the national discussion in America.

Politicians spend a vast amount of time attacking each other.

In this writer's opinion they are like dirty diapers. If they were serious about disability employment issues you would hear those politicians proposing solutions and plans, presenting these solutions and plans in speeches across America. The fact is - only a small number of this nation's leaders are pursuing the issue of unemployed people with disabilities seriously, something that is surprising considering the frenzy to create and fill jobs in America.

The issues of disability unemployment and underemployment simply must be part of the national discussion in order to mobilize the type of policy and legislative effort that is needed to move us beyond what is now the status quo. While employment is being talked about as a matter of national priority by nearly every politician in America, it is not being discussed to the same degree in relation to people with disabilities.

  • "No Discussion Related to Employment of People with Disabilities? Your Campaign is Falling on Deaf Ears."
  • "Attacking Each Other Instead of Discussing Disability Unemployment? Your Campaign is Like a Dirty Diaper."

Contact the candidates and elected officials and let them know that people with disabilities want jobs. Ask them to include disability employment issues and related commitments in their campaign speeches, their policies, as well as in proposed legislation. Encourage local media to cover disability issues. Use social media to get the word out to your networks. It is absolutely essential to remove barriers to the employment of people with disabilities if America is going to recover economically. We need to make employment of people with disabilities a part of the national political discourse and motivate and pressure our leaders to make reforms needed to put Americans with disabilities to work.

Citations and Resources:

Executive Order 13548 - Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities
www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-increasing-federal-employment-individuals-with-disabilities

Executive departments and agencies (agencies) must improve their efforts to employ workers with disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring, and retention of these individuals.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/faqs/Section503_NPRM_faq.htm

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to inform the public about proposed changes to the affirmative action requirements of 41 CFR part 60-741. The NPRM also updates the non-discrimination provisions of part 60-741 to include changes to the definition of "disability" required by the passage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008.

Americans with Disabilities: 2010
www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/sipp/disable10.html

Related Information:

  1. People with Disabilities - Work and Employment - Examines employment and work issues for persons with a disability including benefits of hiring people with disabilities and related information.
  2. USA Jobs for People with Disabilities and Veterans - The USA Jobs website is a place where people with disabilities and veterans can go in order to find employment with the federal government.
  3. Home Based Jobs for Persons with a Disability to Work from Home - Employment opportunities for people with disabilities seeking flexible jobs and hours to work from home including making money online.


Information from our Disability Employment: Information & Jobs for Persons with Disabilities section - (Full List).

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