Last month was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, NDEAM, which celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities along with educating the value of an inclusive workforce to include their skills and talents. The 2019 NDEAM theme emphasized the crucial role people with disabilities have in America’s economic success, especially today while historically low unemployment and competition are creating an increased demand for skilled talent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the current unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.
“Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.” Employers should be doing more to recruit and retain individuals with disabilities within their workplace.
disabilities and their contribution to the workforce but also emphasize the importance of inclusive policies and practices to ensure all individuals who want to work can and have access to services or support to enable them to do so. With continued advances in such supports, including accessible technology, it is now easier than ever for employers to hire people with disabilities in high-demand jobs.
Locally, there are organizations to assist individuals with disabilities with their employment search and support them and their employer once hired. These Employment Services organizations contract with the Department of Workforce Development’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, DVR, to support DVR’s job seekers.
Their goal is to support the job seeker toward their goal of competitive integrated employment. The goal each job seeker has and the skills and talent they have to offer employers in the community varies. From supporting individuals who have never worked and are looking for entry level, part time employment to individuals with advanced degrees who have a very specific skill set to offer. These employment service organizations also work with employers to customize their job descriptions to really enable a candidate to work at their best alongside their coworkers. There are no costs or fees for the employer to work with or hire an individual who is receiving support from these employment services organizations.
Once hired, they support the employee and employer to ensure a successful transition during initial months of employment. The support can vary based on the employee and employer — rom on-site training and coaching right alongside the newly hired employee to a consultant and support in other ways off site. These organizations support the employer to create supportive aides, assist in finding and setting up assistive technology or provide education to assist the employee and their coworkers in performing optimally.
What can employers do to capitalize on this dedicated pool of talent? Think differently and recruit differently. Employers looking to add talented individuals to their workplace can consult with employment consultants of the above described agencies. During the interview process, allow for a nontraditional interview process and allow the job seeker to express their talents and skills in other ways.
Then, once hired, important for all employees, not just individuals with disabilities, support them according to their needs and what will help them perform their best.
While National Disability Employment Awareness Month is behind us, we should strive daily to celebrate and recognize those employers who truly embrace an inclusive workforce by hiring and supporting individuals with disabilities
Here are some things you can do throughout the year”
• Review your company policies to ensure they have a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture. Employers can also create displays within their workplace to showcase this commitment.
• Establish an Employee Resource Group that offers employees to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds. If you already have one, remind employees about it.
• Train supervisors so they understand their role in fostering an inclusive environment. Review policies and the process of providing reasonable accommodations.
• Educate employees of disability etiquette and inclusion through company-wide lunch and learns or contact a local disability organization that offers workplace trainings to come in.
• Publish articles in companywide newsletters with topics to include the company’s commitment to an inclusive workplace, the process of requesting a reasonable accommodation or recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities.
• Participate in a mentoring day for youth or adults who have disabilities that allows them to come to your organization to learn about employment within your industry.
Mallory Cornelius is an employment consultant and the owner of DiverseAbility LLC