ears ago, after the ADA was passed and signed into law, I was recruited to work at a major national corporation as a Human Resources Specialist after having rolled into the SVP of Human Resources’ office to pitch an event sponsorship.
I developed training programs on the ADA Law and “disability etiquette” to encourage, educate, and create a comfortable environment for the organization’s disability targeted hiring efforts.
I trained mid to senior management on key aspects of the ADA Law, such as “reasonable accommodations,” writing accurate job descriptions, and how to provide the proper documentation for terminations. I covered everything from interviewing and hiring to managing and firing.
With October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I feel that this is the perfect time to get some things off my chest.
With my years of experience in training organizations and their management teams on ADA Law, I find it extremely disheartening that there has not been more advancement in workplace practices for the disabled. Here’s what I mean…
When it comes to hiring, there continues to be so much discomfort, and frankly, aversion towards disability. Far too many wonderfully qualified candidates are simply not able to get jobs. The statistics reflect this, with the unemployment rate of the disabled being consistently 75% for decades. The conversations I’ve had with disabled job seekers and hiring managers/business owners also reflects the very current aversion to hiring people with disabilities.
A woman I recently met at a business empowerment conference asked me, “Why would someone hire a candidate that costs extra money to accommodate and is a higher risk for potential lawsuits, when they could just hire someone without a disability?”
We had spent a good amount of time together during this conference, so she was comfortable enough to say that I, or someone like me, would not have been hired by her.
Society’s perception of disability, and the continued lack of public figures and representation in media and marketing, fuels the emotional barriers and aversion.
We are SO TIRED of begging others to see past our disabilities, educating them on why they should, and giving awards and accolades to those who do the ‘right thing’ and hire us ‘disabled employees’. If you really want to be cool and trendy, see beyond the stereotypes and fear, hire us, and don’t talk about it. Just do it.
We need the perception to start shifting in the right direction. We want to get that needle moving again. We need change, and we need it now.
To gain awareness of the employment issues facing the disabled, allow me to suggest a few NEW and EFFECTIVE ways you can continue to learn and grow this month, and every month.
Start understanding and supporting these movements by following these #hashtags.
We are not all offended by the word disabled. As a matter of fact, most of the disability advocacy community now embraces it. It’s no longer a “dirty” word for us. #SayTheWord is a trending hashtag thanks to Disability Rights Activist, Lawrence Carter-Long. Lawrence was recently interviewed by NPR, where she discussed unemployment rates for the disabled, and the discrimination that the disabled still face today. We don’t need to be “people first” anymore; we know we’re disabled people, and we aren’t afraid to say so. Our online magazine PUSHLiving.com fully embraces this, and we write using terms such as “disabled traveler” instead of the more cumbersome “traveler with disabilities.”
We don’t need or want to be the subject of your #InspirationPorn. A recent example I saw of this was a disability employment specialist, who is not disabled herself, shared an image on LinkedIn that she took covertly of a man in a wheelchair working at a local store. She posted his image with some “inspirational” message, and everyone commented about how wonderful it was that he was working and other infantilizing comments. He didn’t need or appreciate being pointed out and made a symbol of “feeling good for hiring a cripple.” The store was lucky to have him, and they didn’t need to be praised for hiring a perfectly capable employee. Follow this hashtag to learn more about why it’s so patronizing.
This is the same as ageism, only instead of age, it’s abilities. Just as ageism assumes greater value on someone who is younger, ableism assumes greater value on someone who doesn’t have a disability. Young and old should be treated equally, just as disabled and non-disabled should be treated equally.
A recent example of ableism I saw was a travel company advertising a luxurious tour for people with mobility disabilities, and they were barraged with comments that it “should be more affordable” because it was being marketed to people with disabilities. THIS is ableism. It is ABLEIST to assume no one with a disability could afford an exclusive, luxury travel experience. There are people without disabilities that can’t afford 4-star travel, yet no one says those tours are somehow morally wrong.
A few more examples of #Ableism…
Assuming a candidate cannot do a job due to a disability.
Thinking that someone is less happy because they can’t walk.
Feeling that someone’s life has less meaningful because of a lack of physical ability.
Again, these are commonly caused by the simple lack of experience most people have with disabled people. All it means is that you and society expect less of us, and unfortunately, that can influence our own self-image of what we can be or do, without us even realizing it.
This is the official hashtag of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Follow this hashtag during October to support and understand disability employment issues in America.
ALL YEAR LONG: Fight aversion by hiring the person who best fits the job. Talk about this at your company and in your professional circles and give qualified disabled employees an equal chance, you won’t regret it!
- Share stories in your company newsletter or social media that speak experience and wisdom on the issues above.
- Hire speakers with disabilities who don’t just speak on “overcoming their struggles”, but also on their expertise in non-disability subjects. PUSHLiving Advisors can help you find the right person for training and keynotes.
- Encourage your design teams and website developers to market using disability-inclusive imagery, like the stock photos found on PUSHLivingPhotos.com.
These actions will create a valuable message that we are also just part of the community in seamless, non-condescending, and practical ways that benefit businesses and societies overall. Expect the best, and hire the disabled applicant for no other reason than because you want your company to succeed and win.