Disability Connection Newsletter — May 2016
10 Things Employers Need to Know
- What Can YOU Do? The Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy that encourages employers and others to recognize the value and talent people with disabilities bring to the workplace. Through three video public service announcements (PSAs), including “Who I Am,” “Because,” and “I Can,” the CDE highlights the abilities of people with disabilities and celebrates role models in the disability community. The PSAs are available in Englishand Spanish. The CDE also offers toolkits with posters, discussion guides and other materials to complement each of these PSAs, all of which employers and community organizations can use to support the campaign. The CDE also plays a leading role in October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
- What Employers Need to Know about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers need to understand theirobligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a civil rights law that protects the rights of people with disabilities by ensuring they have equal access to all areas of public life, including employment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers several resources that explain employers’ responsibilities under the law, including “Employers and the ADA: Myths and Facts.” In addition,ADA.gov offers “Ten Employment Myths,” a video that addresses concerns expressed by employers that relate to the ADA. The ADA prohibits discriminatory practices against jobseekers and employees during the recruiting and hiring process, such as requiring them to disclose information about their disabilities or take a medical examination. For more information about topics such as disability discrimination and employment rights under the ADA, read Disability.gov’s Guide to Employment or visit the website of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employers can contact their ADA regional center if they have questions about the ADA or other disability employment laws.
- Opening Doors to Invite Talent. It’s important to make sure that your company’s doors are open to everyone, and there are many resources that can help businesses create recruiting and hiring practices that attract workers with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Guide, “Building an Inclusive Workplace,” is a good place to start. “Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining and Promoting People with Disabilities,” which was developed by the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class initiative, provides additional information. Using inaccessible information and communications technology during the recruiting and hiring process can create barriers to employment for people with disabilities. The National Business & Disability Council at The Viscardi Center warns that this may cause your company to miss out on highly qualified job candidates. The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)recently launched TalentWorks, a free online resource that helps HR professionals and employers ensure their eRecruiting technologies are accessible to all job seekers, including those with disabilities. A report released by PEAT, “Is HR Tech Hurting Your Bottom Line?,” highlights several common accessibility issues that job applicants with disabilities encounter. Help eliminate these types of barriers by using PEAT’s TalentWorks Resource Library.
- What’s a Reasonable Accommodation? Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” to job applicants or employees with disabilities unless providing such accommodations would cause undue hardship. According to the ADA National Network, “Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that an individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.” Find further guidance on providing accommodations in the “Employers’ Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act” from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN also has a Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) that is divided into disability-specific categories. Federal employers can learn about reasonable accommodation requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by reading the United States Access Board’s “Reasonable Accommodation Procedures Guide.”
- When an Employee Discloses Their Disability. Fostering a workplace environment that encourages people with disabilities to disclose information about their disability can be highly beneficial for both employers and employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s article, “Are Your Employees Comfortable Disclosing Disability?,” research shows that many people with disabilities worry about telling potential or current employers about their disability because they’re concerned that they may be discriminated against because of it. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers guidance and practical tips on strategies that encourage disclosure, such as providing disability diversity training for all staff and inviting employees to disclose through voluntary surveys. EARN also shares tips from employee diversity experts, focusing on the importance of “creating an environment where [employees] know diverse perspectives are valued.” The Conference Board’s new report, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Encouraging Employees with Disabilities to Self-Identify,” explains effective practices that employers can use to ensure employees feel comfortable sharing information about their disabilities.
- Disability Etiquette. Pop quiz! When you’re speaking with a person with a disability who’s using an interpreter, who do you focus on – the interpreter, or the person with whom you’re communicating? The answer, of course, is to speak directly to the person, not the interpreter. Disability etiquette is the respectful interaction with a person with a disability. In the workplace, it starts during the interview process. The main point to remember is that, “There’s no need to be awkward… It’s pretty easy, really. People with disabilities “are people first.” The United Spinal Association has a toolkit of things to consider for all types of disabilities. Read these “Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities” and other basic disability etiquette tips to learn more. Once an employer has mastered disability etiquette, a good next step is to providedisability awareness/etiquette training for their staff. This type of training can help employers, coworkers and supervisors of employees with disabilities learn how to interact with the employee.
- Providing a Workplace Free of Discrimination. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to make sure youremployees are treated equally and fairly in the workplace. It’s just good business practice. Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee with a disability unfairly. This might include all aspects of employment, from hiring to firing, pay, job assignments, promotions and more. Employees with disabilities must be paid without discrimination on the basis of disability. These employees must also be offeredreasonable accommodations under the ADA. Pregnant women experiencing a temporary disability must also be treated in the same way as other employees with disabilities. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, an employer can’t discriminate against a person 40 years of age or older. Another type of discrimination is harassment, which is also prohibited under the ADA and other laws. Learn about thebenefits of using mediation to solve employment discrimination complaints.
- Connecting Students with Disabilities & Employers. The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects college students and recent graduates with disabilities with federal government employers nationwide for internships or permanent employment. Federal government employers can access a database of thousands of candidates with disabilities from more than 270 colleges and universities across the country. Employers in the federal government can request a password to gain access to the WRP database. Private sector employers can use the WRP through WRP.jobs. This collaboration between EARN, the organization that administers the WRP program for non-federal positions, and DirectEmployers allows private sector employers to post jobs that can only be seen by pre-screened WRP candidates. Applicants are talented and highly-motivated postsecondary students and recent college graduates actively looking for employment. Watch videos about the program orcontact EARN to learn more.
- What Are Disability Resource Groups? Creating a disability resource group (DRG), a subgroup of an employee resource group (ERG), in the workplace is an excellent way to build awareness of people with disabilities and their abilities and needs in the workplace. DRGs discuss workplace accessibility and its impact on business goals and objectives and can serve as a networking group for employees with disabilities. In order to create an effective DRG, it’s important to choose someone to be a sponsor or leader of the group. This leader can help pinpoint the group’s business goals and create relationships with CEOs and other higher-ups in the company. DRGs can also improve work-ethic and productivity. Research has shown that the inclusion of DRGs in the workplace leads to an increase in overall employee satisfaction, commitment and productivity. With so much diversity in the workforce today, ERGs and DRGs have become an important part of the workplace. They can be used to highlightspecific barriers that certain groups of employees are facing and serve as a way to collaborate to eliminate those barriers. There are certain steps that can be taken during the creation and implementation of DRGs. Today, many companies such as Microsoft have extensive ERGs that focus on accessibility in the workplace.
- Creating Accessible Workplaces. Under the ADA, workplaces must meet accessibility standards in order for the environment to be considered equally accessible for all employees. An accessible work environment must bephysically, technologically and attitudinally accessible. Conference rooms, elevators, stairwells, entrances, emergency exits, desks and personal work spaces must be easily accessible to all employees regardless of ability. Accessible technology can include things like accessible photo copiers, touch screens and other office equipment. Attitudinal accessibility encompasses people’s attitudes and perceptions in the workplace. There are numerous “attitudinal barriers” that can inhibit productivity. These include treating someone with disabilities as inferior, considering a person with a disability who’s living independently to be “special,” dismissing an employee with disabilities as incapable or failing to take into consideration the needs of people who have disabilities that aren’t visible.
For more information, read Disability.gov’s page, “Where Can Employers Find Help Recruiting and Hiring People with Disabilities?” Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #DisabilityConnection to talk to us about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts in the community.
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