Disability Employment Policy — What Are We Missing?
Disability Employment Policy — What Are We Missing?

Categories: Education, Employment

By Guest Blogger Paul Hippolitus, Director, Disabled Students’ Program, Equity & Inclusion, University of California, Berkeley

Watch a YouTube video of Paul Hippolitus discussing UC Berkeley’s “Professional Development and Disability” course

As a longtime advocate and professional working in support of the employment of people with disabilities, I was very excited to recently report for work at the University of California, Berkeley — to have the privilege of assisting the University’s students with disabilities with both their education and career ambitions.  UC Berkeley has some of the “best and brightest” of our young people with disabilities, so helping them to achieve their career goals seemed to me to be the easiest assignment I would ever have.

During my first few weeks at Berkeley, I embarked on a quest to ask every student with a disability I met the question, “What’s your career goal?” I couldn’t wait to hear about their lofty goals, serious plans and impressive ambitions.

Much to my chagrin, the response I most often got (about 99 percent of the time) was the student casting their eyes to the ground and saying, ”I’m not sure, I guess I’ll go on to graduate schools; or, law school; or medical school.”

I was shocked. Our “best and brightest” were just as perplexed about their career potential as most people with disabilities.

It took several months before these students trusted me enough to tell me what they were really thinking when I had asked them my question. They candidly told me that they felt they had to stay in school as long as possible because they were afraid that when their school years ended, they would be forced to spend the rest of their lives at home, on disability benefits, watching TV, because they were sure no one would hire them.

Here I was among the highest achieving of our young people with disabilities, and they lacked a basic self-confidence about what they had to offer as productive workers. It was then I began to realize, if these students lacked self-confidence about their employment worth, surely most of our young people with disabilities must likewise doubt their employment potential.

Happily, it didn’t take much of an effort to begin to turn that lack of self-confidence around. All it took was me urging them to believe in themselves, to appreciate what they had to offer the world and to begin to teach them the knowledge they needed to get going.

Still, I wondered, why this was my experience, at this high level of academic achievement? Well, it starts with the parents, teachers, family and friends asking our young people with disabilities that empowering question, “What do you want to be when you grown-up?” While this vital question is regularly asked of our nondisabled youth, it’s too often avoided when talking with our young people with disabilities.

What kind of an impact or signal does this failure to ask such a question send to our youth with disabilities? I asked them and what they told me was it teaches them that parents, teachers, family and friends don’t expected them to work because of their disability.

So, nurturing these students’ self-confidence became my first task.  And it started by simply showing them there was at least one person who could see their employment potential.

Next, I began a paid work internship program for our students. After all, how can they compete for jobs upon graduation if they don’t keep-up with the nondisabled students who were participating in summer jobs and internships along the way?

Our new internship program was just the medicine they needed to feed their new found self-confidence. Working with the State of California Department of Rehabilitation, we were able to place many of our students with disabilities in internship or summer paid work experiences. This not only boosted the students’ self-confidence about their employment potential, it also gave them the added building blocks they needed to more successfully compete for jobs and careers upon graduation.

Our quest for summer jobs and internships created a new “sense of possibility” among our students and changed the whole campus climate. Our students began encouraging each other to seek internships. An excitement began to build around each student’s search. The students began to help each other with their internship possibilities by freely sharing internship placement information and experiences.

Still, as we move forward, one more step was clearly needed. And, it turned out to be the most important one.

After self-confidence and work experiences or paid internships, it was clear to me that there was a serious gap in the students’ knowledge about the world of work. Having never been there or educated about what the world of work expects of them, they were both unsure and ill prepared for the transition. So, this was one more piece of the puzzle needed before our program would become complete. This next component of our program was a response to the reality that the world of work is, quite literally, a new and unknown world to the uninitiated. So, if you have never experienced the workplace (internships help, but not completely) how can you expected to know the intricacies of work place culture, values and “rules of the road”, unless someone teaches you them?  If you’re not informed on these subjects, you’re more likely to make critical mistakes which can keep you from getting a job, much less sustaining a career. Since school is a great place to teach new knowledge, I started a course called, “Professional Development and Disability”. This course was designed to document and teach our students this important information.

There are numerous other school based efforts designed to teach students with disabilities information about the world of work. However, as valuable as they are, they’re rarely complete. Most often, they teach skills around “how to” look for work, prepare a resume and perform in that all important interview.  These are important skills; however, real success in getting and holding a job is knowing and understanding the deeper subtleties of the work place.

Our “Professional Development and Disability” course goes into depth on these additional considerations. It challenges the students to conceptualize how to best present themselves and their disabilities; it helps them to understand how to disarm and education employers and co-workers about their disabilities; to better understand workplace culture and values; to develop effective work place habits and practices; and to learn how to navigate disability employment considerations (accommodations, disincentives, laws and related emotional considerations).

The “Professional Development and Disability” course has helped our students; however, I am convinced that it can likewise help other young people with disabilities who are still in school, people who have recently acquired disabilities and those individuals with disabilities who have never worked before and are now considering entering the workforce.

Remember, such a course of instruction is but one of several important components needed to help make employment possible. Even so, it may be the most over looked one in our disability employment policy.

For the most part, over the years, disability employment policy has overlooked the idea of “product development”. We ask employers to hire, but we don’t spend enough time teaching applicants with disabilities how to “market” themselves effectively. One without the other is an incomplete equation.

In the words of our students in this course, “the best form of disability advocacy is your career”.

For more information:

Paul Hippolitus is the Director of the Disabled Students’ Program at the University of California, Berkeley, which was recently named one of the top five universities serving students with disabilities in the United States. The Disabled Students’ Program provides legally mandated classroom accommodations to over 1,200 students with disabilities and was one of the first of its kind in the country. Paul also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living and the World Institute for Disability.

42 Responses to Disability Employment Policy — What Are We Missing?

  1. Andi G., invisible illness says:

    I’m kind of on the flip side of this blog’s purpose. I worked over 20 years, progressing in my career very well. I enjoyed my work, helping people and enjoyed my life. Unfortunately, over a course of a few years, I became disabled due to injuries and lack of diagnosis. Then because of stigmas and other problems including a late diagnosis, it was too late for any kind of help from SSDI or SSI (my husband makes a bit above poverty for 3). Why can’t I be assisted without my husband, since I put him through school and worked many years? I cannot get any assistance at all, though I really want a career! I do not want to be disabled, but I am. I have a mind that works fine although medications cause some problems in long term retainment of new things. y body won’t allow me to get around very much, though I refuse to use the wheelchair though it is painful beyone belief. My former career did not allow me to work at home and there is no telecommuting I feel I’m trapped in my own home, not being able to drive, work, get around on my own, etc. I would love to go back to school to learn something I could put to use to be able to “find” a new career. Unfortunately, my needs are such that I must work at home at my own pace and level of ability (which changes constantly).

    I’ve been in touch with every agency and no one seems able to help my particular situation. I have a husband and child and now I am over age 50, which only causes more difficulty. I did try distance learning with open ended courses and it took me over 5 months for one course. I finished a 6 month course (in 2 years) with certificate that means nothing to a career for me. That will not get me anywhere as time is shorter the older one gets. To accomodate me is to ask someone to do far too much.

    I have a severe spinal problem that will only get worse, I spend much of my time in bed. I have vertigo and cannot read or type well anymore. When I am able to get around, medications fog my mind which is difficult for me. I want something more than this. I want to contribute to life. My desires for being my own person, independent, and contributing to my family life as well as the world, as I once used to do —- seems like something so far away and totally unreachable.

    Any suggestions? Thank you for your article. I’m so glad there are people that are solving problems for the younger people who are disabled and coming out of college. Thank you for helping them. You are doing a great service.

  2. Nadia says:

    Paul, I have to disagree a bit with this. I have been told I am able to amount to things, but then get torn down. The hardest part is places like MCB require you go to college full time in order to get help, but I first need to find out what I can do that I would enjoy. The biggest problem when I have been applying for jobs is how you go about telling people what you have and what you need without sounding “over demanding”. Along with that, I am lacking the legal knowledge to know what they are allowed to do or not, that is the gap that is missing for me. Is there anyway I can access these courses? My SSI has been rejected. It has been a year now and they say I can work but with all the costs, I need good medical, as for an eye appt. I would have to pay $500 a time and I simply do not have the cash, as for all these courses there is too much money that I do not have at this point and I would like to fix some of the gaps of what I am missing. Ideas?

  3. Ken H. says:

    I am disabled, and receiving SSDI. I am also 62 years old. I would like to try to go back to school for a master in science. I recently graduated from a local college with a BS. I orginally got a BA back in ’74. Back a few years ago, I started on a program for another degree to see if I could do it. 2 courses short of graduating, I stopped due to severe depression and medical problems. I recently finished these courses, and was able to graduate just a few weeks ago. So now I have a BA and BS.

    My question is this. If I go back to school for a Masters, how does that affect my disability benefits? I wouldn’t finish until I am 65, most likely. I doubt that I can ever go back to work full time; it would be difficult to do it just part-time. What are your thoughts?

  4. BRIAN O. says:

    I WAS BORN WITH DISABILITIES SUCH THAT I COULD NOT SPEAK, SO MY PARENTS CONCENTRATED ON THAT FOR YEARS. IN THE MEANTIME, I NEVER GOT TO PICK UP THE BASICS OF VOCABULARY, PHONIX, OR HOW TO READ AND WRITE. I CAME FROM A VERY LARGE FAMILIY OF TEN AND WE WERE QUITE POOR. I ENDED UP WITH A CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION, WHICH BROUGHT ABOUT SO MUCH SHAME THAT I LEFT SCHOOL. I WAS NOT GOING TO ACCEPT A CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION JUST FOR PUTTING THE YEARS IN. I ENDED UP TURNING TO DRINKING BECAUSE I WAS SO EMBARASSED ABOUT MY NOT BEING ABLE TO READ AND WRITE. I TURNED INTO A REAL DRUNK WITH SEVERAL DUIs, ALWAYS GETTING INTO TROUBLE BECAUSE I WAS NOT ABLE TO DO ANYTHING. I EVEN TRIED TO SIGN UP FOR THE ARMY, BUT THEY WOULD NOT ACCEPT ME EITHER BECAUSE OF MY DISABILITY. ONE DAY I FOUND A FRIEND WHO TAUGHT ME HOW TO TIE REBAR AND I HAVE DONE THAT FOR THIRTY THREE YEARS. NOW I HAVE BEEN LAID OFF AND I AM TRYING TO GET UNEMPLOYMENT, BUT EVERYTHING IS COMPUTERIZED AND I CAN’T FIND ANYONE TO HELP ME. NOW THE MONSTER HAS COME BACK TO HAUNT ME AND I FEEL LIKE I MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP AND END MY LIFE. I NOW HAVE DIABETES, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME, ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION. YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE PAPERS FOR ME TO TAKE HOME AND LET MY WIFE FILL THEM OUT FOR ME. I AM NOT PHYSICALLY ABLE TO DO REBAR ANYMORE BECAUSE OF MY ILLNESSES, AND CRAMPS IN MY LEGS THAT MAKE ME SCREAM. BY THE WAY, I AM NOT TYPING THIS, MY WIFE IS. I WOULD ASK YOU TO RESPOND TO THIS AND TELL ME HOW I CAN APPLY FOR DISABILITY SINCE I AM COMPUTER ILLiTERATE. I CANNOT SPELL WORDS, NOR CAN I READ. I WILL BE LOOKING FOR SOME SUGGESTIONS OF WHERE I MUST TURN TO NOW. I HAVE A PSYCHIATRIST THAT IS WILLING TO CONFIRM ALL OF THIS, IF THAT WOULD BE OF ANY HELP TO ME. I AM TERRORFIED AND HAVE BEEN SINCE I LEFT SCHOOL BECAUSE ALL THEY DID WAS BABYSIT ME FOR FOUR YEARS AND THEN I GOT A CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION, WHICH ALLOWS ME TO DO NOTHING. I AM REACHING OUT FOR HELP WITH MY DISABILITY BECAUSE NO ONE IS GOING TO HIRE ME WHEN I CANNOT READ OR SPELL. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO MY STORY. BRIAN O.

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your email. You have a couple of options. Your wife or a friend can help you to apply for disability online, or you can call SSA’s toll free number – 1-800-772-1213 (1-800-325-0778/TTY) to find out about other ways to apply (representatives are available Monday – Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.). One way is to go to your local Social Security office to apply. You can find contact information for your local SSA office by going to https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp. In addition, you can call your state’s 2-1-1 line to find out about other services that might be available to you. Simply pick up your phone and dial 2-1-1.

  5. Jenn says:

    The community college where I earned my associates in paralegal studies after finishing the Fall 2011 semester has a “disabled student program and services” office. The problem is that all of the various assistance and supports they offer in reality, as opposed to what is implied and/or referenced in official school catalogs/documentation/policy write-ups on the school’s willingness to admit and accommodate individuals with disabilities, are sorely lacking for those such as myself who fall under the generalized ‘psychological’ disabilities.

    When I was first formally diagnosed back in 2000, the therapist I’d been going to off and on for the previous 7 years – give or take – said that where college and career were concerned I needed to reassess my goals and “aim low”. It took me YEARS to quit thinking exactly that – that I needed to ‘aim low’, as she had put it – and then I had to go about undoing the damage that my thinking in such a manner had caused me to do to my life. She may have been the one who said “aim low”, but I was the one who did the rest; after completing 30+ units of general education coursework, before that I turned around and spent a couple years dropping all the classes I enrolled in – some I didn’t drop before the deadline and others I just didn’t do well in so I earned a D or F; I started using drugs for a time and had to find my way out of that mess, which I did but still know that for the rest of my life no matter how long its been since I’ve used – I’m simply in recovery; I was essentially my own worst enemy.

    I don’t blame others or myself for my having a mental illness – genetics are always a matter of odds everyone is dealt – it simply *is*, though I can’t say that I’ve never experienced having others distancing themselves or even getting angry over my condition’s mere existence. Like I chose to have it, or haven’t done everything available and advised by the current medical guidelines/experts/research in order to try and minimize the symptoms. I am lucky enough to have parents who are in a position to pay the expense so that I can see a specialist that my medicaid benefits wouldn’t cover – medicaid doesn’t cover much of anything these days, but if I didn’t have them then I’d also have three $600+ per 30 day supply prescriptions to find a way to cover financially, or go without – and that’s always yielded such *great* results (not).

    I have goals and the self-confidence that comes from doing all the wrong things first until finding oneself and the ‘right way’ is all that’s left by process of elimination. The difficulty is in finding other people willing to facilitate in reaching my goals or just willing to take a chance on hiring me.

  6. Bonnie says:

    Having been a student in this course when it first began, I cannot emphasize enough how powerful of an experience it was, and how much of a difference we could make if similar courses were being taught on a national scale. Not only did I learn about disability-related laws, the ins and outs of benefits and strategies for disclosing my disability in an interview, but for the first time since becoming disabled I had the opportunity to learn alongside other students with disabilities and meet young professionals with disabilities who became my role models. This course opened up a whole new realm of possibility for me, helping me to understand both my identity and my potential, and allowing me to connect with a community that became family.

    • Paul H. says:

      Thanks! This is the kind of talent we can unleash with similiar instructional programs elsewhere.

    • Paul H. says:

      This is the kind of talent a course like ours unleashes! Thank Bonnie.

  7. Virginia J. says:

    As a disabled person with bipolar disorder, there is a double-whammy going on for me and those like me that has nothing to do with stigma. (Pardon my disuse of the politically correct “person with disabilities” phrase: I use what makes a sentence easy, and you know what I mean. Saying it a different way doesn’t change my societal and economical status.) I am a member of the Louisville, KY affiliate of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and I have heard tales of new members who have gone from well-paid, responsible jobs– executives, sales, dental, etc.– to subsisting on the small benefits that Social Security and SSI offer. Not a one of us is uneducated or unsavvy, yet our disability has taken us from often middle middle class to lower lower class with nothing to do, too much time on our hands, and an inability to change our situation because the effects of our illness often lead to being fired from jobs. I think I can say I have been fired more times than Lee Iacoca due to symptoms of bipolar, yet I have two degrees: a B.S. in Zoology, and an M.A.T. in Natural Sciences. I adore science.

    If you saw me in person, you would not see a broken, beaten-down person who had no ambition. My parents were both college grads, and they encouraged my sisters and me to do the best we could in the areas we liked. We expected to get jobs in the areas we trained for.

    At no time have I ever been employed to my educational potential. That is due to the devastating economic environment of the 1980′s from which our nation never recovered. In 1982, you could not even buy a burger-slinging job if you were a Ph.D. and when I graduated and looked for a job in 1986, no one was hiring biologists. After working at many different jobs, I ended up diagnosed as bipolar, and my education has no chance whatsoever to compete with the students that come out of colleges today. And stigma of mental illness does not help.

    Retraining is not the problem. Why should a person with two degrees –who has proved herself in her employment– be required or encouraged to return to college when it will never pay for itself anyway? Vocational Rehab personnel looked at my resume, and they said, “We can’t help you.” That meant that they had no way of getting me a well-paid job that will fit my education level, needs, and accommodations.

    My accommodations are not physical like a paraplegic’s or a deaf person’s. Mine is management – and environment-related: mental illness sensitivity awareness, awareness of the limits of my capacity for thinking and acting in certain ways (but I’ve learned a lot about harnessing that), following up with my work), and not taking me to task for mistakes I have made (some that I was not even aware of–that’s a whole story in itself), but to work out how to continue on to accomplish what is necessary. And working in a quiet environment. I have found very few people who are willing to do that. And they are my church fellows and friends.

    It might be considered very difficult to accommodate a person with mental illness. For me, there’s a lot of forgetfulness that I have to manage. Sometimes I’ll write down something that was said the first time when plans were changed to the second thing, and I can swear to you that the first one was what was agreed upon. I can get easily overwhelmed by tasks, and that is managed by shaving off workloads that were incidental to the main work I do. In other words, not saying, “Can you do just one more little thing for me?” Also my boss and my co-workers need to be aware of my limitations, and I must have a relationship with them in which they are sensitive to changes in my behavior–for behavior is the only way I know my brain hurts–and sometimes I don’t see it. And they have to be willing to work with me to make my workload reasonable.

    These are things that need to be considered when helping mental health consumers find a career. It’s way beyond cheering them on and saying, “You can do it!” though that definitely helps. It is a chemical problem in the brain, not a matter of will. Acknowledging the needs of the mental health consumer is an empowering thing, and willingness to work through, around, or with these quirks and limitations that come with the condition: that’s the best thing you can do as you help them reach their goals.

    Personally, I want to be an astronaut and put some of this biology, chemistry, and physics I learned to good use. Tell me how I can put together my resume so that my large gap in employment won’t devastate my application for being an astronaut, and that will help me. That’s what NASA wants: scientists and researchers. Particular techniques I can learn easily, and journal articles are easy for me. Science and writing are my passions, and I yearn to use them professionally in a dignified way to earn a decent living.

    I keep trying. And I know you do too.

    • Paul H. says:

      Thank you for sharing your journey. I have nothing to add except my admiration for your perseverance. I have to believe it will pay-off someday soon. Keep trying! About gaps in your resume… some stratgies are to use a functional resume rather than a chronological one (the latter highlights these gaps). And, when questioned about gaps, remember that honesty and integrity are THE most valued attributes by an employer. So, tell your story.

  8. Bob S. says:

    As someone with significant Cerebral Palsy, the key to my successful thirty year career in California government was over-education. My PhD opened many doors that would have otherwise remained shut. For every job that I obtained, I was the only candidate with a PhD. I talk about this technique in my autobiography which you can download free at http://www.drbobsautobiography.org.

    Bob S.

    • Paul H. says:

      Good point! I’m only sorry it’s so. My blog only focuses on “professional devleopment”. I recognize this subject is not a panacea; however, it IS a missing piece of the puzzle that we’ve overlooked for too long.

  9. JANET M. says:

    Hello…I have a question. I have had a Hair Salon in my home for 33 years. I don’t work as much as I use to. I’m in remission from Nonhodgkins lymphoma and the chemo damaged my heart and paralyzed the left diaphragm. My breathing is terrible. I am managing Congestive Heart failure…I only had it once. I am on a nebalizer, Spiriva and pills for my heart. I want to continue working in my shop. I’m 61 and I’ll be 62 in March. Do I wait to file for Social Security at 62 or file now and try for Disability? I need to work…I have no money to survive otherwise. Thanks! Janet

    • Megan says:

      At 62, you would have to take early retirement SSA benefits, that affects what you receive for the rest of your life. If you have a medically documented condition (that will last for at least 12 months or end in death) that is impairing your work and prevents you from earning more than $1010/month, you could be eligible for disability benefits and may want to apply. There is no cost to apply other than some paperwork to complete and some time spent on the process.

    • Corrine says:

      Hi Janet!

      You can try for Disability now. You will actually receive close to what your retirement amount would be at the age of 65 compared to a lesser retirement amount for filing early retirement. I hope this is of help. If you have any questions, you can email me at aimpc@abilitiesinmotion.org.
      Corrine

    • Paul H. says:

      You questions are beyond my ability to respond. Have you contacted the Social Security Administration to discuss your situation with them? Or, is there an Indpendent Living Center near you whom you might call? And, lastly, if you’re perplexed about how to continue working because of your disability, have you called JAN (1-800-JAN-7234) to inquire about possible accommodation strategies?

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Janet,

      The Social Security expert on our team recommends taking a look at http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/2031/~/applying-for-disability-benefits-while-working and http://www.ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify.htm for more information.

      He says as long as you meet the medical requirements, it probably does make sense for you to file an application for Social Security disability benefits. If the disability application is approved, the amount you would get each month could be more than what you’d get if you took early retirement.

  10. Grace says:

    Are the lectures on YouTube? I would love to see these.

    • Paul H. says:

      No they are not on YouTube. I began the course fall of 2011 and taught it again this spring. This summer I plan to prepare a manuscript outling the course’s content. When ready, I let everyone know.

  11. Dean Westwood MSW says:

    When my colleague from our AAEO office forwarded this to me, I thought- “this sound like my AbleCorps program” a non-profit program to place interns with disabilities based on their skills as an asset, with real expectations, in real work environments – then teach them how to maintain, sustain, and yes, even THRIVE in a work-place environment.

    I started planning for it 4 years ago, got a planning grant from AmeriCorps for it then no funding to implement the program.

    This is our program in action and we can’t get our state VR system to support it, and it actually works!

    Here is a link to our program – if you are aware of funding sources please feel free to share. Or if you want us to come and share how we started it, please contact us

    http://cvision.org/programs/ablecorps/

    Thanks

    Dean
    Director, AbhleCorps

    • Paul H. says:

      I looked at your website. I hope others reading this blog will do as well. Do you teach your participants “professional development” skills? Such as: marketing yourself; personality & self-confidence; effective communications; art of bragging; how to listen; how to be professional at ALL times; teamwork; leadership; and, much more? In the end, when the door shuts on an interview, these are the personal/professional skills which will determine whether or not the person will get the job.

      • Dean Westwood MSW says:

        Hello Paul-

        Thanks for the recommendation. The short answer is “not completely”. However, as a result of reading your blog my team and I met today to discuss revising our training. We are going to add more of those soft skills. We’d love an opportunity to discuss and pick your brain a bit. Might you have time for a chat?

        I look forward to hearing back.

        Dean

  12. Janet L. says:

    I run into issues because i have an invisible disability of Depression, ADHD & Dyslexia. Employers do not know or have guidelines on how to deal with people like me, including the stigma associated with MH issues.

    • Paul H. says:

      Stigma can be moderated (often, not always) with confidence and pride. In other words, show potential employers your best and authentic self — project confidence and commitment. These are the traits that change minds. For ideas on how to do this, read Peggy Klaus’ books on Soft Skills and the Art of Bragging. She’s the best!

  13. Fawn P. says:

    I do hope that those that have so much to give will be included by the paridiam shift of society and the avenues to help them get to their paticular gifted areas.

    • Paul H. says:

      I agree. In fact, one of our themes in our course is to teach that “disability is an asset” to be valued by an employer (added learning experiences as well as ability to represent a market segment that often gets overlooked). On this last point, we make sure our sudents learn how to represent this market segment.

  14. Larry M. says:

    This sounds FANTASTIC!!! More education is needed not only on how people with disabilities get and keep jobs but, also on a more personal and friendship and personal happiness. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and enjoy sharing my experiences with younger adults with disabilities. I am 52 years old and have a wealth of knowledge– I would like to believe– to share.

  15. Steven M. says:

    My son is receiving just the opposite from his college. They do not want to give him the accommodations he needs to offset his disabilities. They even charged him money to provide one accommodation! It seems that they do not want a student that is “different” from their other students. We are frustrated and do not know who to turn to for help.

    Thanks for listening,

    Steve

    • Paul H. says:

      Contact your region’s Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Depatment of Education and file a compliant. They deserve one.

  16. Angelia says:

    Thank you for the wealth of information that I can use in coaching our HR team on employment of individuals with disabilities.

  17. Larry R. says:

    This is a great article about a great program, but as a person with disabilities and a private sector business person that has consulted and trained on the topic of disability and employment for over forty-five years, I think there is one other program element that is needed. The program gives people internships, which is excellent and lots of good information. What is missing is connecting students to relationships with role model/mentors with disabilities that are working successfully in the private sector. Role models are one of the most important forces (they may be the most important force) in career planning and in world of work access, but people with disabilities often don’t have them. If you don’t experience people that look like you doing what is talked about it often sounds like theory that applies to other people but not you. Working mentors with disabilities will ultimately be the best teachers. Disability employment programs and most other programs serving people with barriers to employment are typically information heavy and role model light when they should be the other way around in my opinion. This is a great program that could be even more successful with a well designed mentoring component.

    • Paul H. says:

      I agree. Role models are vital. In our case, our older students who have had internship, assist and mentor the younger ones. Plus, we have recent alumni who are working come back and share and discuss what they’ve learned. We need to do more mentoring. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Jeanette R. says:

        I concur with you both, mentors are an important part of the process. We work with private companies to do on-site Disability Mentoring Days. It has been very successful and has resulted in several of our students with disabilities obtaining internships and future employment with the companies. We’ve found it to be educational not only for the student but also the company since many of the mentor’s do not have disabilities and are often impressed by the students we send to them.

        Paul, you stated that numerous school-based programs only teach students with disabilities about “how to” look for work, prepare a resume, etc. I agree that this is not enough, and although much of what my program does is the “how to” parts; I would like to incorporate more on the professional development side. I’m wondering if you would be willing to share you syllabus with me? You can email me at jrichards@mail.sdsu.edu.

        Thanks,

        Jeanette Richards
        WorkAbility IV Coordinator
        San Diego State University

  18. Christie J. F. says:

    I think this article was about the new course Professional Development and Disability and not Disability Employment Policy as the title suggests.

    ALL students are afraid they won’t have a job and would be forced to spend the rest of their lives at home, living off their parents, and bored as heck. When we were kids we went to the playground to learn activities, to the pool to learn to swim and to first aid class, sewing and cooking classes, and we puttered in the garden and learned the basics of survival. Today none of the kids know how to do those things. And, back in high school we learned there were only 3 careers we could do: teaching, nursing, or the military. Times have changed….or have they really? I saw on tv that school counselors, college counselors, are way too busy to help students with what they need, and no one talked about the personality/career free tests the community colleges used to get so see (to start out only) what they are good at.

    You said the disabled students were sure no one would hire them, yet it’s illegal for a temp employment agency to find jobs for a person for a fee (it used to be legal and a great thing for those who struggled to find work or who were shy). Employment agencies have told me that they hire “according to what the employer wants, and if the employer doesn’t want someone over 50 or disabled then we don’t send those potential employees to them”. THE LAW ABOUT TEMP AGENCIES NOT BEING ABLE TO GET PAID TO FIND SOMEONE A JOB NEEDS TO BE CHANGED NATIONWIDE.

    The other thing is that the economy (and economy in certain states like CA, FL, etc.) is bad, and there are 1,500 to 2,000 people applying for every job. Can disabled people accept rejection like that and still move forward, or open their own business if they get discouraged?

    There’s still the matter that the government dunns a person if they are disabled and work. The disabled person who gets little in benefits, well if they have to work they get their benefits in part taken from them. THIS NEEDS TO BE CHANGED TO BE ABLE TO GET THE DISABLED WORKING.

    I don’t think disabled people lacked self-confidence about employment, they merely haven’t been out in a crowd, plus they are always talking about their disabiity. This talking about their disability will never end, and it holds them back So working at home could be a great answer. Today MANY, MANY people who are not disabled do work at home, so what’s wrong with working at home? So, don’t do a lot of patting yourself on the back because “Happily, it didn’t take much of an effort to begin to turn that lack of self-confidence around.”

    “What they told me was it teaches them that parents, teachers, family and friends don’t expected them to work because of their disability.” And that’s because they are instructed NOT to lose their benefits. Benefits are steady. Work is not. And, once they lose those benefits it’s a super fight with the government to get them back.

    • Frustrated says:

      To the lady who wants us to work at home, in some instances that’s nice but that further cuts us off from society.

      Nowhere did he say only disabled kids are worried about holding jobs, but if you think its hard for non-disabled, imagine how much harder it gets when you have multiple disabilities to constantly hurdle.

      I am expected by all to work, but companies want me to work elsewhere, sure I belong somewhere else similar, just not with them.

      It is true that its easier to bolster self confidence on the surface for short term use and deep down confidence will only come from successes and consistency in them in terms of thriving at work home and socially. But it is a huge deal to me at least when surrounded by others who see value added by me.

      I would like to see his course.

      And its true in my case, I’m very good at landing jobs, my resume is great, my work output is great. Fitting in with hidden disabilities is my problem at work, not the rest of the stuff. And peers and coworkers opinions matter far more than family. Can’t choose family, can choose what company you join. Though once choosing one where you are abused it’s hard to fix and leave. But that’s another story.

    • Paul H. says:

      You offer many important points! You comments about benefits is so true (unfortunately).

  19. Ron R. says:

    Excellent article! However, consider changing the name “Disabled Students’ Program” to “Students with Disabilities Program”…. your conjecture that these students can, and want to work and have careers is a clear indication that they are not “disabled.”

    Thank you,
    Ron R.

    • Paul H. says:

      I agree! When I came to work here, my first objective was to change our program’s name — to make it more contemporary.
      However, when I suggested doing so, the students objected. Why? Because of the disability history surrounding the programs genisis. Ed Roberts coined the name; and, in honor of his legacy, our students talked me into keep it.