The Foundation for Inclusion: The Interactive Process

Lou Orslene, Co-director, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

By Guest Blogger Lou Orslene, Co-director, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

I’ll start at the beginning. The foundation for an inclusive workplace is the reasonable accommodation process. Reasonable accommodation is a change in the workplace because of applicant or employee’s long standing disability, a new or progressive chronic health condition, a recent injury at work or off the job, a challenging pregnancy, or medical impairment. The essential underpinning for a successful accommodation is a robust interactive process. In order to build a structure, e.g. an inclusive workplace, you must have a blueprint. Follow me here – the blueprint provides an expeditious, consistent, and defensible model for everyone in their various roles to follow. This blueprint or model is also transparent to all, and, in light of the various risks, tolerates few deviations from the plan.

In my JAN experience now of almost 20 years, I find that far too many reasonable accommodation policies lack a blueprint. Hence, they are not actionable. Most provide the goal of equal opportunity for people with disability; many offer accommodations to applicants, new hires, and employees and provide an email address or an 800 number for people to call. But, few offer a comprehensive blueprint including a practical process containing all of the elements necessary for recruiters, hiring managers, supervisors, and human resource partners to know “what and when” to do when someone needs an accommodation or adjustment at work.

So let’s think of your accommodation policy and process as a blueprint. This blueprint provides the big picture as well as diagrams providing the detail necessary for people in various roles to reach that big picture goal – workplace inclusion. I suggest your blueprint include three primary diagrams representing three points in the employee life cycle. One would be for recruiters; one for hiring managers; and one for supervisors, HR partners, the Disability Coordinator, return-to-work specialist, workers compensation specialist, facilities manager (well you get the idea) and anyone else who you have found employees go to in order to request an accommodation.

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The CEED Project: The Potential of Entrepreneurship

Kate Caldwell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago

By Guest Blogger Kate Caldwell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago

What’s the difference between self-employment and entrepreneurship? It’s alright if you don’t know. Our research has found that there is a lot of misinformation about what exactly entrepreneurship is and how it differs from self-employment!

Entrepreneurship has such great potential as an employment strategy for people with disabilities. Indeed, entrepreneurship and self-employment are often used interchangeably in the disability context. We at The CEED Project created an infographic that is easy to share about some of the basics of disability-entrepreneurship.

Essentially, self-employment refers to creating a job for an individual with the goal of becoming financially self-sufficient.  In the business literature, it is meant as an alternative to salaried or wage employment. Entrepreneurship is meant to create a business that is profit- and growth-oriented. In this way, entrepreneurship results in both business and job creation not just for that individual, but with the possibility of hiring others in the future. While both self-employment and entrepreneurship are viable employment strategies, entrepreneurship is also an anti-poverty strategy. This is what gives entrepreneurship so much potential in addressing the problems of unemployment and underemployment facing people with disabilities. It also has the potential to shift our way of thinking about people with disabilities in employment: from seeing them not only as employees and passive recipients of services, but recognizing them as active participants, job creators, and possible employers. One of the most persistent barriers that people with disabilities encounter in employment is hiring discrimination. Consider the impact of entrepreneurship on how we think about inclusivity and workplace culture when people making the hiring decisions have a disability themselves!

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Tea Cures Captchas: Accessible Online Job Applications are More Than a Best Practice

Blogger Sassy Outwater

Editor’s note: This blog has been cross-posted from the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)

When I applied for my first job, I was handed a print application. As a blind freshman in college, I decided to brazen it out and not ask for help filling out private information in a waiting room full of strangers who were probably there wanting the same job. I scanned the application into my computer, and brought it back neatly typed. I never got called in for an interview though, perhaps because my typed application didn’t look like the handwritten ones.

Years later, I was at my favorite café, facing another job application. This time, however, the job had an online application. Most businesses had shifted to online applications, but I found that the majority of online applications were partially or completely inaccessible.

I spent 90 minutes and two large green jasmine teas filling out that application. I vacillated between disclosing my disability in my cover letter, or just waiting until I showed up for the interview to tell the employer I was blind. Finally, decisively, I put my blindness and the talents it had helped me cultivate into the skills column. After all, being blind means I have to be resourceful, innovative, diplomatic, adaptable, organized… and that’s just to get through filling out an online job application.

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Career Connection Series: I Am Getting Social Security Disability Benefits and Want to Work. How Do I Get Started?

The cover of the Social Security Administration's 2016 Red Book

By Guest Blogger Marsha V. Robinson-Vaden, Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support, Social Security Administration

If you are getting disability benefits and want to work, we have good news for you! Social Security’s work incentives and Ticket to Work programs can help you get started.

Special rules make it possible for people receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments. And, if you cannot continue to work because of your medical condition, your benefits can start again – you may not even have to file a new application.

Work incentives include:

  • Continued cash benefits for a period of time while you work;
  • Continued Medicare or Medicaid while you work; and
  • Help with education, training and rehabilitation to start a new line of work.

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Working from Home: An Inside Perspective

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

It is no secret that work-at-home jobs offer unique opportunities for job seekers with disabilities and other challenges. After all, it is an “accommodation-ready” environment with no travel or fashion costs.

That being said, it is still working at home and that can seem daunting. We asked two of our long-term work-at-home clients, Qiana from New York and Mary from Colorado, to answer a few important questions to get an insider’s perspective.

How did you handle the transition of going back to work and it being at home?

“The transition to work-at-home was a smooth one. It was actually the route that I wanted to take for a long time. I already had a home office set up. I just had to get a few items depending on the qualifications for different jobs.” (Qiana)

“I handled the transition very well. I had an office in my home already that I shared with my husband so it was perfect to make that mostly my own. I had always worked part-time in the past, so telling family and friends was not a big deal. They were all happy that I was working again.” (Mary)

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