June08,2016

Small Steps Essential in Returning to Work

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

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

One of the major hurdles of returning to work after a disability related absence is the mindset of “It will take too long to get from here to there,” or just simply not knowing where to start.

Small steps can help bring simplicity to the process of returning to work and not make it seem so daunting!

The first step is to become aware of the desire to work and why. Sure, there is always the need for money and paying bills, but desire is motivational. How can going back to work also help you as a person? What can working add to your life?

Those who have returned to work will tell you it was great to get out of the house and be around people again. Work at home employees will express gratitude for something to do in the house and have productivity and focus in their day. Most everyone who returns to work really likes meeting new people, whether working face to face or virtually. Working can be so much more to someone than just a paycheck!

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May27,2016

#InclusionWorks

One man and three women, one of whom is in a wheelchair, seated at a table and talking.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Blog.

I’ve worked in the disability employment policy arena for more than 20 years, and a lot has changed in this time. Looking back, the progress I’m most thrilled about isn’t just the policy action we’ve seen. Rather, it’s the significant shift in how we as a nation talk about disability and employment.

Today, disability has rightfully taken its place in the larger conversation about workplace diversity. Leading companies are now actively working to align diversity with their corporate brand, both internally and externally. This is because they know that inclusion works. They know that groups representing a range of perspectives outperform those with superior, but similar, skill sets. And they know that, as one of the nation’s largest minority groups, people with disabilities are an essential voice to have at the table.

Reflecting this perspective, #InclusionWorks will be the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2016.  NDEAM is a nationwide campaign that celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Although not observed until October, we announce the annual theme each spring to help with advance event planning.

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April29,2016

Autism and Access to the American Dream

Dr. Scott Michael Robertson, policy adviser in the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation to recognize World Autism Awareness Day 2016. This proclamation noted the importance of making sure autistic Americans have a chance put their talents and skills to work in good jobs. It also emphasized the need to “break down barriers to competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, including people with autism.”

This message aligns with ongoing work of the federal Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities managed by the Department of Labor. It also resonates with me personally because of barriers I faced as an autistic adult. I have experienced negative attitudes and persistent obstacles to career success that tested my resiliency and resolve.

Before starting college, I faced disbelief in my potential for academic success at school because of projections based on my IQ score rather than my aptitude. Undaunted, I earned an undergraduate degree with honors and completed graduate education. Yet I still faced challenges in developing my career because I lacked specialized supports and resources to address challenges unique to autism.

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April05,2016

Accessible Workplace Technology: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Meeting Stevie Wonder at CSUN in San Diego on March 23.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

Last week, I had a brush with a bona fide music legend — the great Stevie Wonder. Was I starstruck? Of course. I’ve long admired his musical accomplishments and advocacy for people with disabilities. His appearance at the Grammy Awards in February highlighted once again the need to improve accessible technology, particularly in the workplace.

What brought me, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other accessibility advocates together was the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. Commonly known as “CSUN” in honor of its sponsor, California State University, Northridge, the event is a who’s who of people leading the charge on accessible information and communications technology (known as ICT). I was honored to serve as this year’s keynote speaker, which gave me the chance to share why the Labor Department sees the need for accessible ICT in the workplace.

To put it simply, our commitment to accessible technology is about basic civil rights, as well as the collective productivity of America’s workforce. That’s because inaccessible technology — from websites, to software applications, to online job applications — is preventing many people with disabilities from doing their jobs effectively, or even applying for jobs in the first place.

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March25,2016

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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