Written by Robert D. Sollars
It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so I now ask you the question. Look at these three examples and see if you would take an application or even interview them for the job they’re applying for, no matter what that job may be:
1. An attractive older woman walks into your office and attempts to communicate with the receptionist. She talks; nearly garbled but understandable if you listen intently, and use sign language.
2. An older black man, with cornrows and a smile to light the night, comes into your building using a sighted guide to fill out an application
3. A pretty young woman approaches the reception desk using a white cane. She is both blind and deaf and begins using sign language to communicate.
Emphatically the immediate, and understandable, the answer would be no. But why wouldn’t you hire Marley Matlin, Stevie Wonder, or Helen Keller? More than likely their disabilities make it too difficult for you to handle in your business, because of innumerable reasons including you are just plain “too damned busy to be bothered with those problems”.
The next logical question is, could you find any business to hire them in the pessimistic and obstinate world we live & work in? Despite those cynical and gloomy words, not to mention that lip service is paid to nearly every agency about hiring the disabled and giving them a chance; Companies just don’t take those kinds of liability risks anymore. Because time is money, and a disabled person costs “more money than it’s worth to train and adapt for them”.
Should you even consider, and take the liability risk, of hiring a disabled person? Why shouldn’t you? A disabled person may not be able to move or work as fast as other employees, at least initially. We just have to take pains to do it our way. And doing it our way may not necessarily be standard or by corporate dogma, or even best practices by professional organizations, but disabled people do get the job done and more than likely…done right.
Do you have any jobs within your company that can be done safely by someone who is disabled? Do you take pains to ensure that you assign the right employee to the right job? Look at the jobs you have and then answer that honestly. I will be willing to say there are a few that they could do effectively and efficiently. Don’t think so?
Several months ago, in the National Federation of the Blind job listings, a post stated that most employers said they have no jobs for the disabled, this from a recruiter with a national organization. The point was made that most employers aren’t disabled and don’t know which jobs can be done by a disabled person. Why don’t they know? They aren’t disabled and have never looked at what one of us could do! Kinda short-sighted doncha think?
Misconceptions about disabled employees:
• You either give us our accommodations or we’ll sue you for discrimination!
• We’ll sue you for not getting the equipment we need quickly enough.
• Equipment costs too much to hire you.
• We’re too sensitive about our disability to discuss it, without complaining
• We’ll cause too many problems once we are hired
Is this saying that there aren’t people out there who do want to sue the company if you don’t spit on the griddle? Of course, there are, as with people with no disabilities. And the same holds true for the other issues I mentioned above. But HR should be able to weed them out fairly easily if they are experienced at probing questions.
What do we expect, as a disabled job seeker, from an employer?
• Computer, and other, programs that allow us to read, write, & correct documents
• Training on the software, hopefully, it’s compatible with screen reading software, we need to complete our assignments
• Keep aisles clear of items that will impede movement
• Close the drawers on filing cabinets so they are not standing open in an aisle
• Don’t allow items to hang off your desk that can be easily knocked off
• If you borrow something off of our desk, put it back in the same place, and please tell us you are doing so
• Let us know if your hands or arms are full when approaching you
• If you want to shake our hand, tell us yours is extended
• Just plain old common courtesy and professionalism
• Don’t be afraid to make jokes about disabilities unless you know for a fact it would offend us
The way to treat us while working:
We want to be treated…the exact same way you treat any other employee. By making unnecessary exceptions it can be embarrassing for us because we just want to blend in. We want to make the company effective, efficient, innovative, & profitable. If we need help, we’ll ask. If we need something, we’ll ask.
We won’t be rude, surly, cop an attitude, yell, scream, or anything like that just because we don’t get our way. Will we get angry and frustrated at times? Of course, we will, the same as any other employee does. Will we react with a violent outburst? Probably not, just like any other employee. Imagine that.
As we move further into the 21st century, let’s throw out the misconceptions about those of us with disabilities. Look at what we can accomplish, not what we can’t. What can we do to enhance the profitability, innovations, safety, and security of the company, its employees, and clients? If you don’t, you may lose out on a wealth of innovation, knowledge, skill, & experience.
If a severely crippled man walked into your business, needed help to walk & stand, smelled like cigarettes, and applied for a job, would you even interview them? If you didn’t know that person was Franklin Delano Roosevelt probably not, but knowing who he was you’d welcome him into the company with open arms. So why turn a disabled person away just because you see their disability and don’t know their knowledge, experience, & skills?
Since it’s NDEAM, I ask again…Would you hire these people?
It happens to Anyone…Any Time…Anywhere… For any Reason
I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear
Permission to share? Of course, with full attribution.
Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars
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