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In episode 39 of “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast,” JoDee and Susan discuss how to recruit and retain people with disabilities with Angie Vandersteen of Tangram Business Resourcing. Topics include how to start a disability inclusion program, how to educate staff members to ensure a welcoming workplace, and where to find candidates with disabilities. Theresa Koleszar from Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation calls in to explain how state vocational rehab services work.
Disabilities affect a lot more people than you might think. There are 56 million people with disabilities in the United States, and 30% of families have at least one member with a disability. Unfortunately, though, only 20% of people with disabilities are employed.
We tend to separate disabilities and medical conditions in our minds, when in reality, anything medical, neurological, or intellectual in nature that impairs how you live your life and your ability to be fully independent in daily activities is a disability. There’s also a misconception that accommodations for disabilities are always expensive; it could be something as simple as medical gloves or changing the setup of a room.
It’s important to start your disability inclusion initiative at the top and have that leadership buy-in. Any major program that a company starts is announced by someone c-suite, not in a memo from your immediate supervisor, and that’s why people take it as seriously as they do. Find their connection to the disability community, because a lot of them have one and just may not be connecting it to the workplace. If they don’t, share your personal experience with them, or bring research on why you want to try it in your department. Before you start the program, it’s crucial to do a deep audit of your culture to make sure it’s inviting; if you find out it’s not, then figure out what you need to do to get your culture where it needs to be first.
There are lots of places to find candidates with disabilities, like state vocational rehabilitation departments, universities and high schools, parent organizations and support groups, church and religious organizations. Everyone involved, particularly people who will be managing the staff you’re bringing in, should be required to go through disability awareness and etiquette training, and the training should become part of your culture, your annual training programs, and onboarding. And make sure anyone in the hiring process is trained on how to hire and interview people with disabilities.
Every state has vocational rehabilitation services; the program’s mission is to assist job seekers who happen to have disabilities to achieve their employment goals. Services include (but aren’t limited to) vocational counseling and guidance, supported employment services, rehabilitation technology, and job readiness training. Theresa Koleszar of Indiana’s VR program shares her advice on getting started with a disability inclusive workplace: Just start somewhere. You never know where one small step might lead!
Get in touch with Indiana State Vocational Rehabilitation:
Kristina Blankenship, Director of Business and Community Engagement – (317) 650-9828
In this episode’s listener mail, Sarah in Maryland is getting ready to place a staff member on a written warning and wants to know what to do if the staff member refuses to sign it. JoDee and Susan discuss a bill at the New York City legislature that would give employees the “right to disconnect” from their employers.