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Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: February 10, 2020

By Workplace Initiative
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Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion (DI) in the workforce—and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

What’s reported: Almost all of the employees at Englewood, Colorado, craft beer pub Brewability are people with disabilities, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some have Down syndrome, while others are people with autism or traumatic brain injuries.

Brewability owner Tiffany Fixter used to be a supervisor at a day program for adults with disabilities. Fixter was inspired to start the pub when she saw the lack of employment opportunities for people in the program. She knew they could handle the responsibility. “I wanted to treat them like adults,” Fixter told the Times

“The skills they learn here will help as they transition to other aspects of life,” says occupational therapy assistant Chelsea Whitaker, who helps at Brewability. “They are capable of so much more than many people think.”

What you can do: There are many benefits to hiring people with disabilities, including:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 33 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities participated in the workforce in 2018. That’s compared to almost 77 percent of Americans without a disability. 

What’s reported: Sen. Bernie Sanders has pledged to treat disability rights as “civil rights” in his plan to support Americans with disabilities. 

After receiving criticism for his disability policies during the 2016 election, he developed a more comprehensive plan incorporating input from people with disabilities. The new plan has been praised by disability advocates.

Among the key points of his plan related to people with disabilities in the workplace:

  • Ending subminimum wage for workers with disabilities
  • Making sure people with disabilities have access to integrated employment services
  • Creating a National Office of Disability Coordination, to be run by a person with a disability

Sanders is not the only 2020 presidential candidate to have made disability inclusion a priority. Back in September, we reported that Kamala Harris was the first candidate to make the issue part of her platform. Then in January, Elizabeth Warren joined the effort by pledging to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are an important voting bloc, as one in four American adults has some type of disability.

What you can do: Ensure that employees with disabilities are treated and compensated fairly by reviewing your company’s compensation policy. And make sure that employees with disabilities have equal access to growth opportunities. Learn more about best practices for creating an inclusive workplace.

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What’s reported: Voya Financial is making a corporate commitment to disability inclusion, reports Employee Benefit News.

In 2017, the financial company participated in the Disability Equality Index to learn how they could improve their disability inclusion efforts. This joint initiative of Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a benchmarking tool that scores businesses on their disability inclusion practices. 

A year later, the financial company created Voya Cares. The program helps address the “unmet financial planning needs” of people with disabilities, according to team leader Heather Lavallee. 

Voya Financial has also taken other steps, such as: 

  • Improving their benefit plans for employees with disabilities or those who are caring for a loved one with a disability
  • Training recruiters and managers to assess when employees might have an invisible disability
  • Working with disability-focused nonprofit Project Search, which helps people with disabilities find jobs

“To me, you’re looking at a candidate and it’s like hiring any other individual,” says Lavallee about job seekers with disabilities. “Look at their interests, their capabilities, and if they align with the positions you have available and broaden your recruitment reach into that untapped market.”

What you can do: Take a closer look at your job descriptions to make sure they’re not turning away qualified candidates with disabilities. And connect with Project Search and other organizations that train and connect job seekers with disabilities with employment opportunities.

What’s reported: The first Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report for 2020 shows modest gains in the employment rate of people with disabilities, according to the National Trends in Disability Employment Monthly Update, issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities was up 1.8 percent in January 2020 compared with January 2019. For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate was up 0.7 percent.  Despite the positive trend, people with disabilities are employed at a much lower rate than their peers. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice that of those with no disability.

What you can do: There are concrete steps you can take to make disability inclusion a priority in your company’s diversity work.