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Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: February 24, 2020

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

What’s reported:  Despite the current jobs surplus, people with disabilities and people over age 55 remain underemployed. 

“The United States has a jobs surplus of more than one million open positions,” says Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of human capital management innovation at Ultimate Software in a new Inc. article. “At the same time, we have two large demographic groups that are underutilized in our workforce: people with disabilities and people over age 55.” 

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate of those with no disability. And older adults are especially likely to have disabilities.

“While employers have struggled to fill open roles, people in these groups face higher rates of unemployment around the world,” says Alper-Leroux. 

Forty million Americans live with a disability, including 30 percent of Americans over age 65. And because people are living longer and retiring later, workers 65 years of age and older are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce. 

What you can do: To build an inclusive workplace, Alper-Leroux recommends that employers:

  • Invest in technologies and physical work spaces that are accessible.
  • Consider flexible work arrangements rather than sticking to the traditional 9-to-5 schedule.

What’s reported: Deciding to disclose an invisible disability can be difficult for employees. 

“[I wonder], will this keep my employer from considering me for good job opportunities,” Alexis*, an employee with rheumatoid arthritis and peripheral neuropathy symptoms, tells The Mighty

The question of whether and how to disclose is one that many employees will have to face. Invisible disabilities can include autism spectrum disorder, depression, diabetes, and learning and thinking differences such as ADHD and dyslexia, among many other conditions.

The article explores steps for employees to consider before revealing an invisible disability at work, including:

  • Understand your legal rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers people in the United States who work for an employer with 15 or more employees. State laws may offer greater protection.
  • Decide whether and when you prefer to disclose. It could be during the hiring process or after getting hired.
  • Be prepared. Think through what information to share, and have an idea of the accommodations you need.

“You deserve to work in an environment in which your disability is accommodated and supported,” says The Mighty. 

What you can do: Employers have a lot to gain from employee self-disclosure. To encourage an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing, employers can:

  • Communicate their company’s focus on inclusion.
  • Let employees know how they can benefit from disclosure.
  • Promote access to accommodations.

Learn more about the advantages of disability disclosure for your business.

*Name changed

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What’s reported: For veterans with disabilities, the transition to civilian life can hold many challenges. Finding a job is often one of them, the Index-Journal reports. 

Veterans can face many barriers in the civilian job search. For one, they may find it difficult to translate their military experience into the language of civilian employers. Plus, veterans with significant disabilities may be less likely to attend crowded job fairs that aren’t accessible. 

The PAVE program—Paving Access for Veterans Employment—connects veterans with disabilities to employment opportunities and vocational rehabilitation counseling. And the organization’s new PAVE Connect provides virtual support to reach more veterans.

“There are a lot of vets out there who feel like there’s no hope and that they are at a dead-end with nothing to offer,” says U.S. Army veteran Daniel Rabun. “PAVE gave me hope and assistance when I needed it the most and inspired me to keep trying.”

What you can do: Get tips and resources for recruiting and employing veterans with disabilities with this ADA National Network fact sheet. Federal contractors can review this guidance for hiring veterans.

Maybe your company uses stock photography for marketing purposes. Or maybe you use it internally, in presentations, or on signage. In each case, the photos you choose can affect how people perceive your company.

It can be tough to find stock photography that’s inclusive of people with disabilities, writes Alicia Crowther in the product-design website UX Collective. She’s a user experience researcher and the accessibility lead of a software company. 

“This is problematic in three main ways,” writes Crowther. “Overall, disability is just not represented enough. Second, disability photos tend to make stereotypical assumptions, and third, there is a lack of actual disabled individuals being used in the photography.”

At the link, you’ll find a list of free and paid sources for disability-inclusive stock photography

Among them: 

  • Disabled and Here, which features “disabled BIPOC with different diagnoses (or lack thereof), body sizes/types, sexual orientations, and gender identities who reside in the Pacific Northwest.”
  • Disability:IN, created to “empower business to achieve disability inclusion and equality.” 
  • The Getty Images Disability Collection, a paid collection that aims to “thoughtfully portray disability as just one part of a person’s complex identity.” 

What you can do:

  • Use these resources to find stock photography that’s inclusive of people with disabilities.
  • If you use stock photos for publicity and marketing purposes, consider how inclusive they are. Also consider images used internally—they can affect how employees perceive your company.