I'm re-publishing this column as part of my online blog. I still believe the message is appropriate today.Photos, web links or other annotations have been added to this posting from my collection or the web, as noted.
Some of the organizations and programs mentioned here may have changed or no longer exist in New York State as of this writing. I hope you find this column helpful and informative.
If you are a manager looking to hire new employees, would you consider hiring a qualified, disabled person for the job?
And let's say you did hire a disabled employee, would you be able to treat both your "non-disabled" and "disabled" employees fairly?
Would you be able to offer raises, special assignments and promotions equitably, and not discriminate?
These are just some of the questions facing managers across America as more and more disabled people enter and remain in the workplace.
Second, the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees rights for the disabled and encourages their entry into the workplace.
With the expected shortage of skilled labor, managers today cannot afford to exclude job applicants simply because of a disability. Managers will have to overcome their personal feelings and decide if a disabled person is qualified to do the job. And, if they are, consider hiring them.
Once a disabled person is hired, however, there are organizations and consultants willing to assist managers, such as the (former) President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, in Washington DC, Jawonio and Camp Venture industries here in Rockland County, N.Y.
Modifications to accommodate a disabled person in the workplace are usually inexpensive and federal tax breaks are also available. Making the decision to hire a disabled person for a job is considered a big step by some employers, usually because the company has never done it before.
But once a disabled person is hired and accommodations are made, if needed, supervisors and managers may find the day-to-day interaction with a disabled person the most challenging.
Although not a replacement for interpersonal skills, I've compiled a list of "do's and don'ts" for managers, supervisors and employees who may be fortunate enough to have a disabled person working with them.
|Web Stock Photo, Canada|
- Focus on the person not the disability.
- Treat the disabled employee as you would a regular employee. Disabled people want to be treated fairly and equally.
- Don't block opportunity for your employee because of a disability. If he or she is qualified and eligible for promotion, discuss the pros and cons of the job, then let the employee determine what needs to be done, and see if it can be worked out. If it can't, or the employee needs help, he or she will tell you.
- If a sensitive issue concerns or troubles you, ask about it directly.
- Gain an understanding of your employee's disability by asking questions about it. Most disabled people will tell you exactly what the disability is, how they became disabled, and what their needs are.
- Don't make assumptions about the disabled employee's capabilities. Many have had to become innovative and creative in order to overcome the numerous obstacles they encounter every day.
- Modify the work facilities as necessary. If your employee uses a wheelchair, make sure meeting places are accessible; if he or she is blind, try to get publications in braille or on cassette tape. People have different disabilities, so be sensitive to the one your employee has.
- Don't patronize disabled employees, they get enough of that outside work.
- Don't exclusively talk about disability, medical research or accessibility issues exclusively in casual conversations with your employee. He or she is just as interested as you are in baseball, football, fashion the opera or the weather.
Despite nearly 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities continue to face barriers to equal opportunity in employment.
Effective March 24, 2014, contractors are required by the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) to develop a written affirmative action program (AAP) and must also establish a hiring benchmark for protected veterans each year or adopt the national benchmark provided by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).