The Americans with Disabilities Act put the spotlight on a group of people in the USA. This group now has a voice; a constituency that has come of age. This community votes, works and pays taxes.This blog is based on a N.Y. newspaper column I wrote for the Rockland County Journal-News from 1990-92.
By Mary Bailey Autism Advocate; Speaker; Co-founder Chase Yur Dreams Foundation; and Chase 'N Yur Face Media
As the subject
of disability inclusion in the workforce becomes more prevalent, I wanted to
take a closer look at some of the myths surrounding the hiring of people with
disabilities, and to seek the insights of someone on the front lines of this
movement.As the Head of Disability
Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and a C5-C6 quadriplegic, Jim Sinocchi’s
knowledge and experience with this topic is unparalleled. Sinocchi thinks and
speaks in terms that challenge and change how people with disabilities see and
present themselves in the workforce; as well as how employers and colleagues
perceive, interact with, and assimilate people with disabilities into their
corporate cultures. Through an emphasis on professionalism, partnership,
equalizing the playing field, enhancing performance, and opportunities for
promotions, Sinocchi dispels the myths about hiring people with disabilities;
and provides guidance for ensuring success for employee, employer, and
accommodate is too exorbitant.
thinking about the cost of accommodations when hiring top talent in the form of
a person with a disability, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Enlightened companies
think, “What do I have to do to hire this exceptional person?”
national and international research on this topic, most accommodations cost
less than $500. Granted, facility or real estate accommodations, such as
widening doors, adjusting elevator buttons, adding braille inscriptions,
installing ramps, and restroom modifications, exceed that benchmark.
However, we’re now seeing newly constructed or remodeled buildings incorporate
universal design standards, which ensure the greatest accessibility and
accommodations for a building’s population - including lighting and noise
considerations for individuals on the autism spectrum.
2.More apt to
require and exceed sick days.
by the National Business &
Disability Council at the Viscardi Center, have reported people with
disabilities had fewer scheduled absences than those without disabilities, and
fewer days of unscheduled absences.
for this is that employees with disabilities have established routines, and
focus on their health so as to keep their jobs, and not give an employer a
reason to fire them.
experiences a setback regarding their disability, they may need more time to
recover. However, in my experience, people with disabilities in the workforce
know how to manage their disability, and likely need the same amount of days as
an able-bodied person requires.
should be considered individually. If a company has a reliable employee who
needs more time off, an enlightened company gives the person a reasonable
amount of time off as medically necessary, or as a reasonable accommodation.
This sends the message to other employees that says “we care about our
employees and will provide the appropriate amount of time needed to get
3.Too difficult /
controversial for employers to take disciplinary action.
If a manager
will not coach, mentor, or take disciplinary action regarding a disabled employee
who merited such an action, that manager shouldn’t be a manager. As an
employee, I want to be treated as other employees are treated – if I do
something wrong or don’t meet my goals, tell me and evaluate me accordingly. If
I do well, and exceed expectations and goals, reward me.
should be treated the same as able-bodied employees – with respect and dignity;
as well as given opportunities for advancement and coaching when required.
Treating employees with disabilities with “kid gloves” creates a standard
that’s not good for the general population of employees, or the person with a
4. Employers are more likely to be sued.
We live in a
litigious society, and people in general have become more apt to sue if they
believe they have been wronged. According to the EEOC, the percentage of disability charges
has steadily increased from 22% in 2008 to 30.7% in 2016.
an employer is not the first thing
people with disabilities think about when they have grievances. While most
disabled employees understand their rights under the law, they would rather
work in an organization that is fair and equitable; and they want to be loyal
and productive at work. It’s difficult in today’s marketplace to find a job as
a disabled candidate - this means that we’re not quick to leave an
organization, which took a chance with us. Most of us are grateful to work for
a company that recognizes our talent and the contributions we make.
with disabilities make those around them uncomfortable.
naturally feel uncomfortable with people they don’t know. And when you add a
disability, that can be more challenging – for both parties. That’s one reason
why employers should implement an efficient accommodations process to equip people
with disabilities to work independently.
disabilities also have to do a better job making able-bodied people comfortable
when meeting us. We must “own our disability,” do a better job of allowing
others to engage with us socially, and share our stories in the workplace.
times in my career when I failed to get a person to accept me. Yet, it was my
responsibility to find a way to build professional working relationships with
even those who had a visceral reaction to me. But there have been dozens
of other people I’ve worked with, befriended, and developed relationships with
over the years.
important points are to be respectful, approachable, qualified for the job,
presentable, and business-oriented.
to meet performance standards.
individual can’t meet performance standards, that’s a problem regardless of
whether or not they have a disability. That’s why accommodations are so
important. Everyone should be qualified to do the job they’re hired to do. And
if that means an individual needs a specific, reasonable accommodation to do
their best, then it should be provided.
who’s falling behind in their work, needs to take the time to meet with their
manager and find out exactly what they need to do to improve, just as any other
employee would. Address problems as quickly as possible, and get the help
needed to improve. These strategies have nothing to do with a disability, but
everything to do with being professional.
likely to have an accident at work.
Again, the data
says this is not true. Safety comes first, across the board. People with
disabilities usually know their weaknesses, and avoid exposure to danger and
accidents. A manager should also assess the circumstances impacting their
employee’s particular disability by:
the person with the disability what they think they need to become successful,
and consulting with HR personnel to assess the employee’s circumstances and any
concerns in performing a job.
a fresh look at the work environment to make sure it’s free of obstacles or
other workplace concerns. This may include checking with fire, safety, and
necessary changes after the assessment.
8. Investment of time for training
is too much.
In some cases,
the time to train or make an environment accessible can be longer than that for
an able-bodied employee. But the important question is whether the disabled
person is qualified to do the work, and competitive in terms of what the job
requires. The person with a disability might be better qualified than the
able-bodied person, but requires extra, “reasonable” time to train. That should
be acceptable, with or without an accommodation, and will allow a manager to build a strong relationship
with the employee, sending the right
message throughout the business. ###