Star's Corner

Star’s Corner: Totally Able – Employment & Inclusion for the DisABLED


“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller

October marks the 70th Anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In his recent Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama declared that all Americans should celebrate the ways individuals with disabilities strengthen our workforce, communities and our country by actively fostering a culture in which people are supported and accepted for who they are without fear of discrimination. The Obama Administration has taken many actions to make this happen, including the requirement of agencies and Federal contractors to hire more people with disabilities.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in work, schools, public transportation and other environments. While there are laws in place to prevent workplace discrimination, inclusion of the disabled in the workforce is still an ongoing challenge.

As the world’s largest minority, people with disabilities represent 15% of the global population. In the United States, the disabled make up almost one fifth of our population and are unemployed at a rate that is twice that of people without disabilities. For women and minorities with disabilities, the unemployment rates are even higher. The United Nations estimates that 75% of women with disabilities are unemployed and the women that work often earn less than their male counterparts.

For many individuals with disabilities, entrepreneurship and home-based businesses offer more flexibility and control than a traditional work environment. In fact, according to the US Bureau of the Census, almost 15% of working disabled people are self-employed compared to under 10% of non-disabled working people.

Equality and inclusion in the workplace isn’t about filling quotas, it is about creating a work environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to fully participate in creating their own personal and professional success. A diverse workplace represents people who are the best fit for the job—whether they are women, men, Asian, disabled, veterans, LGBT, Hispanic, Black, White or other.

Employers have a powerful role to play in improving recruitment policies and inclusion practices. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

Hire, Retain and Advance
Businesses on board with building a diverse workplace (recruitment, retention and advancement) benefit from a wider pool of talent, skills and creative power. Look beyond traditional sources for job applicants and post your job ad in alternate platforms. Attend a Diversity Career Fair to expand your reach and post your ads on ProAble, one of Professional Diversity Network’s affinity networks that matches you directly with disabled individuals looking for work.

Offer Flexibility and Support
Maintain an open dialogue about what accommodations would best suit each individuals’ unique needs during the recruitment process and onward. Whether it’s scheduling, travel, equipment or use of private facilities in the workplace, create an environment that is supportive, accessible and accommodating.

Promote Your Commitment
Let professionals know you are looking to hire diverse talent by promoting your company’s commitment to diversity on your website, job postings and through social media. It is also important to promote your message internally to staff, administration and employees through diversity, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training.

Only you can define your own limitations!

Do you or someone you know have a disability? What are some challenges faced in finding employment and in the workplace? Share your comments below.


Megan Bozzuto

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