Greatra Mayana

Career & Employment Opportunities

9-1 Introduction to Disability and Employment

Welcome to today’s lesson on
employment and disability. Our course is perspectives
on disability. I’m Professor Greg Long at
Northern Illinois University. Similar to all of our
previous lessons, we’ll start off with an
etiquette question, and the etiquette question — and, again, this is a good one from a business or
employment standpoint is: how do you greet somebody
who has a disability? Well, first off,
you shake hands just like you would anyone else. Look them in the eye.
Offer to shake hands. And note what if they
have no right hand. All right. Shake with your left.
That’s fine. And even in doing so, if
you’re a little uncomfortable, go with the flow. Take the responsibility
yourself. As a quick sidelight, my
mother was remarried a number of years ago and
she married a farmer. And she told me, oh,
when you meet Harold, just as a heads up, he
has very short hair. I’m like why would
I care about that. What she failed to mention
was he had no thumb. All right. So when I went to shake hands
with him the first time, normally you think
about locking thumbs as you shake hands. Well, without that thumb
you’re like — okay. It became kind of
a joke with us. But, again, go with
the flow on that. If you’re going to meet
someone for the first time, again, look
them in the eye. Say hello. Sit down if you can
to talk to them. And most importantly when
you talk to people, don’t be patronizing
your language. Talk to them as
you would anyone. Okay. Now, on our topic
today, employment, I will tell you that
this is a huge topic. And there is no way that
I’m going to be able to cover all of the
relevant things that you might want to know. So, again, I encourage you,
please go to the readings, go to the websites, check out some of the additional
videos we’ve got posted for you. Because this is a
topic that’s huge. And also, again,
very personal to me, because I’ve worked very hard
with my own brother and my stepson in terms of
getting them employment. Because from my brother’s
standpoint, again, he was — he was initially viewed
as too disabled to be employed, and yet with significant
work and supports, he ended up being a very,
very good employee for a number of years. When he came up here to
Illinois to live with me, was not able to get the
same kind of opportunities for him because we were
most concerned with, again, living arrangements. And unfortunately now he works
in a sheltered workshop, which breaks my heart. And yet within the
environment where he’s at, there are very few
options and no supports for competitive employment. So these are all, these
are all important things. I see the same thing
with my stepson, and I’ll talk to you more about
some of those experiences as we go further on
with this lesson. So as an overview today,
we’ll be talking about the importance of employment. We’ll be talking about
the barriers that exist. Mentioning a bit of
the legislation, particularly the Americans
with Disabilities Act and how that impacts employment. And then talk about
supports and strategies. We’ll also include some
discussions on accommodations. Because I think one
of the major concerns for a lot of employers has
to do with the idea of does everybody with a disability
require an accommodation. How much is it
going to cost? So on and so forth. So I want to address those
topics in particular. Now, as we begin this topic, one of the things I want
all of you to think about is the importance of employment. How often when you go and
meet someone and you say hello, getting to know them, what’s one of the
first things you do. What do you do? Our employment in many
ways defines what we do. Many, many people have a
lot of their self-image, their self-esteem wrapped
up into having a job. It’s not just being
self-sufficient, but it’s that sense of,
no, this is who I am. So if you’re meeting me
for the first time, we’ll talk about a
number of things. If you ask me what
I am or what I do, I’ll say, well, I’m a professor. That’s part of my
image of who I am. Right? It’s employment. It’s huge. But what if those
options don’t exist? And if we look at
the next slide here, it’s put together through
the Cornell University Employment and
Disability Institute, you’ll see that
there’s a huge gap in employment between people
with and without disabilities. Roughly 33% of people
with disabilities are employed compared to
75% of people without. Now, people can argue about the
specifics of those numbers, but there is no arguing
with the idea that there is a tremendous gap
in employment between people who have disabilities
versus those who don’t. And correspondingly then, there’s a tremendous
gap in terms of income between people with disabilities and those without. If you don’t have a disability, you’re more likely
to be employed and you are more likely
to earn more money. Those are the facts
that we deal with. And I will say when we
think about employment, company size does matter. Research that’s been done says
that the larger companies have typically a — you know, policies towards
and more likely to hire individuals with disabilities. When we think about employment, there is always the issue of how a person goes about
the job seeking process. I would like you to
hear from Dale Spencer regarding his approach
and attitude toward this.>>Dale: I had blinders
on the fact that my goal was not to worry about what
that person thought of me, but what I could offer a
company to build its business. And that’s what
it was all about. And so if they had
an issue with me, it was their world, not mine.
I needed to get a job. I needed to
help a company. Get to that next level. And that was my thought
pattern the whole time. I talk to employers and
many different audiences. And on employment issue
that in my experience it’s kind of unique, and I’ve been in the workforce for probably about 22 years. So I have a different
perspective on things. And I would say I would have to
start with if you don’t mind me including this is the
interviewing process. Funny story. So I graduate in May of ’91. My mom gave me a
one month reprieve and said you can do
whatever you want. Hang out. Whatever. After that month, that nurturing side went
to the tough love side and said, okay, you know what, you need
to get your butt out there, get your suit on. In ’91, number one, the
job market was not great. Number two, it was every other
day about 100 degrees out. So I’m sweating
my butt off. Getting to places, get the
resume out, get the application, get the job applications out. Remember, this is before
E-mails and so forth, and so it was a lot
more difficult. You had to do a lot
of face-to-face time. So I would look in the paper.
I would actually look in the address book,
the big phone book, and look at companies such
as insurance companies, financial planning companies,
et cetera. And I would physically
go there to get a job. Now, it’s easy to get
frustrated in the market, not only that, but the actual
physical lack of accessibility to get to these places too. So you had a lot of frustration
with me going to jobs. However, at the same time,
what was my end goal and what was my job? My job was to get a job. And my end goal
was to be employed and to start making money and
to be self-sustaining. And it took four months.
I went to a job fair. I really hit it off with
this vice president of a title insurance company. And he graciously hired me. And I was not —
I was a salesperson. Not inside sales, but
I was outside sales. So that opened up a whole
different world of challenges.>>Professor Long: I would
also mention this too. Because throughout this
lesson, I want to dispel a number of myths
that we might have. And one that I want to
talk about is the idea of compared to workers
without disabilities, we know that workers who have
disabilities tend to stay on the job longer. They have fewer
scheduled absences. Fewer days of
unscheduled absences. Have nearly identical
job performance ratings compared to their
non-disabled co-workers. And by and large required
no more supervision than their non-disabled co-workers. So we have those — we
have that knowledge. We know that they’re
good employees, but yet there are a
number of barriers. And I would also argue
too it’s good business. It’s good business to hire
people with disabilities. Because there’s a large
labor pool out there. They possess valuable
problem-solving skills. As I was just mentioning,
they’re dependable, reliable, hard-working. And, you know, there’s
been even work to suggest that there’s an increase
in productivity by having a more diverse workforce. And also employees reflect
your customer base. That you’ve got customers
who are coming to your job — to your, to your place of
business who have disabilities. I know from my standpoint
I’m always drawn to those businesses
where I go in and I see someone with
a disability there. That shows me a
commitment to diversity. And just it’s the right
thing to do, if you would. If for no other reason
than diversity. So in summary, I just
want to mention, very big topic. But what we do know specifically
is high unemployment rates, higher certainly
than non-disabled, certainly lower income, and that there are a
number of benefits both to the individual
and to employers for hiring people with
disabilities. So we’ll end this sec –
we’ll end this segment and move on to our next
segment where we talk about some more of the specific
barriers that exist.

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