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Why You Should Employ People with Disabilities by USICD Program Manager, Vivian Fridas

October 9, 2018

 

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Vivian Fridas with Ditto 

Every year, October is set aside as National Disability Employment Awareness month. During this time, we celebrate the contributions that people with disabilities make to the economy. This observance also seeks to promote the education and awareness of the value of a workforce inclusive of people with disabilities and their skills and talents.

 

According to the US Bureau of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the September 2018 Disability Employment Statistics show 21.4% of persons with disabilities were employed and the labor force participation for individuals over age 16 without disabilities was 68.2%. It is well documented that people with disabilities are more likely to be jobless, work part-time, or be self-employed than those without disabilities. Many organizations and federal agencies have programs, such as the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) and the Schedule A Hiring Authority, to recruit, retain, and advance the employment of people with disabilities but as the statistics show, there is still a long way to go.

The struggle is REAL!

People with disabilities face many challenges and obstacles when seeking employment. Often, there are attitudinal barriers they encounter from the interview process through getting hired. Some employers may wrongfully believe that hiring a person with a disability will create challenges for the company or organization. Not only is this discrimination, but this sentiment has been proven to be false. For instance, one myth is that people often assume a person with a disability will be absent from work more often than able-bodied counterparts. In reality, workers who have disabilities miss the same or fewer days of work than their non-disabled co-workers. In addition, there are misconceptions about hiring and accommodating the work-related needs of a person with a disability by employers.

As you can see, people with disabilities have to overcome issues like inaccessible workplaces and equipment, and a lack of accessible transportation to get to a work site. Many people with invisible disabilities, such as epilepsy or a mental health diagnosis, do not disclose their disability for fear of discrimination.

I can personally attest that it can be very frustrating when looking for employment. Searching and applying for a job is a full-time job in itself. The added layer of having a disability makes this process all the more frustrating because, for example, online applications websites may not be accessible for the blind.

In order for a person to be considered for a position, the candidate must match the description of the job position and have an excellent record of experience. Since many people with disabilities face extreme difficulty in attaining employment, it is hard to get the chance to build one’s resume and experience. One recommendation I have is for employers to reach out to the disability and services office on college campuses to proactively seek out a pool of candidates with disabilities when recruiting. There are talented and knowledgeable individuals just waiting to be hired and contribute value to a company or organization!

By neglecting this talent pool, many companies and organizations are missing out on an opportunity to employ highly qualified individuals who are productive and provide unique and different perspectives to problem-solving. By excluding people with disabilities, employers miss out on adding an asset to their team—they bring skills, talent and dedication to the workforce. Recruiters who actively seek to hire people with disabilities will benefit greatly from their expertise and perseverance gaining a competitive edge.

What USICD is Doing:DId you know

USICD is committed to promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. This starts by giving students and recent graduates an opportunity to gain experience and skills through our internship program. For many of our internship program alumni, the program was instrumental in helping them gain the skills and experience needed for future employment. This eight-week long program, previously funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, pairs youth with disabilities in host organizations that deal with international development or affairs in the Washington DC area. In 2019, with funding support, we hope to expand the program to include matching interns with disabilities interested in the STEM field with global information technology companies in the area.

By hosting international Fellows, through U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) program and initiatives, USICD shows individuals from around the world—those with and without disabilities—the best practices in the employment of people with disabilities. So far this year, we have hosted two Fellows from Uganda and Hungary whose focus area was the employment of persons with

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USICD Fellows, Daniel Csango from Hungary & Ronald Kasule from Uganda on their way to meet with the Dept. of Labor’s ODEP staff

disabilities. We arranged meetings with several national disability non-profits, such as the National Council on Independent Living, RespectAbility, and the U.S. Department of Labor. They learned about Project Search Transition to Work program, Marriott Foundation’s Bridges-to-Work.

After Fellows leave the U.S. and return home, USICD staff remains in contact with each Fellow and often shares relevant information and resources. They take with them  information about U.S. laws that support the employment of people with disabilities and the experience of seeing positive examples of people with a range of disabilities being successful in the workplace and holding leadership positions.

 

USICD is thrilled to continue promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We hope that during this National Disability Employment Awareness Month that others become just as committed and dedicated to closing the employment gap for people with disabilities in order to promote inclusion and equality in the workplace.

Please consider donating to USICD so that we can continue supporting young interns with disabilities and hosting international Fellows.

 

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