Megan came to Camp Merry Heart as a camper and had a fantastic time. So much so, that she couldn’t stay away. She came back as a volunteer because she wanted to help make sure other campers were able to experience camp the way she did. We ask her what makes her feel so strongly about the camp experience.
A Special Relationship with Special Education
When raising a child with an intellectual or developmental disability, it is essential to find the most suitable environment for them to receive the best education possible. Sometimes, a traditional approach to education can be the perfect option, but it’s important to know that it is not your ONLY option. There are many avenues to accomplish this: mainstreaming, specialized curriculums, and even schools tailored to meet the needs of particular disabilities. We spoke with Jacky Wilensky, a teacher at The Shore Center, a public school placement for students with autism, to learn more about what kinds of accommodations parents should consider to ensure a student’s educational success.
Making YOUR Workplace Accessible
Welcome to PART 3 of our Business Side of Disability blog series. If you’ve missed PART 1 and PART 2, please give them a read, but it’s not necessary to understand this article. In those blogs, we discussed recruitment strategies and the benefits employees with disabilities bring to an organization. Now, we will be discussing how you can make your workplace more accessible by exploring technology and workplace accommodations.
As part of our continued celebration of October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), this is PART 2 of our blog series showcasing the untapped workforce of job seekers with disabilities. In PART 1, we explored the overall value workers with disabilities can bring to your organization, but here we will be exploring how you can attract those employees to apply for open positions at your company.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and in the spirit of the occasion, we decided to do something a little different with our blog…
Many times, we have written about employment and disability from the perspective of the job seeker. For this article we will be taking a different approach. Easterseals job coaches often go above and beyond providing individual job supports to our program participants. They visit businesses to speak with owners/managers to discuss how hiring an employee with a disability can help meet their staffing needs. Often hiring managers are unaware of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, let alone that so many people are actively seeking work. That’s why we’re going to discuss why looking to the untapped workforce of people with disabilities to fill your next open position, makes good business sense.
Workers With Disabilities by the Numbers
Unemployment has dropped to record levels, which has made it difficult for employers to find the right people for the open positions they desperately hope to fill. A perfect opportunity to look toward the 7.7% of New Jersey working-age (21-64) persons who identify as has having a disability. That’s approximately 700,000 people. 10.7% of those individuals were unemployed and actively seeking work. That’s 70,000+ individuals in New Jersey only who are looking to work for New Jersey businesses. Still, there is hesitancy for hiring managers to employee people with disabilities, evidenced by the 35.8% point employment gap between people with disabilities and those without.
There may be many reasons for this disparity, but the number one issue our job coaches have encountered is the stigma that still surrounds workers with disabilities. This stigma often stems from some commonly held misconceptions on the topic. So let’s address take a look at these issues here and now and learn more about why you should start hiring people with disabilities.
The More You Know
- Employees with disabilities are reliable, dedicated, and consistently are recorded as having impressive job performance, attendance records, and retention rates.
- It’s actually cost-effective to hire people with disabilities because benefits and insurance are sometimes covered by government programs, reducing your company’s overhead. You can also receive a tax credits for working with people with disabilities, helping to off-set any accommodation costs for providing accommodations for an employee.
- Employees with disabilities often qualify for training and support programs like those Easterseals provides. This means often the individual you are hiring is either already trained in their job task, or the training you would normally pay for, instead is provided by Easterseals rather than coming out of your budget.
- There is plenty of accessible technology available today which allows integration into the workplace possible. Everything from screen readers to accessible phone applications allow for many employees with disabilities to accomplish job tasks you may not have initially thought was possible for them.
These points may have dispelled some of the reservations you may have about hiring a person with a disability, but if you still have questions, let us know! Our workforce development team is always open to meeting with business leaders to discuss how we can work together to help solve your staffing issues.
Recently, Easterseals day program participant, Andrew, was honored at the annual NJACP 20th Annual Stars! Award Presentation. He was treated to dinner and dancing with his peers at The Stone Terrace in Hamilton, NJ. Most important though, his commitment to achieving his goals was recognized and celebrated. Take a look at what his day program manager had to say him:
“Andrew, has attended an Easterseals New Jersey’s day program for over 8 years. He was born with an intellectual disability and faces challenges relating with his peers in social situations. However, these challenges have not kept him from developing meaningful friendships with his fellow program participants. And Andrew’s successes don’t stop there.
Access is a RIGHT
If you were a person with a disability living in the U.S. before the 1990’s, you know our society was NOT built with you in mind. This was best reflected in very architecture of our streets and buildings, which were structured in such a way that, unless you were walking, were impossible to navigate. Ramp access was a luxury, braille was barely used, closed captioning was not a requirement, and something as simple as using a public restroom was often a daunting (and dangerous) task. Today, it’s evident that the times have changed for the better. Though things are far from perfect, it’s undeniable that our country is more accessible than it ever was in the past. Many of these changes can be directly attributed to the establishment of a key law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Mental Illness – Perspective Through Story
Take some time to imagine this story about mental illness. A person opens their eyes to the first sign of sunlight, there is a sense of quiet, a hint of calm. Then, suddenly, a voice that does not belong to them interrupts their morning haze, shouting that this person is “worthless and should go back to bed.” And so the person does, missing the chance to fulfill their daily plans.
“CODA” stands for Child of Deaf Adults, which means that you are a hearing child with deaf parents. There are not a lot of people in this world that knows what a CODA is, unfortunately. When you elaborate on what it means, all of a sudden, they become so interested in your life as if you were some celebrity rock star, asking you so many questions that just does not make sense. “I didn’t know deaf people can have children…” “Can deaf people drive?” These questions did not make me feel like a rock star. They made me feel more alone in this world than anything else. I felt like no one truly understood what it was like to be me, a CODA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four Americans currently live with a disability. This means it is likely that you, someone you know, or someone you will meet has a disability or will develop one later in life. Yet the public is still either uninformed or misinformed about the modern-day obstacles facing persons with disabilities.
With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other key pieces of legislation, many barriers to access have been removed from public life. However, we must now move to address the social stigma surrounding this community. This problem cannot be solved by simply building a ramp or installing braille. We must instead work together to change hearts and minds in order to build a more inclusive society for all.
This stigma has had real-world consequences for this population. According to a 2016 survey by Total Jobs, one in four persons who are deaf reported they left their job due to discrimination at their places of employment. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor tells us that of those who were 16 or older, 19% of persons with disabilities were employed compared to 66% of those without a disability. These are not problems of “access,” they are problems of “perception” and perception can only be changed by increasing our capacity for understanding and empathy.
That’s why, to mark our 100th anniversary this spring, Easterseals New Jersey will be holding several pop-up events throughout the state we are calling “Exercises in Empathy.” At these events, people will be walked through short experience-based activities to learn more about disability. Activities include a limited mobility art station, a lip-reading exercise, a schizophrenia and depression experience, as well as a vision-loss/Usher syndrome activity.
Sharing in these experiences allows us to become more aware of not just the challenges having a disability can present, but how people overcome those challenges. This can be a powerful tool in removing the stigma surrounding disability. This shift in thinking is critical as we work together to build a more inclusive New Jersey.
We encourage you to experience our pop-up events. Visit www.easterseals100.org for more information and to learn how you can help create a future where everyone is 100% included and 100% empowered.
President/Chief Executive Officer
Easterseals New Jersey