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In Senator Tom Harkin’s final speech on the Senate floor, delivered last month to a national audience witnessing the retirement of a public figure of cross-partisan admiration, the most poignant words concerned persons with disabilities. It wasn’t surprising, as Harkin was the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and he spoke about one of his disappointments:
“How many of us know that the unemployment rate among adult Americans with disabilities who want to work and can work is over 60 percent?! Yes, you heard me right: almost two out of three people with disabilities cannot find a job. That is a blot on our national character.”
It has been said, actually, that despite all of the accomplishments attributable to the landmark ADA legislation, the area of negligible progress over the past quarter-century has been in employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor force participation rates and unemployment rates have remained, at best, relatively stable, hardly demonstrating the progress that has occurred in other areas of life for persons with disabilities. The BLS reports that the labor force participation rate for men 16 to 64 with disabilities was 40.6 percent in July of 2008, plunging to 30.0 percent in January of 2014, and rising only to 34.6 percent last month; for women with disabilities, labor force participation was over 30 percent between June of 2008 and December of 2010, but stood at 28.8 percent in December of 2014. That’s well less than half the participation rates of adults in that age bracket without disabilities.
People with Disabilities Have Much Needed Skills and Creativity, Yet They Are a Largely Overlooked Talent Source
Smart companies are always looking for new ways to find and retain talented employees.
Often-overlooked prospects are people with disabilities. Just 19% of people with disabilities participate in the labor force (compared with over 68% of the rest of the population) and their unemployment rate is nearly 11%.
“If you want to have a workforce that thinks outside of the box I think it’s really important to be tapping into a diverse population like the population of workers with disabilities, because they live outside of the box. They’re constantly thinking about better and smarter ways to do things and to get around obstacles,” says Barbara Otto, who heads Chicago, Illinois-based Think Beyond the Label, an organization that promotes hiring of people with disabilities.
Otto says that employees with disabilities also tend to have lower rates of absenteeism and higher overall retention rates than workers without disabilities. And while you can find candidates with disabilities in all of the same places you find other prospective hires, there are also some places you can look and things you can do to find and attract them more directly.
A dinner program featuring Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability, will cap a weeklong celebration of 40 years of service to students with disabilities at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Glazer will speak at the dinner Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Van Houten Dining Hall—South on the Edinboro campus.
Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability since 2008, previously served the organization as executive director of its National Employability Partnership. Under her leadership, the organization forged relationships with businesses, disability groups, the military and philanthropic institutions. Glazer was responsible for putting in place the group’s signature programs, Wounded Warrior Careers and Bridges to Business.
Widely recognized as one of the leading universities in the nation in providing services to students with disabilities, Edinboro University will mark 40 years of commitment to excellence in providing access to educational opportunities with a weeklong celebration, Dec. 1-6.
The observance will conclude with a dinner featuring Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability, as the keynote speaker.
The theme of the week, Opening Doors, Building Bridges, emphasizes the human connections vital to Edinboro’s dedication to students and employees with disabilities, said Kimberly Kennedy, director of the Office for Students with Disabilities.
“At Edinboro, we’ve made it our mission to surpass legally mandated minimum standards when providing students access to classrooms, residence halls, and co-curricular and extracurricular activities because we have such a strong commitment to our students and others with disabilities,” Kennedy said. “Edinboro’s commitment reflects a can-do approach, looking toward solutions that impact lives and benefit students. This has always been what’s separated our university and local community from others.”
Nearly half of all military veterans returning to the workforce leave their jobs in the first year, according to the National Organization on Disability. The turnover rate is about 75 percent within two years.
These statistics are particularly important in Indiana, where the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans in Indiana is more than double the state average overall.
But organizations like NOD are seeking ways to reduce those numbers.
Franklin Hagenbeck, a retired lieutenant general and sits on the board of directors of the National Organization on Disability, says his group has developed a guide for employers on ways to accommodate veterans in the workplace.
HUFFINGTON POST BLOG By CAROL GLAZER, President, National Organization on Disability
The nearly three million men and women who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan are encountering what veterans of previous wars have long known—that the transition from the all-encompassing regimen of military life to the free form competition of the civilian workforce, presents many challenges.
Thanks to the commitment of hundreds of large employers, veterans are finding meaningful employment opportunities. Where once our challenge as a society was simply finding a good job for our veterans, today it is ensuring that they remain employed for years to come. We know that turnover rates are extremely high—nearly 50 percent in year one and almost 75 percent by year two. We must do better.
A Letter from NOD President Carol Glazer
Re “Finding Independence, and a Bond” (This Land, front page, Oct. 5): Your article about Peter Maxmean and Lori Sousa, who met while working at a workshop for people with intellectual disabilities, shines a powerful light on a pervasive problem in this country. The article suggests that America is ready to confront a civil rights issue that’s long been left out of the public debate.
For generations, Americans with disabilities have been hidden from view, housed in institutions where they could be “cared for” by “specially trained professionals” who would keep them safe from harm to themselves and others. Geraldo Rivera, in a Peabody Award-winning exposé about the atrocities of the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, secretly taped conditions for residents of this peaceful-sounding place.
As a society, we’ve traveled a long way from the dehumanizing “madhouses,” asylums and institutions that kept people with disabilities out of view and the public mind. But the subjects of this article have only a 20 percent likelihood that they’ll find competitive work in today’s labor force, and the chances of living in poverty are nearly three times as great as that of other Americans.
RIT is being credited by the National Organization on Disability as being a good example of a university that has successfully bridged the employment gap for students with disabilities.
The private, non-profit group promotes the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. Advocates for people with disabilities say that nationally there is a 46 percent unemployment rate for college grads that have a disability.
The president of the National Organization on Disability, Carol Glazer, says one thing that American businesses could do a better job on in general, is making sure that things like their websites, and their job descriptions are more inclusive.
“It’s everything from how you portray yourself as a company and does that encourage people to come forward and disclose their disabilities when they have them, all the way to how you might be inadvertently screening people out just by the way you phrase your job descriptions.”
Amid the enormity of Wednesday’s job fair at the Rochester Institute of Technology — thousands of students in long lines to impress companies like Google and Apple — a flurry of hands were sometimes visible.
Some of those belonged to deaf and hard of hearing students. And some belonged to interpreters provided by the university to translate the signing of deaf students to employers, and vice versa. By and large, the employers — about 250 signed up — did not provide their own interpreters. Many knew the school would.
RIT, by virtue of its long affiliation with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has many deaf students among its population.
Each of those came to the job fair with ambitions and dreams no different from those of hearing students. Their talents, skills and personalities seemed as good as or better than others waiting their turn to even an untrained eye.
October 1, 2014, Rochester, NY- To jumpstart NDEAM, a coalition of national organizations are shining a spot light on one critical issue facing companies seeking to meet federal disability employment targets: a broken pipeline between employers and and universities who are graduating students with disabilities—and what’s being done to address it.
Representatives from NOD, with National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE); Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD); General Electric Aviation; National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID); and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) address the urgency of connecting graduates with disabilities to employers during the college’s Career Fair.