Thursday, October 29, 2009

In business, the investment that drives innovation is talent.

The knowledge, skills and abilities employees bring to work each day are by far the assets that yield the most output over the long term. Whether good economic times or bad, it’s the organizations that know how to identify and recognize talent that are most likely to succeed.

To access the widest pool of talent, employers must foster an inclusive and flexible work culture that considers the needs of all employees and potential employees, including those with disabilities. Such universal thinking not only helps recruit skilled employees, but also enhances corporate continuity efforts by helping employers retain the talents of an aging workforce. When it comes to doing business, being inclusive of people with disabilities—in recruitment, retention and advancement—can offer companies a competitive edge. People with disabilities are experienced problem solvers with a proven ability to adapt. What’s more, they mirror an important and increasingly expanding customer base.

DID YOU KNOW?

Job accommodations for people with disabilities are usually low cost or no cost. A recent study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) revealed that 56 percent of workplace accommodations cost absolutely nothing, Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $6oo.

If you are an employer and want more information about good workplace practices for all employees, including those with disabilities, links to a world of resources can be found at the What Can you Do campaign website.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Resources for Employers

New Disability Employment Resource for Employers Released
To meet the need for a comprehensive, portable, and easy to understand guide for employers who are looking to recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities, Office of Disability Employment Policy just released its new Four-Step Reference Guide.

DiversityInc's mission is to bring education and clarity to the business benefits of diversity. DiversityInc is the leading publication on diversity and business. Founded in 1998 as a web-based publication, the monthly print magazine was launched in 2002. Click here to visit their website for Information, resources, and feature stories about diversity.

Business Employer Support Team (BEST)
BEST representatives are available statewide to assist employers trying to keep an employee with disability productive, find qualified applicants with disabilities, reduce hiring costs, or enhance your workforce diversity programs.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Myths are roadblocks to employment for people with disabilities.

Myths are roadblocks that interfere with the ability of persons with disabilities to have equality in employment. These roadblocks usually result from a lack of experience and interaction with persons with disabilities. This lack of familiarity has nourished negative attitudes concerning employment of persons with disabilities. Listed below are some common myths and the facts that tell the real story.

MYTH: Hiring employees with disabilities increases workers compensation insurance rates.
FACT: Insurance rates are based solely on the relative hazards of the operation and the organization's accident experience, not on whether workers have disabilities.

MYTH: Employees with disabilities have a higher absentee rate than employees without disabilities.
FACT: Studies by firms such as DuPont show that employees with disabilities are not absent any more than employees without disabilities.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are inspirational, courageous, and brave for being able to overcome their disability.
FACT: Persons with disabilities are simply carrying on normal activities of living when they drive to work, go grocery shopping, pay their bills, or compete in athletic events.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities need to be protected from failing.
FACT: Persons with disabilities have a right to participate in the full range of human experiences including success and failure. Employers should have the same expectations of, and work requirements for, all employees.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are unable to meet performance standards, thus making them a bad employment risk.
FACT: In 1990, DuPont conducted a survey of 811 employees with disabilities and found 90% rated average or better in job performance compared to 95% for employees without disabilities. A similar 1981 DuPont study which involved 2,745 employees with disabilities found that 92% of employees with disabilities rated average or better in job performance compared to 90% of employees without disabilities. The 1981 study results were comparable to DuPont's 1973 job performance study.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities have problems getting to work.
FACT: Persons with disabilities are capable of supplying their own transportation by choosing to walk, use a car pool, drive, take public transportation, or a cab. Their modes of transportation to work are as varied as those of other employees.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Most Effective Ways to Communicate With Small Employers

When employers were asked, "What are the most effective ways to communicate with small business employers about hiring people with disabilities, most employers agreed that the best way is to have small business employers educating each other. Many employers reported that talking with other employers employing individuals with disabilities would be most effective (46%). Several employers reported that education and training through local and regional business organizations would be effective (39%), and providing information to employers via the internet (21%) would also be beneficial.

Go to the AtWork! website to see a video about how one small business, Kozy Kennels in Redmond, has found employing a person with disabilities has filled a critical need and how customers value the business more because they employ a person with disabilities.

One local network of employers is the Washington State Business Leaders Network, whose mission is to educate and support businesses to recruit, hire, retain, promote, and improve customer services for people with disabilities. Their website has a wealth of information to help businesses understand the benefits to hiring a person with disabilities and links to other web based resources. The WSBLN offers training programs, best practicies workshops and networking opportunities to learn from others who have found employing persons with disaiblities to be a distinct business advantage.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Accessible Voting


In a vote-by-mail elections environment, all registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail 20 days prior to the each election that they are eligible to cast a vote.
Voters with disabilities will have the opportunity to cast a private and independent ballot at an accessible voting center. The equipment at these locations provides audio and visual technology which allows voters with limited vision and physical disabilities to vote independently.
Locations and hours of operation
Tukwila, King County Elections, 9010 East Marginal Way S, 98108 ( Directions ) Weekdays, October 14 – November 2: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturday, October 31: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 3: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Bellevue City Hall 450 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue, 98009Friday, October 30: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, October 31: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, November 2: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 3: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Seattle, Union Station 401 S. Jackson St, Seattle, 98104 Friday, October 30: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, October 31: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, November 2: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 3: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Employing People with Disabilities: Small Business Concerns and Recommendations

Major concerns about employing people with disabilities

The major concerns reported by employers about employing people with disabilities were: matching skills and job needs (79%), supervision and training (52%), costs associated with safety and medical insurance premiums (48%), legal liabilities (47%), and making the workplace accessible/job accommodations (40%).

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has resulted in a surprisingly small number of lawsuits-only about 650 nationwide in five years. That is low compared with six million businesses that have to comply (President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, 1996). The ADA also encourages alternate forms of dispute resolution (e. g. negotiation and mediation). In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Mediation Programs and Practitioners (MAMPP) ADA Mediation Project offers pro bono mediation services for disability related disputes (See Resources: Massachusetts Association of Mediation Programs and Practitioners).

Best ways to address employers' concerns

Employers reported the best ways to address their concerns were to help them understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities (45%), hear success stories from other small business employers (37%), and people with disabilities (29%), and educate and train employers (34%).

Once human service providers have Identified employers who have successfully employed individuals with disabilities, they will attest first hand that accommodations and access do not have to be costly propositions. In addition, employers can explain that there are a range of disabilities that do not require accommodations and there are disabilities that are not physical.
For the past 10 years, the President's Committee's Job Accommodation Networks (JAN) has been assessing employers, people with disabilities and others to determine needed job accommodations for employees with disabilities. As a result of handling over 100,000 cases, JAN has learned that the average cost of a job accommodation for a person with a disability is $200. (The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, 1997). For every dollar an employer spends for a disability related job accommodation, the company saves $34 (e. g. workers' compensation, training of new employees, increased productivity). It is important to be creative in the job accommodation planning process. There may be low and no cost alternatives available. The Job Accommodation Network will provide assistance.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Employing People with Disabilities: Small Business Concerns and Recommendations for Human Service Providers

Generally, employers rely heavily on person-to-person referrals for new hires. Employers reported using newspapers (52%), employee referrals (40%), and family or friend referrals (24%) to recruit and hire new employees.

Employers want to know from other employers about their successes with hiring individuals with disabilities. Human service workers need to develop a network of employers who have successfully hired workers with disabilities who are willing to become a resource for other employers.

Identify employers who have successfully employed individuals with disabilities and ask them if they would be willing to 'tell their story' to other employers via electronic communications or business association meetings. These employers would be available to respond to employers' questions about hiring and employing individuals with disabilities and convey the benefits of hiring qualified individuals who represent an under utilized resource of human capital.

Develop a public relations campaign identifying those companies that have taken a leadership role in the community. Designate a spokes person from each company to highlight the positive contributions of employees with disabilities. Provide opportunities for successful employees with disabilities to communicate with small businesses about their employment experiences.

Qualities Employers Look for in employees

The qualities that employers valued the most in an employee were: a strong work ethic (47%), followed by experience and skills for the job (36%), and communication skills (10%).

In the planning process with individuals with disabilities, human service workers need to understand worker needs as well as employer needs. Identification of specific capacities, interests and work environment needs will enhance an individual's successful work experience. On the other hand, human service workers need to have a clear profile of employer needs on both a practical level as well as identify the qualities an employer values most in an employee. It is critical to find on the match between employer and employee needs. Also, providing employers with resources and information through the internet ( e. g. matching workers to jobs) may create a more efficient process.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Each exploration brings Josh closer to inclusion in the workforce



Josh is always smiling and happy to be involved. He uses a wheel chair, and has limited communication and motor skills. Josh came to AtWork! at age 21 right out of high school to participate in the sheltered workshop, although there were very few jobs that allowed him to be productive. One or two community volunteer opportunities were tried but turned out to not be a good fit for his talents. Josh sometimes works in his parent’s business, riding along as a carpool buddy which allows for faster deliveries using the area’s carpool lanes.

This summer, Josh once again tried out a volunteer opportunity, this time at Hopelink’s food bank in Bellevue. He prepares what his coworkers call “homeless bags”: rolled disposable silverware wrapped in a plastic baggy. In order to assist him with the physical part of placing silverware into a narrow baggy, Josh’s job coach supplied him with a large plastic cup. With this small reasonable accommodation, Josh is able to perform 90% of the task independently. Often it takes a very simple adaption to provide a working environment that takes best advantage of a person’s talents and skills. Josh has now found another task at the food bank that he can perform, breaking down commodities that come in bulk to individual proportions. By placing a box at the right height near his chair, Josh is able to scoop up oat cereal into a plastic bag inserted into that same plastic cup, pull out the full bag, and with some help tying the bag closed, put it in a bin ready for distribution to food bank clients.

Josh enjoys life and enjoys people. His co-workers at the food bank are always glad to see him and value his contribution. He has purpose several days a week, and is helping others who have needs. He is exploring other opportunities through AtWork!’s job training classes, shredding documents in the paper shredder and becoming acquainted with computers. Each exploration brings Josh closer to the day when his talents and skills will match the needs of an employer, the say when Josh finds community inclusion in the work force.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A change of the heart is what AtWork! really is all about

It’s not really about getting people good jobs. It’s not really about creative, innovative, customized employment solutions. It’s not even about the money that people with disabilities earn or the hours of support they receive.

Not when we talk about the heart and the soul of it. How many times have you noticed someone simply because of their difference? Perhaps you have been the recipient of “the look quickly away, now children don’t stare” because in some way you deviate from the accepted.

Perhaps you are very tall, or very short; maybe you walk funny, or you use a machine to communicate; maybe you are very small, or very big. And guess what folks, the mathematics here are simple: the greater degree of deviance from the perceived ideal, the greater the experience of stigmatization.

And so you live in a world that doesn’t quite fit because it is made to fit the people in the middle of the bell curve. Think about where this might apply to you in your life…there are places, different for each of you, where you would feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Not everyone thinks about what the world might be like should those who are different arrive at their party, their house, their town, their workplace. So rather than finding a place that welcomes you with open arms with tools you can use, and chairs that fit, and coffee pots that you can reach and toilets you can flush and instructions you can understand…even if you don’t read - a place that celebrates the glorious human gifts that you bring.

You find yourself instead, in a world with walls all around you. Walls built with the bricks of segregation, low expectations, avoidance, fear, and discrimination. Deep inside these walls the heart and soul of it is all about isolation and loneliness and defeat.

A change of the heart is what AtWork! really is all about right at the heart and soul of it all. Yes, the tangible, touchable part of it is about good jobs. Discovering your talents and finding the employer who truly needs your contributions breaks down those bricks and changes the heart inside.

Work creates the opportunity for two things we all need, things of the heart that are simply part of the human condition. One is the need to form meaningful, reciprocal connections to our fellow man. And the other is the need to give something of ourselves back to the world in which we live, something that is welcomed and appreciated and recognized for its worthiness.

The heart and soul of AtWork! is all about justice, belonging and potential. Our vision is that by changing the face of employment we change hearts and lives and impact our community, our society, and our nation.

In our vision there is no looking away or telling children not to stare, because we all look each other in the eye with pride of contribution and acceptance. Workplaces and communities that embrace the contributions of people with disabilities develop rich cultures of respect, teamwork, and responsibility. There is no better time than the present for these virtues. Some may say they are essential to the recovery of our economy and the preservation of our way of life. AtWork! and those of you who have joined the movement think about how the world will fit for all people. Because everyone, including people with disabilities, has the right to show up in all those places and anywhere and everywhere their hopes and dreams may take them.

And they will show up. Together we’re making sure they have the opportunity to show up and much more every day.
CHRIS BRANDT

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Invest in People First!

King County is considering eliminating ALL County general funds for human services in 2010 in order to balance the county budget.

WHAT WILL BE ELIMINATED?

County funding for domestic violence shelters; senior centers; adult day health; emergency food distribution; homeless shelters, including those for youth; services for victims of sexual assault; and programs for youth at risk, and MORE!

The King County Alliance for Human Services urges King County Council to maintain current funding for community health and human services for 2010 while we work together to find a long-term funding solution.

Urgently needed human services have already been cut by almost 50% in the past three years, during a time of dramatically increasing needs and severe economic distress. Our communities cannot sustain any further cuts without deep losses to the human services infrastructure. In addition to reducing human misery, maintaining the infrastructure is also more cost effective. It is much more expensive to rebuild this foundation than to maintain it, and will take years to bring back to current levels if it is dismantled.

Maintaining funding to community health and human services now will save King County money in the long run. Eliminating or reducing human services will drive up the costs of public health and public safety, increasing both human and financial costs to residents of King County.

Maintaining current funding for 2010 will not solve the problem of adequate, stable funding for urgently needed community health and human services in the long-term. Our elected leaders must continue working, unabated, to implement long-term solutions so that services are available when King County residents find themselves in need. And at least until those solutions are in place, this temporary set aside is a critical measure to ensure the strength of our communities.

You can help by contacting members of the King County Council and urge their support for continued funding of human services. You can also voice your concerns at upcoming public hearings on the County’s proposed budget:

October 7 - 7 pm - Bellevue City Chambers
October 13 - 7 pm - Regional Justice Center
October 22 - 7 pm - Redmond City Chambers
October 29 - 7 pm - King County Courthouse, Seattle

Click here to learn more about how you can help by visiting the website of The King County Alliance for Human Services.

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