Examine the possibilities
By Herb Drill
My wife, Barbara, is post-polio but is the chief financial officer for a women’s health agency in suburban
Despite Muscular Dystrophy, I’m a career journalist for newspapers and magazines in the
It’s a situation CEOs and human resources managers should examine closely, very closely, particularly as Baby Boomers leave the workforce, and/or develop age-related disabilities. Regardless of the Baby Boomer scenario, many of those in the estimated 70% of the disabled community who are unemployed but want to work can be employed gainfully with a little help from their friends, and non-supporters, in the existing workforce.
To wit: A March 1 article in The New York Times detailed how special but cost-effective arrangements are empowering thousands of people with disabilities, including those with spinal cord injuries and vision loss. “Fast computers and broadband connections have become so inexpensive and reliable that location isn’t an issue for certain jobs, like customer service. At the same time, an abundance of technology is available to help disabled people operate computers, like software that lets a blind person use a keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate a program, and voice synthesizers that turn text into speech,” the article emphasized.
Also. there are alternatives to the mouse for people with limited use of their arms. This example was provided: Steven Singley, 41, a quadriplegic as a result of a car accident 20 years ago, has a setup that helps him take calls for Office Depot from his home in
The Framingham, MA-based market research firm IDC claims about 112,000 home agents - disabled or not - worked for outsourcing firms like Willow/Alpine Access, of Golden, CO, at the end of 2005. The number is expected to climb to 300,000 by 2010, excluding employees of companies that hire their own home agents. Many new jobs are expected to go to people who are disabled or to people who care for them, authorities contend, because there are more programs to train them, The Times concluded.
According to a recently released IDC study, the outsourcing market posted a 33% increase in deals signed in 2005 versus 2004. The IDC study found market adoption becoming more mainstream as “large, midsize, and small companies from various industries embrace the business outsourcing model.” Romala Ravi, director of IDC's
Jacksonville, FL-based H Magazine, published by the Florida Times-Union, observed that as Baby Boomers turn 60 this year, many of them will be “re-evaluating their lives and careers. Some may be forced into career changes, while others feel guilty about the lack of balance with home and work.” H Magazine referred to best-selling author Dr. John Izzo’s comment that it’s possible to see beyond the "expiration date" and rediscover innocence. In his book, Second Innocence, Izzo says this innocence is an active choice Boomers make to reclaim the ideas they had but somehow lost in their daily life.
Another aspect was offered by MedlinePlus.com and reported by Reuters Health: Most employers are "unprepared" for the return of wounded and/or disabled veterans from wars in
"These soldiers put their lives on the line and deserve the utmost respect," said Hartwig. "Even big companies haven't thought about their obligations to these people."
Veterans are entitled to lifelong benefits, including mental health benefits. In addition, there are worker compensation issues for those wounded in battle or accidents, or have been traumatized by being in a war zone. After World War II and other conflicts, veterans faced discrimination when they returned home. In some cases, "Second Injury Funds" were set up to meet the needs of wounded soldiers whose injuries were aggravated by their stateside jobs. Largely, those programs have disappeared and been replaced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That law prohibits discrimination against anyone with a disability. Employers should know that failure to comply with the
A glimpse of what the disabled job seeker should consider is provided by Blindskills Inc., of
The spinal-bound handbook tells the purchaser “to consider your interests and talents, and visit with people about your career options; don’t consider your visual impairment. Follow your interests without limitations. There will be plenty of time to find resolutions to vision-related obstacles later. You want to be true to yourself and not let others dissuade you from investigating careers. There will be people who will [say] you can’t enter a particular career. Don't listen! You never know what you can do until you try, and you must stay on track and learn as much as you can about possibilities.”
Obviously, some careers will take more innovation than others to compensate for limited sight, “but there are very few jobs that are out of the question when compared to the overall job market.”
The publications is available for $10 per copy in three formats: large print, cassette, and diskette. A Braille resource list is available on request for those who purchase the book.
The state’s play a role, too. For example, Stephen Glassman, who heads an architectural firm and is chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), has helped identify the most common illegal or non-job related questions that are often asked on pre-employment applications and at interviews. He emphasizes that the
Glassman adds, “At this pre-offer stage, employers may ask about an applicant’s ability to perform specific job-related functions. An employer may ask other questions that aren’t disability-related and may require examinations that aren’t medical, provided that all applicants are asked these questions or are given these examinations.” He notes the following exemplify acceptable inquiries:
• Can you perform this job with or without reasonable accommodation? If the applicant needs a “reasonable accommodation” to demonstrate their ability, that accommodation should be provided or the person would be permitted to explain how they could do the job with accommodation.
· Describe or demonstrate how you would perform these functions.
· How well can you handle stress?
· Can you meet the attendance requirements of this job?
· How many days did you take leave last year?
· Do you use drugs illegally?
· Do you have the required licenses to perform this job?
Glassman said these examples are unlawful inquiries:
· Do you have AIDS? Do you have asthma?
· Do you have a disability, which would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
· Do you ever get ill from stress?
· How many sick days did you take last year?
· Why do you need a wheelchair?
· Have you ever filed for workers’ compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?
· Have you ever been treated for drug or alcohol problems?
· What prescription drugs are you currently taking?
After a conditional offer is made, an employer may require medical examinations and may make disability-related inquiries if it does so for all entering employees in the job category. If an examination or inquiry screens out an individual because of disability, the exclusionary criterion must be job-related and consistent with business necessity, Glassman said. The employer must show the criterion can’t be satisfied and the essential functions can’t be performed with reasonable accommodation.
Nothing worthwhile comes easily, but there are some helpful hints for HR managers and their CEOs:
* Get executive commitment - Having that at the top sends a clear message to senior management about the seriousness and business relevance of this issue. Also, top-down commitment will reinforce the desired outcomes and assist in conveying the expectation of cooperation, involvement, and commitment on the part of senior management and staff.
* Incorporate disability into existing diversity committees. This group is usually composed of a vertical and horizontal cross-section of the organization and can help analyze assessment data and make recommendations to top management.
* Design relevant, interactive applicable training to increase awareness and understanding about disability, and to develop concrete skills employees can use.
* Integrate the concepts, skills, and results of your disability efforts into the fabric of the organization.
* Partnerships with organizations that can assist your company in the successful integration of people with disabilities into your workforce. For more information, contact: VCU-RRTC, Howard Green,
In his wheelchair in
Dr. John Izzo