“I know someone with a disability”…
Do you know someone with a disability? I am 99.9% sure that all of us can answer that with a “yes”. Why am I so sure? 1 in 5 people in the United States have some type of disability. If we can all navigate “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, I am certain that each one of us knows someone with a disability – but may not even know it.
Why the mystery? We are talking about a VERY large group of people who cut across every demographic group and that include people with visible and not so visible disabilities. It is a group that includes a person with a hearing or vision loss or a missing or partial limb or limbs; a person who has survived cancer, a person with depression or other hidden disability, a veteran who has been injured in service to our country, a person on the Autism Spectrum, or with Downs Syndrome or Multiple Sclerosis; and a person who suffered a stroke. I could go on and on with my list. Why don’t we know that we know a “person with a disability”? It’s quite possible that we simply think of those people I listed as our neighbor, our spouse, sibling, parent, friend, or co-worker and instead, think about their talent, personality, education, experience and abilities. So why is it different when we talk about hiring someone with a disability?
“I would like to hire someone with a disability, but this job requires…”
In my line of work, I have heard this phrase many times. You can end it with “…an advanced degree” or “…a lot of attention to detail and problem-solving skills” or “…leadership skills” or “a high degree of physical work.” Don’t get me wrong, I understand why a hiring manager might make this statement. As an HR professional, I know the time and thought that goes into determining the responsibilities and performance expectations for a role that needs to be filled. I also know that most managers just want to locate and hire the right person for the job. When I hear, “but this job requires…” my response is to discuss diversity within disability and help to make that connection to the 1 in 5 people they know who could successfully fill that position.
Sometimes even disability experts don’t recognize the “diversity within disability”…
Hey, there is a lot of history here that we are all trying to learn from and move beyond. It was not long ago that people with a disability worked in very segregated settings or “workshops” and not as a part of the rest of the workforce. As a result, our industry started setting “acceptable non-disabled to disabled” employee ratios. The intent was a good one; to make sure people with a disability were working side by side with their peers without a disability and not in “segregated workshops”. Good intent but ratios don’t recognize the diversity within disability. It goes back to that mystery…right now, you could be working on a team where everyone has a disability and you might not even know it. What is not a mystery is that your team consists of a group of people with unique abilities, prior experience and points of view. They each bring something different to the team – different disabilities and different abilities.
A wide range of talent, knowledge, skills and education ready to join your team!
That’s one of the main things we do at Disability Solutions. We make connections. We work to understand a company’s unique talent needs and find that 1 in 5 person who meets that need. We see the diversity within disability and are glad to help others see it too.
About Kris: This is Kris’s inaugural blog of what will be a monthly series bringing her experience in human resources including talent acquisition, diversity, teaching and performance management together with her passion and commitment for disability inclusion. Her series will focus on the ability and value people bring to employers looking for talent. She is certified as a Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR) and earned a Master’s Degree in Teaching focused on instructional technology. Kris lives in Connecticut with her husband and they are adjusting to being “empty nesters”; the proud parents of a son who is a recent college graduate and a daughter who is a full-time college student.
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