Meet Arthur Edge of GSK

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Arthur Edge is a biopharmaceutical Technology Manager at GSK and his challenge at the company is to strengthen GSK’s manufacturing processes and launch new products in the fight to cure Lupus.

He is proud to be a part of the team to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new self-injectable formulation of Benlysta (belimumab), which treats systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in adult patients.

This became a really personal matter to him, when a close friend was diagnosed with Lupus.

For Arthur, recruiting and retaining a diverse team is important, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there’s a lack of diversity.

Arthur Edge GSK headshot
Arthur Edge GSK-Glaxo Smith Kline

At GSK, he had the most productive and rewarding career experiences working on global teams where each individual is unique and their uniqueness is recognized.

He has a passion for learning and a desire to continuously improve. He believes he is bigger than his career, and his life is bigger than himself. GSK helps him to live this reality through its Modern Employer culture.

Arthur is active in leadership roles within the biotech community and in community service. He is the president of the Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology advisory board for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, and he has leveraged GSK employee volunteers to work with him and support student success.

Finally, Arthur list three points of advice for young professionals: find an area of expertise and build a career platform around that area; be mentored and be a mentor; and work on problems that interest you.

Simple Accommodations Lead to Workplace Success

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Ray Muro, PRIDE Industries employee, shows his workplace accomations in the company warehouse

Studies show that companies with a diverse and inclusive workforce benefit from greater employee retention and higher productivity rates. But some people think that accommodations are always expensive and complicated.

With just a bit of imagination and effort, any company can attract, accommodate, and retain highly productive employees.

At PRIDE, our 50 years of experience prove that accommodations don’t have to be costly or complex. Ray Muro is one example of an accomplished employee. Blind since childhood, Ray has worked as a Stock Clerk in the Self-Help shop at U.S. Army Post Fort Bliss in El Paso. Among his many duties, Ray manages the store’s inventory, registers new customers, and organizes the supplies.

Ray is one of the shop’s most productive employees, consistently earning high praise from customers and fellow employees alike. The reasons for his success are no secret—Ray has arranged his work environment to accommodate his needs. With PRIDE’s support, Ray has used a few inexpensive tools and modifications to set himself up for success.

Before joining PRIDE, Ray earned an Associate degree in Human Services and Liberal Arts and a Bachelor’s degree in Multi-Disciplinary Studies from the University of Texas, El Paso. Despite his qualifications and enthusiasm, Ray could not find a permanent job due to misconceptions about his disabilities.

Ray was born with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), an eye disease common in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina and can lead to blindness, as it did with Ray, who has been blind since childhood. Working-age adults with significant vision loss have a 30% employment rate.

PRIDE IndustriesHired as a Stock Clerk in the Self-Help shop, Ray manages the inventory of parts such as paint or batteries, registers customers into the database, and categorizes new supplies. To master his position and make it easier for him to navigate the shop, Ray spent two weeks labeling everything with braille stickers to serve customers faster.

“When I attended college, I didn’t have access to braille books, so I had to use speech technology or a reader,” said Ray. “But braille often works better. It’s such a powerful tool to help people who are blind navigate the visual world.”

READ MORE… https://prideindustries.org/blog/becoming-the-shop-expert-rays-story/

3 Ways Elevating the Narrative on Disabilities Leads to Business Success

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A woman in a wheelchair, going down a hallway

By Sheryl Snapp Conner of Entrepreneur 

In a recent column, I introduced Ric Nelson, a 37-year-old disability advocate in Anchorage, Alaska. Nelson has cerebral palsy and requires full-time assistance to manage his physical needs. Despite his challenges, he’s dedicated his career to advancing programs and understanding of the disabled in Alaska (which ranks third in the U.S. for the strength of its programs) and throughout the U.S.

After graduating in the top 10 percent of his high school class, Nelson secured associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Small Business Management and Business Administration on scholarship, followed by a master’s degree in Public Administration.

Nelson serves on multiple boards and has testified in Washington D.C. toward advances in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Appointed in 2007, After six years’ service as a committee member of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education (GCDSE), he was elected as the program chair for two years and hired as a staff member from September 2015 until September 2020 as the program’s Employment Program Coordinator.

Most recently Nelson has assumed the role of Advocacy and Outreach Specialist for The ARC of Anchorage, one of 600 U.S. locations for The Arc of the United States, an organization launched by parents of people with developmental disabilities in the 1950s and headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The Covid-19 recession has hit the disabled particularly hard, Nelson says. The disabled have lost nearly 1M jobs between March and May of 2020. Complicating factors include jobs that ended due to the extra risk of immunocompromised conditions and the predominance of lower-level positions in industries that have been most heavily hit. With DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion) becoming one of the highest priorities for this year’s end and the seasons to follow, what do businesses need to know and do to support the disabled from here forward?

In an interview, Nelson reinforced the need for self-advocacy among the disabled and the need for greater awareness and education of the businesses and communities they serve. Public perception is tantamount, he says, to avoid the creation of further problems by the very solutions we attempt to create.

For example, he notes the extreme difficulty (and even impossibility) of having a savings account when government programs assume any earning potential should be used to reimburse the cost of Medicare needs.

“The cost to Medicare of a full-time assistant may be $100,000, regardless of the person’s activities,” Nelson says. “But if a fully-employed disabled person makes $50,000 or $80,000 – a rarity in itself – and loses their qualification for Medicare funds, they can’t go to work without suddenly incurring this debt.”

Other issues include the right to continued health care benefits if they marry, or to put away retirement savings or to maintain equivalent benefits if they move to a different state. Many of these issues require continued advocacy to state and federal agencies.

Continue to Entrepreneur.com to read the full article. 

Tips for Conducting Virtual Interviews with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Job Candidates

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A man with a headset conducting a job interview on his laptop.

By Susan Murad

With National Disability Employment Awareness Month just concluded, the Center on Employment at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is offering tips for employers conducting virtual interviews with deaf and hard-of-hearing job candidates.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that the usual approach to the interview process has been dramatically impacted, and many employers are turning to virtual platforms to conduct their interviews,” said John Macko, director of RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment.

Employers can ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing job candidates have full access to communication for a successful interview. Here’s how:

  • Avoid having bright lights or a window directly behind you that can create glare and cause eye strain for the candidate. Make sure there are no distractions in the background, as well.
  • If the candidate is not familiar with the platform (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) used for the interview, allow them to perform a test connection to make sure the candidate can connect at the time of the interview.
  • Encourage the candidate to let you know if communication is unclear. Ask questions and clarify comments to ensure the candidate understands everything that is happening during the interview.
  • Use a dry erase board, writing tablet, chatroom, or comment feature to help clarify your communication.

Continue to  RIT.edu to read the full article.

Rehiring the Smart Way: Mainstreaming Disability in Recruiting Strategies

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A woman in a wheelchair accepting a pen and paper from a fellow employee

By Tamala Scott

As we envision a return to normal following the pandemic, many businesses find themselves in a position of having to rehire staff to ramp back up to pre-COVID productivity and revenue.

While traditional sourcing strategies—such as online job boards, newspaper ads, staffing agencies— may secure employees in the short-term, your recruiting strategy may be missing the mark in reaching a valuable yet untapped resource—job seekers with disabilities. This article will shed light on the multiple advantages that businesses gain from hiring people with disabilities, beginning by dispelling three of the most common myths that deter businesses from actively recruiting jobseekers with disabilities. We also offer a few key strategies on how to get started on your inclusion journey.

Cost. The first and perhaps most insidious myth is that hiring people with disabilities is a costly practice. The Job Accommodation Network has surveyed nearly 3,000 employers since 2004 to ask them about their accommodation practices and costs. Nearly 60 percent of all of those surveyed have reported reasonable accommodation costs of $0 for their employees with disabilities, while the remaining respondents report an average cost per individual of $500 or less. The same study also lists numerous cost-saving benefits for providing a streamlined and comprehensive reasonable accommodation strategy, including employee retention, increased employee productivity and improved workplace safety.

Productivity. Another misconception is that employees with disabilities are less productive than their peers. One of the country’s leading disability-inclusive employers, Walgreen’s, conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of its disability hiring strategy within its distribution centers. Among the three areas the study examined was the productivity, safety and turnover among its staff with and without disabilities. The study concluded that Walgreens’ employees with disabilities typically outperform or perform at the same level as their colleagues without disabilities, while also experiencing less safety-related incidents and remaining in their positions for longer.

On a macro-level, disability-inclusive companies are also proven to perform better than their industry counterparts. A landmark study conducted by Accenture in 2018 shows that businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusion within their workforce outperform their industry peers and are better able to respond to business challenges.

Difficulty finding talent. The labor force with disabilities has historically been—and remains—underemployed relative to the overall national labor force. The unemployment rate among jobseekers with disabilities is 1.5 times that of jobseekers without disabilities. Despite recent data showing a narrowing employment gap between graduates with and without disabilities, graduates with disabilities report that they are more likely to get part-time or temporary positions and earn on average less than their peers without disabilities. Qualified talent is out there, but due to the barriers to employment, many of these jobseekers with disabilities remain invisible to employers that could benefit immensely from their skill.

For the first time in history, business leaders are realizing that hiring jobseekers with disabilities is not simply the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do for their business. Despite that, many businesses get stuck trying to figure out where to start in their disability inclusion efforts. Here are some achievable steps to getting YOUR business started on a path to a stronger and more inclusive diversity strategy:

Create a group of champions. As a first step, establish a core group of passionate individuals within your business that are willing to dedicate time and resources toward advancing your initiative. This group should include people from a variety of different departments and leadership levels within the company so that there are as many diverse perspectives and skillsets represented as possible.

Cultivate buy-in. Creating a disability-inclusive workplace requires that changes be made to an organization’s culture, operations, recruiting and hiring practices, and many other facets. Now that the business case has been made, your champions need to create an airtight pitch and messaging campaign to inform staff and leadership at multiple levels of the “how” and the “why” to have a disability-inclusive workplace.

Develop partnerships with local and national disability organizations. Once your internal support is secured, the next step is to seek out the expertise from local and national disability agencies to familiarize yourselves with the local disability community and find that aforementioned talent. Establishing your business as a disability-inclusive employer to the surrounding disability community is an important step toward getting individuals with disabilities to join your team.

Start small. It is important to keep an eye on the big picture and how to fold disability inclusion into multiple facets of your organization, but it is even more important to start small to develop a sound strategy that can be scaled in the future. Start small and aim for small wins before scaling.

Thinking about starting a disability hiring initiative? Contact The Arc@Work.

Digital Accessibility: Why It’s More Vital Than Ever

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Headshot of Elizabeth Stephen

By Elizabeth Stephen, VP of Customer Engagement at Striata, The Americas

In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 achieved what years of lobbying and education has not—convincing organizations of the importance of making sure digital assets, like websites, emails and mobile apps, are easy to use and simple to navigate.

With the sudden upswing in digital demand and the almost overnight disappearance of physical interactions, it’s become clear how someone who cannot leave their home is forced to rely on digital channels, and how frustrating it is for them if those digital channels are not optimized for accessibility. This is a regular experience for people living with disabilities and COVID-19 has forced people to have empathy for those with the need for digital access.

Making online content more accessible means ensuring that all people can read and understand it—taking into account any disabilities they may have or assistive devices they could be using to access it. This includes those with disabilities such as impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing. In fact, stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 61-million (or 1 in 4) adults in the US have some form of disability.

The pandemic has accelerated the rate of digital transformation and with it, the need for digital accessibility. People with disabilities, who previously may have relied on physical interactions (when shopping, banking etc.), are now also being forced to interact via digital channels instead. It is therefore imperative that organizations consider this segment. They can start by assessing the accessibility level of all their digital content and changing the copy as well as layout/design where necessary. Taking these steps will not only ensure that digital content can be consumed and understood by all, but that it also complies with accessibility laws.

Some common accessibility standards include ensuring websites and emails are easily navigable on a mobile device or via keyboard only and creating PDF documents that can be read by screen readers by avoiding text with a poor color contrast.

Before the pandemic hit, while physical interactions were still acceptable and in-store visits more common, email was already a popular communication channel for many consumers and businesses alike. Now, with the recent, sudden, and unprecedented restrictions of movement imposed by governments across the globe, companies have been forced to adjust their communication or risk losing touch with customers.

It is not surprising that a large number of companies turned to email as the channel of choice to reach out to customers with information about their business continuity plans.

The result was a deluge of emails from brands wanting to make contact with customers and reassure them that new, digital ways of applying, buying and transacting would return things to business as usual. But if customers aren’t able to access those emails in spite of their disabilities, there can be no “business as usual.” Fortunately, a report from Level Access shows that 67 percent of US-based businesses felt compelled to implement inclusion to be truly inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Meanwhile, some 45 percent implemented a standard, organizational-wide approach to accessibility. They could do far worse than to start with email.
The pandemic has emphasized the undeniable value of these communications, and as the value of email is a channel for everyone, it makes sense for organizations to put energy into making email accessibility a key focus in their digital accessibility strategy.

Elizabeth Stephen is the VP of Customer Engagement for the Americas, overseeing all commercial business and channel management in North and South America. For the past decade, Liz has managed teams of sales groups both nationally and internationally. She has a true passion for helping customers identify their needs and consulting with them to help fill those needs. Since joining Striata, Liz has taken a keen interest in Customer Communications Management (CCM) and helping clients utilize digital communications to meet their CX goals.

Cultivating a ‘Deliberately Diverse’ Approach in Accounting & Advisory Fields

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A woamn working at a desk with a computer and a calculator

By Joanne Cleaver

Grant Thornton, the northern Virginia office of international accounting and advisory firm, had a problem.

The office is located in the Washington, D.C. metro, one of the most racially diverse areas in America, with an especially strong representation of Black professionals.

And, many of the firm’s clients were government agencies or top-tier suppliers to government agencies—two types of organizations highly attuned to racial diversity.

Carlos Otal, head of the office and managing partner for Grant Thornton’s public sector services and solutions practice, knew that clients expected more than a reflection of their own diverse staff. They expected Grant Thornton to live up to the diversity priorities it stated in its website and pitch materials.

But how would the firm foster diverse client engagement teams when the accounting and advisory profession was, and is, overwhelmingly white and male?

By cultivating a ‘deliberately diverse’ approach to assembling teams.

Otal “cracked the code” by figuring out the key dynamics of how diverse teams deliver on the diversity promise of better ideas and greater innovation to elevate client service. Then, he aligned the process of picking teams to ensure that no demographic dominated. That shifted the group dynamic: when each individual operated in his or her own strength, free from the expectation of representing their identity, the group quickly recognized each member’s strengths and contributions. Those strengths combined in fresh ways to bring clients new ideas and solutions.

Thanks to ongoing research by the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance, accounting and advisory firms have a deep well of diversity best practices to draw on, from Grant Thornton and other leading firms. The AFWA’s reports illustrate to W/MBE’s how firms are pursuing diverse talent and suppliers.

The accounting and advisory profession lags when it comes to diversity.

Blacks are significantly under-represented in the accounting and advisory profession, at only 3 percent of employees. Hispanics comprise 6 percent of employees; Asians, 11 percent; and biracial employees, 4 percent, while Native Americans are virtually absent, according to the 2020 Accounting MOVE Project, an annual research and advocacy effort that measures and supports the advancement of women and women of color at CPA firms. It is produced by content firm Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., in partnership with the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance.

As accounting and advisory firms seek new avenues for growth, they are realizing that diverse talent drives innovation, and innovation is what clients want when they hire a pricey firm to guide them through new market and financial opportunities.

Otal’s lightbulb moment pivoted on changing the definition of “meritocracy.” CPA and advisory firms tend to believe that billable hours create meritocracy, in dollars and culture. But sustainable firm success is grounded in client relationship skills, business development and talent growth—characteristics that are not easily quantified and that often don’t fit into the billable hours construct.

As Otal worked with leaders in his office, the team realized early on that they needed to diversify the office’s talent pipeline from the bottom up and to change the culture at midlevel from the outside in.

And retention pivoted on changing how professionals defined success. “You can’t just say you want diversity,” Otal says. “You have to be intentional. We use metrics and data to tell you who is doing what. But then we spend a lot of time looking beyond the data. What are the impacts this person has made beyond the hours billed and the sales numbers? “

Otal realized that young professionals need to see a wider spectrum of leadership styles, backgrounds, and career paths. That’s how the office’s “bottom up” strategy intersected with its “outside in” strategy. Otal’s team sought midcareer recruits with a wider range of ethnic and personal backgrounds. The Alexandria office has now pulled ahead of national benchmarks for racial diversity.

“We’ve realized we have to be even more intentional about diversity when we have even more data. Sometimes you say, ‘It’s not if this person gets promoted. It’s when,’” says Otal. “So, what are we waiting for? Let’s go ahead and promote this person. We know we want to. When we’re intentional about diversity, it changes the dynamic. Then that changes the data,” he said, referring to employee demographics.

At Grant Thornton’s Alexandria office, greater racial and gender diversity changed the way teams collaborated and solved problems. And that showed young professionals that the firm was capitalizing on diversity—and that their own varied perspectives were essential for their career success.

This article is based on the 2019 CPA Firm Diversity Report. Find more trends and tools for working with leading accounting and advisory firms at the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance website: afwa.org/move-project/

Technology to Help Those with Disabilities Work from Home

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Young woman viewing telecheck on computer

By Sarah Botterill

Due to COVID-19, many people are now working from home. It’s a challenge for everyone but can present additional barriers if you have a disability or a long-term health condition. Employers and employees need to collaborate. Homeworking is often more inclusive if you consider everyone’s needs.

There are ways the environment and technology can be adjusted to help all types of disabilities, with tips for anyone with a visual impairment, neurodivergent workers, those with cognitive impairments, as well as physical and hearing impairments.

It’s a legal requirement for employers to adapt to the needs of workers with disabilities. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments to support job applicants and employees with disabilities.

Reasonable adjustments means that you aim to reduce as many potential barriers as possible. Where people are working at home, you need to consider the individual’s needs.

Here are some tips:

  1. Find out about your employee’s specific needs

You may already know employees who have particular needs. However, you may not, and some may come to light that you were previously unaware of during this crisis.

AbilityNet’s online tool can help you, and your employees identify the needs to make reasonable adjustments to the workspace.

  1. Ask employees with disabilities to help you

It’s society that disables. People with disabilities face challenges that others don’t every day and are often fantastic innovators. So, if you’re wrestling with an accessibility issue or something that’ll help everyone, they’re the best people to ask.

Take Haben Girma, for example. The deaf-blind Harvard Law graduate spoke eloquently about a job working in a gym at TechShare Pro 2019. One of the clients was struggling to turn on a machine and couldn’t make it operate.

Haben went in and felt her way around the machine and found the button that fixed it. As Haben tells it, the delighted customer quipped how fantastic it was and that she “hadn’t seen the button.” Haben’s reply, “Neither did I.”

  1. Remote communications

Many employers will be looking for new ways of communicating remotely with employees. There are many options available, and you must consider disabled people when you’re deciding how to communicate.

Do platforms work for people with visual- or hearing impairments, for example?

Video-conferencing platform Zoom is a simple to use platform for video calling. You can add closed captions to the video-conferencing system for the Deaf and hearing-impaired, or embed a third-party captioning service.

Other options are available for collaborating, including MS Teams, which also enables you to set-up a video call. You can also set up video conferencing with background blur. This feature was developed by a `Microsoft employee who would lip-read during calls but was struggling because of background interference.

Teams also include an Immersive Reader. Features include the ability to read text aloud.

  1. Adapting your physical workspace

Physical needs are varied and may relate to using a computer, or setting up a workspace. For example, some people may not be able to use a mouse at all or for long periods.

In this instance, voice dictation might be useful. Adjustments include the use of dictation and/or text-to-speech software.

You can find out more about using dictation with AbilityNet’s FREE online tool, My Computer My Way.

While this link is for Windows 10, My Computer My Way has dictation tips for all operating systems including Apple and Google Chromebook.

  1. Makeshift sit-stand desk

Some employees may find it uncomfortable to sit for long periods. In the office, they may have access to a sit-stand desk. If it’s not possible to get a sit-stand desk to employees in extreme times, then an ironing board could fit the bill. Ironing boards have adjustable heights, and you can raise it as a standing desk.

  1. Neurodiversity and homeworking

You may have neurodivergent workers in your workforce. Neurodiversity is a term that refers to where the brain works differently from others and covers a broad range of people, including those living with ADHD, Autism, Bipolar and Dyslexia.

How we’re communicating is changing, and there may be more online and telephone communication than usual, which can present particular difficulties for the neurodivergent community. It’s easier to miss social signals and to misinterpret.

Conversely, online and telephone communication is also preferable for some people

You’ll need to provide extra support, and recognize that the neurodivergent community, notably people with ADHD, may be more prone to anxiety than others.

  1. Regular breaks and routines

For some, it can be harder to take a break when you’re working at home. For those with specific disabilities, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), for example, fatigue is a genuine concern.

As an employer, stress the importance of regular breaks.

There are apps out there that encourage taking a break:

  • The Pomodoro Technique is a study/work practice that says to work for 25 minutes at a time, with a short break in between and a more extended break after four cycles (or pomodoros— Italian for tomato).
  • Big Stretch Reminder is a free break reminder tool for Windows computers. It prompts the user to take regular breaks with different options on how intrusive the messages are.
  • Stretchly is another app that reminds you to take a break when working with your computer. Stretchly is customizable and can provide instructions on what to do with your breaks, whether it takes up the full screen and how often breaks occur.

AbilityNet has published a list of apps, which will remind you to take a break. You’ll also find tips for ergonomic adjustments if you’re living with MS.

  1. Tips for repetitive strain injury

Good posture is vital for all workers, but especially if you have RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).

Employees may have had special equipment in the workplace they’ve been unable to transport home such as monitor stands, and ergonomic keyboards. If you can replace them at home, then do, but it might not be immediately possible.

There are, however, some things you can do. For example, instead of a monitor stand get a stack of robust books to raise your monitor to the correct height.

The right height is to position the top of the screen at or slightly below eye-level. Books can also double up as a makeshift footrest to reduce thigh strain.

  1. Keeping organized

Some employees may have worked at home before; others won’t. For some disabled people, this will be more challenging than others.

Employees with dyslexia may find organizing themselves challenging, for example. Encourage people to make a simple list of tasks at the beginning of the day.

Mind mapping software is an excellent way of organizing everything, from tasks to difficult thoughts and emotions. The good news is that there’s a lot of it that’s freely available.

Some options include Mind Node and XMind. We also have first-hand tech hacks for dyslexia.

  1. Emergency help

People working at home will be going out to buy essentials. Typical environments, such as supermarkets and drugstores, are busier than useful. The Emergency Chat App designed for someone having an autistic meltdown. In such situations, talking can become impossible because speech becomes non-functional for a while, even after the person has recovered. In addition, any kind of physical touch is often uncomfortable for the person experiencing the meltdown. But with the Emergency Chat App, the person in distress can bring up a pre-determined message on their phone for those around them. The message would then explain what is happening and what they need.

Source: ability.net

ADA Anniversary – What Does the Future Look Like for People with Disabilities at Work?

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blind man holding cane in office setting and coworkers seated at conference table

The most recent episode of the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)’s Future of Work podcast features Josh Christianson, Co-Director of PEAT, as he highlights predictions made by Future of Work podcast guests regarding anticipated changes resulting from emerging technology and the impact on the workplace and workforce of our future.

The Future of Work podcast is developed in partnership with Workology.com as part of the PEAT’s Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

During the interview, Josh and Jessica discuss their five favorite predictions for the next 30 years of the ADA that they’ve had as part of this Future of Work podcast season, I guess, of the Future of Work series. They discuss predictions from the following guests:

  • Joel Ward, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Chancey Fleet, New York Public Library
  • Alexandra Givens, Center for Democracy & Techhnology
  • Chris Baumgart, Imagine! Colorado
  • George Karalis, STRIVR

Listen to the complete interview with Josh on the PEAT website.

Autism Awareness Advocate Areva Martin On Her Work-Life Balance Journey

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Areva Martin

Driven career professionals often struggle to figure out a work life balance that doesn’t leave them riddled with guilt. Unfortunately, for parents of kids with disabilities the increased demands can make them feel like caring for their special needs child(ren) means they must automatically reduce or even eliminate their career goals. Indeed, they often feel the pressure to automatically blunt the trajectory of their career in an attempt to demonstrate full commitment to their household’s unique needs and challenges. For those who view attentive parenting of a special needs child and aggressive pursuit of a fulfilling and ambitious career as a binary choice, they need look no further than the compelling example of disability rights advocate and award winning attorney/legal commentator Areva Martin to shatter that myth.

When her son Marty was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Areva found herself struggling to navigate the complex labyrinth of relevant services which eventually led her to develop the Special Needs Network, Inc. to not just serve her needs, but primarily to provide a network of support for families affected by developmental disabilities.

As a disability rights advocate, she has mentored and befriended many parents of special needs children and can actively relate to the unique work life balance challenges that the experience brings, and her message is both clear and determined – “Parenting a special needs child doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career.” Indeed, she doesn’t just say it, she’s done it. Graciously, Areva spoke with me recently to share a few nuggets of advice for other parents struggling to manage the sometimes overwhelming demands of both work and home.

Know the Law

Parents of children with special needs are often left to maneuver a laundry list of requirements in order to sufficiently support their children. From navigating school admissions and identifying appropriate therapies to securing necessary testing and establishing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the demands on a parent’s time and financial resources can be significant to say the least. Identifying sources of support is a critical step in relieving the very real drain on financial and other limited resources. Areva advises parents to learn their rights early so they avoid wasting precious time and money on services that may be available to them at little or no cost. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that applies to public schools in every state throughout the country. The law makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities including autism and a range of developmental, emotional and learning disabilities, and it ensures special education and related services to those children from age 2 to 21. Beyond federal laws, Areva recommends that parents make time to talk to other parents, administrators and officials to familiarize themselves early on with any applicable state, local, even district level regulations or policies that might provide support or create barriers for their particular situation. Indeed, knowledge is power and taking the time to equip yourself with the knowledge early on is key.

While it may be tempting for parents of special needs children to “suffer in silence” rather than share concerns, issues or problems, Areva warns against that urge and instead encourages parents to be open with friends and colleagues.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Tips for Being an Effective Teleworker

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woman with disability works from home with laptop in lap in her wheelchair

Many employers and employees are shifting to telework structures. For some, conducting business from home may be a new adventure, while others are veterans of remote work. Regardless of experience, it can be helpful for us all to think through approaches to teleworking to ensure that we are both effective and content when working from our home offices.

The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) has created the following telework tips for employers and employees. Though they’ve been designed with people with disabilities in mind, they provide information that can be useful to anyone who is transitioning to remote work.

Creating a Comfortable Workplace

Pick a Spot

Designate a long-term space to work in your home where you can focus during work hours, making sure it’s clean and uncluttered. Avoid using a space you frequent in your personal life, like your kitchen table or couch. If there are things that make you happy or motivated (a candy jar, your favorite chair, etc.), don’t be afraid to include them in the space.

Make it Comfortable

Think about the comfort level of the location you choose. Find a spot with room to spread out, a place to type away without hitting your cat in the face with your elbow. If available, pick furniture that won’t put a strain on your body after hours of sitting. Ask yourself: Is this chair causing me to slouch? Is the table too high to type?

Evaluate Accommodation Needs

If you have a disability/chronic condition, evaluate what tools you need to be productive. The article “Accessibility and Employment: What People with Disabilities Need to Know” provides guidance on how to request accommodations and/or permission to use personal devices that you may already own with the features you need.

Continue on to the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology to read telework tips for staying on schedule, communicating with your team, staying productive, and more!

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Verizon

Verizon

Robert Half