Education is Key to Opportunities

Education is the Key to Opportunities

Education is Key to OpportunitiesThe other day I wrote about the ‘elephant’ in the room. Hiring people with disabilities. The process of hiring individuals with disabilities. But I wrote it briefly from our view point. Our discomfort. Our fears, our concerns, our struggles.

I shared the disappointing statistics from the Labor of Bureau. I won’t repeat it again here. If you want to read it – you’ll have to read the previous blog. I’m the type of person that would rather look forward than backwards.

Now, I will turn flip it to another view point – yours. The HR department and business owners. Your concerns. Your fears.

I believe – truly believe, unless the business owner and HR person has had previous experience with a person with a disability, the likelihood of person with a disability will get hired will be higher than those who have not had any exposure or very little or limited exposure. Granted, this belief is mine and it comes from my experience.

The word “disability” is enough to make business owners or HR uncomfortable. It is probably because they don’t know what to do, what to say, or have this fear of saying the wrong thing, or do doing the wrong thing. Or they think accommodation is expensive.

I get it. I am a business owner myself. I am fully aware of the HR rules, the legal ramifications and so forth. I had two businesses where I was responsible for staff. I managed payroll. I had to deal with the interview process. I had to deal with letting someone go. I have been in your shoes. I walk in your shoes as an entrepreneur.

Accommodations at Workplace – it really isn’t that complicated

Secondly, accommodation isn’t really expensive or inconvenient either. It really isn’t that complicated either. I am talking about equipment here. For the blind, they may need braille keyboard as an example. For the deaf, they will need a video relay phone. That is just a couple of examples. The best place to learn about accommodations are a couple of places: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and United States Department of Labor. Often times the accommodations are provided for free, or on a discounted basis through the government or nonprofit agencies.

Hope opens the door of opportunity and shines the way to possibilities” – Debasish Mridha

But let me share this with you and this happens today.

Often times, when I tell someone that I am deaf, the first automatic answer I get is, “Oh! I am sorry!”

Uh -hm. Why are you sorry? There is nothing wrong with me. I am fine. The appropriate answer would be, “Oh, ok.” And move on. That is how most of us feel. Now, I cannot speak on behalf of all of us who have some form of disability – but I do know we do not want sympathy or pity. For most of us, we are pretty accepting of who we are. We are pretty aware of what we are capable of as well as what are our limitations are.

I am also an adjunct professor, teaching at a technical college here in Georgia. First day of class. I tell the “kids” that I am deaf. Now, the age group of my “kids” are diverse, typically ranging from 21 to late 30 or career changers at late 40’s. I start with – “Hey, I am deaf. I lip read and as you can see, I speak pretty well. I don’t make a big deal out of it and I don’t want you to make a big deal out of it. If you need my attention, just raise your hand and make sure I am looking at you.” Then that is it and I continue with the rest of the semester leading on by example. The kids begin to realize, that there is no big deal and I am like them. The only difference is how we “communicate.”

Same with how I communicate with my clients. I prefer to use Zoom so I can lip read while consulting with them. If I need to make a “phone call” – I can do that, with video relay service. Thank goodness for email and text messaging too. Technological advancements available today has created much more opportunities for individuals like us to do much more in a business environment. These days, I get comments like, “Oh! I sometimes forget! (that I am deaf).”

With that said, the only way that businesses can make their organizations more inclusive and reap the benefits of this “ignored labor force” is to begin to learn.

Let’s talk some more.

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