This month (October) is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It is an opportunity for Americans to highlight the diversity workers with disabilities bring to the labor market. I believe it is important for employers to recognize everyone’s abilities regardless of their race, religion, age, or disability. Today, innovative business leaders seek a competitive edge, and people with disabilities represent an endless stream of talent in the workforce.
Unfortunately, many times there is a correlation between people experiencing homelessness and people that have disabilities. Known as chronic homelessness, it is defined as someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and has a disability. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 83,170 individuals with disabilities were experiencing homelessness on any given night in January 2015. This number represents 23 percent of all persons experiencing homelessness. Although this percentage is quite small compared to the total number of people experiencing homelessness, people experiencing chronic homelessness are the most vulnerable with limited access to housing, healthcare, friends, family, and many other valuable resources.
As a community, we can provide essential job searching trainings to people with disabilities. The old saying, “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” holds true in this case. By sharpening one’s employability skills, we can alleviate poverty by facilitating self-sufficiency. The following techniques may help an individual, disabled or not, by showing an employer he/she is the best candidate for the job.
1. Utilize All Job Searching Resources
Workforce Solutions has the largest database of job postings in the state of Texas in WorkinTexas.com. People with disabilities can browse jobs from the comfort of their home, or visit any Workforce Solutions location for assistance. Even if someone does not use our website, they are more than welcome to use our resources to obtain employment at our offices. We host job fairs, provide assistance once employment is obtained, and supply computers for job searching, resume writing, and completing applications. Also, it is important to use personal contacts, newspaper ads, vocational rehabilitation organizations, and job placement agencies for disability advocacy. Always stress the importance of qualifications when applying for a job.
2. Always Research the Company
It is important for people with disabilities to do their about the company before applying. Checking the company’s reputation for hiring, training, and promoting people with disabilities will give an indication of diversity within the company.
3. Available Technology to Improve Productivity
A person’s talents and skills may be improved through assistive technology. For instance, computers with applications installed for limited vision improves resolution of fine print, and speech recognition software for someone diagnosed with dexterity problems.
4. Disclosing the Disability
Although it is federally mandated that people with disabilities do not need to disclose a disability unless it hampers their ability to perform job tasks, consider being up-front about it. Voluntarily providing this information may show the employer that he/she is confident and capable performing the job.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice!
If a person’s disability requires changes to completing a task, will he/she be comfortable explaining this to a Hiring Manager? They should consider practicing an interview with a trusted person to help them overcome difficult questions.
6. Tackling Illegal Interview Questions
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states that it is against the law for employers to ask about medical information. However, if the question arises, he/she may respond by tactfully stating, “My personal life has no merit on how outstanding of a job I will do in this position.” A potential employer’s concerns should be eliminated at this point.
To empower people with disabilities with the resources needed for self-sufficiency is a collective effort. Hopefully, the techniques provided above will be a step forward to achieving the ultimate dream of eliminating chronic homelessness.
Daniel Mabry is a member of the Workforce Solutions Regional Navigator team in the Houston-Galveston region. After serving in the United States Marine Corps for over 9 years, he connected with Workforce Solutions for career guidance and ended up becoming an employee. This position allows him to utilize his training and personal experience to help people experiencing homelessness.