The Ability to do things Different

David SpearsPeople may not be aware that folks with a disability can perform most projects just as well as anyone else can, only differently. For example, walking is not the method I use for mobility, but I still get to where I need to go just the same by using a wheelchair. While driving my car, I may not put my foot on the pedal, but rather my hand on the hand control to “push on it” rather than “step on it!” Those seemingly opposite actions have the same result (and usually a traffic ticket). At work, it’s the same: I may not complete projects the way others might, but I achieve the same results with the same high-quality standard.

Fortunately, there are several adaptive technologies available in the workplace that can give a person with a disability the “A-bility” to complete projects. Adaptive technology, or assistive technology, according to the U.S. Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (amended in 2004) is any “product, device, or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The overall objective is to focus on the finished product, as opposed to “how” someone performs the task.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, organizations have discovered the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. There are tax advantages to employers. Employees with disabilities have higher retention rates on average, not to mention that diversity is increased among the rank…which leads to an increased positive attitude among people in the community…which leads to more business for the employer (a circular effect).

My favorite discovery is that people with disabilities are great problem solvers. That’s right! For example, I have to be somewhat creative in the way I pick up something off the floor or reach for something high on a shelf; and can transfer that same creative thinking to other tasks within my area of responsibility. According to Richard Ellenson, a leading figure in Assistive Technology, “companies need to tap into creative thinking and resourcefulness to drive the organization forward.”

So despite the positive benefits of hiring people with disabilities and focusing on the finished product rather than how we completed the project, we ALL must ask ourselves a few questions to remain on track:

  • Do my objectives for the project correlate to the overall mission of the company or department?
  • Have my objectives been met?
  • Is there room for improvement?
  • Does my project or task meet high-quality standards?

For more information on adaptive technology, please see the following websites

N.D.E.A.M Poster
Workforce Solutions can help you with your “A-bility” to find a job, keep a job, or get a better job. And remember that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrating the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities…The Right Talent, Right Now!

David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.

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