Talking Inclusion Podcast Episode 1
Leah: Hi. I'm Leah Terrasi, Director of Marketing Communication at NTI.
NTI is a nonprofit disability organization, whose mission is to support and advocate for the disabled community and their caregivers. Our NTI@Home program offers free job placement assistance for work-at-home positions for disabled individuals and their caregivers. Some of our employer partners include Amazon, John Hancock, the IRS, AAA Gerber Life, and Meijer. For SSDI and SSI beneficiaries, we also offered training and job coaching services.
Our LandAjob program works with SSDI and SSI beneficiaries to provide work support reimbursements to cover some of the costs people incur finding employment or keeping their job. We offer an online database to help find available positions and a selection of self-paced training classes to help land the perfect job.
We have been helping employers increase their diversity, while offering job opportunities to thousands of disabled people over the past 25 years. In our eyes, that makes us an expert on diversity and inclusion, but we will let you be the judge of that.
Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month? In commemoration of this year's theme, Disability: Part of the Equity Equation. We want to take some time to discuss the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Joining me today is Kate Brouse who is a disability Advocate and the Strategic Partner Manager at NTI
Hi Kate! Thanks for joining me.
Kate: My pleasure, Leah.
Leah: I definitely think you have a lot to share on this topic of diversity inclusion. So let's jump right in!
Why should a company care about diversity and inclusion?
Kate: This was actually really easy to answer, Leah. And it's just the fact that numbers don't lie and there have been myriads of studies over the past 20 years showing that companies that are more diverse and inclusive, see a better return on their investment, which means they have more profits. Their shareholders are happier, and they are just more profitable all around. There are lots of other benefits that come from hiring people within the disability community and underserved communities in general from just becoming more inclusive, but really it's just that it's better when you want to make money. So if you want to make money and who doesn't? So, you know, I like to say that anyone who is a business consultant in today's world, if they're good at their jobs, they have to also become by default a champion for diversity.
Leah: Right! Do you have any specific tips for companies that want to hire more disabled workforce?
Kate: Yeah, the first tip is don't just think you can hire one person and pat yourself on the back and be done. You wouldn't just say, okay, let's go and hire some blondes, right? And say, oh, we hired one blonde hair, done, or any other kind of demographic you want to have an inclusive company and have many different people with disabilities. And I think that is the most important to remember is that anyone with a disability is different from anyone else with the disability. Just like a blond is going to be different from another blond. And while there are some stigmas about people in the disability community and stigmas about people who are blond and that doesn't mean that they hold true across any population or even with any one individual. And so, my biggest tip is figure out what kind of jobs you can offer that people with disabilities can do. Not every person with a disability will be able to do every job in your organization, but people with disabilities are all across the spectrum. disability does not discriminate. I know that comedian, Josh Blue, says all of us are just one bad bike ride away from joining the disability community and that really helps you stop and think. I mean just because someone has a disability doesn't mean that they need an entry-level job. There are many people with disabilities. Particularly those who have been out of the workforce for a while following the onset of an accident that brought on a disability or an illness. They may have had a lots and lots of experience and yet be kind of unsure about how to re-enter the workforce. So, if you can figure out what your company seeks and what might be a good fit for someone who has a kind of disability that maybe you didn't think of before then that's a really good way to become more inclusive.
Leah: I think that's a great point, Kate. I think it's important to remember that you really should just be looking at your jobs as what are the core requirements of the job. What are the requirements of that job? What are the skills required? Let everybody else, the applicants, decide whether or not they are a good fit for that job and can handle those core requirements.
Kate: That's really true, a new quote that I'm starting to use, Hisayuki Idekoba, who is the um, currently runs the company that owns Glassdoor and Indeed is not a fan of resumes and he paraphrases something like, you know, it's always been writing resumes, reading resumes, sorting resumes . Let's just get rid of the resume and instead of having somebody fill out a resume, simply say, what can you do? Now for someone, especially someone with a disability who may have had struggle finding employment due to stigma, or who may have had a large gap in their employment, because of disability, imagine what that does for them and opening up their ability to find and apply for jobs. If a company just says, hey, tell us what you can do.
And the other thing that's important to remember, especially in today's world where people are struggling, employers, are really struggling to find, bodies for the job, they're doing, and people are ghosting and not even showing up to the interview. Or if they show up to the interview, maybe they don't show up for the first day of employment that's becoming very common. And so if you open up your doors to an additional population and you say, you know, what skills do you have?
So as an example, what if there was a PTA mom who had been going through cancer treatments, and she had an amazing amount of skills because maybe she's been juggling children and she's been running her local PTA. Maybe she has been out of the job force for, you know, 10, 15 maybe even 20 years but she has an insane number of skills. And if you require a resume or Work history, you might lose out on this wonderful candidate. And so, just opening up your mind when you're thinking about hiring and recruiting, what is really necessary and what is just nice to have.
Do you actually need someone who have a college degree or can you hire someone who simply is able to be trained to do the job that you have? And that is the good thing about the environment in which we find ourselves in is that as companies, struggle to find those bodies, to fill those positions, they are turning to underserved communities and people with disabilities, in particular. I mean, the Centers for Disease Control has said that one in four Americans has a disability. That's a huge number of people. Obviously, a lot of those people are already in the workforce and a lot of them haven’t disclosed that they have a disability, but when you make your culture at your company, open to people with disabilities when you send out polls saying, hey, we'd like to know how many people in our organization have a disability. Not because we want to, you know, Target you or call you out but simply because we want to know who's out there so that we can get the appropriate resources and funding to help meet your needs. Whether it's, you know, just having something simple like schedule, accommodation, or maybe you need a screen reader, maybe you need a map to stand on for your, you know, because you have bad knees. Maybe you need a special desk or chair, whatever it is. Most companies aren't aware of the number of people that can benefit and there is a lot of funding available and just becoming more inclusive by thinking about people with disabilities and how you can incorporate them. That's the first step. And if you don't know what to do, there are lots of organizations and Consultants out there who are very anxious to help organizations and individuals, learn what will be back. For your organization and your company, at this given time.
Leah: A great resource for anybody who has questions about accommodations is the Job Accommodation Network or JAN. And I read, they have a stat that they give, that the average. accommodation costs a company under $500 and a lot of the time it doesn't cost the company anything. Schedule accommodations is a great example of an accommodation that wouldn't cost the company anything but could open you to a wide door for more applicants. Skilled applicants that would be a great resource to your company to be able to do that job.
Kate: That's really glad you mentioned that to me, though, is that when I say to somebody, I know you might need to let you know how to schedule accommodations sometimes. People are like, oh well already people going to show up to work if I hire someone with a disability is that particular individual just going to be calling out sick all the time. That is not what the data supports. Now every person with a disability is different and just like, you have people who don't have a disability or going to be constantly calling out sick. You could have someone with a disability that's going to be calling out sick. That's probably less about the disability and more about personality honestly because the research shows that people with disabilities in the workforce are more likely to show up on time are more likely to show up every day, they have lower absenteeism, they have greater empathy, they have higher retention in once they find a job, that's a good fit, a stick with it. The sad reality is that people with disabilities do find it harder to find employment. So, if they find a job that's working for them, they are much more likely to maintain that job for years. Not just months.
Leah: I've seen those same statistics and all of the readings, I've done on the topic, another thing that I have liked to share with people that I've heard is that if problem-solving is one of the key tasks of this job or skillset needed for job hiring, a disabled person is going to be a benefit because they are constantly problem-solving because they're navigating the world that's not built for them. So you want someone who has creative problem-solving skills. Look towards somebody who has to navigate a world not built for them.
Kate: that's really true! And what the amazing thing is that when we ask people with disabilities to solve problems for us, usually, the way that they solve, the problem ends up helping the abled community as well. I love the example of easily, accessible curbs, you know, the curb that go down. And so people who are now on wheelchairs or pushing a stroller or lugging a suitcase, all of us benefit, I ride bicycles all the time. There are certain routes that don't have the curb, the accessible curbing that I like to avoid because it gets really annoying to bump my bicycle up and down the curb but it's things like that that we may not have thought of in the abled community that when some of the disability says, you know what, let me think about this. I'll figure out a workaround quite often. It becomes much easier for us, in the abled Community to realize those benefits to. And there are lots of things. I mean, so I think about accessibility issues on computers or particularly smartphones, which all of us have in our pockets. Some of the accessibility features that were engaged on those phones to help people in the disability community. Help us. I mean, think about the last time maybe you were trying to
Watch a training video or even just a movie in a crowded Cafe and you had to turn on subtitles because you forgot your earbuds. So, you can read, that is something that is an accessibility feature. For somebody who has a disability or think about the last time that you were trying to read your phone. Look at your phone on us on a sunny day and you're like, I can't I can't see it. You try to hide under your shirt or something and the ability to have the screen brighter or darker. All of those are accessibility features that weren't designed for the able Community. They were designed for the disability Community, but having those features makes it easier for all the rest of us as well.
Leah: Absolutely. increased accessibility doesn't hurt anyone.
Ok, do you have any specific examples of any company that have benefited from hiring a more diverse workforce?
Kate: I do there are a couple that I'll call out one is because I spoke to them personally I am anxiously awaiting. They are going to be releasing some video shortly explaining this. But JPMorgan Chase opened a pilot program where they stripped out some of the more mundane tasks and data entry things. And hired people who are on the autism spectrum to do these jobs. This was a special pilot that they wanted to see how well it would work and it to worked so well that my information says, they are taking this to a larger level within the company. And I love that story because they didn't know how it was going to turn out and yet it's turned out brilliantly and they've done a really great job opening up their their jobs and I'd love the fact that they took a job that was already there. And said, what can we do to change this job? How can we make this job better for somebody, who might be on the autism spectrum? And we can do this with lots of different Disabilities. So I, you know, shout out to JPMorgan Chase the other one that has done, it really well in my opinion and they've gotten lots of national awards and acclaim for this is CVS Health, they created a program called abilities in abundance. They simply said you know what, if 20% of the workforce is disabled then we need to have 20% of our Workforce have disabilities. And so they with real thought and intention went through all of their different processes. Removing the barriers that people with disabilities might experience from, you know, trying to apply for a job all the way through through coming into an interview or doing the day-to-day things that those jobs required. And that's something that's really important. A lot of company say, you know what, my store is accessible or my website is accessible. Well, it may be mostly accessible, but is your the site that you use were people apply for jobs accessible. There are so many different features in this and it gets a lot to take in and that's where companies who are just beginning. This journey can benefit from hiring a consultant or a company that specializes in diversity and disabilities to help them do the evaluation cuz there's a lot to think about, but the first step is just thinking about it. And so, for any organization out there who's watching this and is thinking about going, wow, okay. There are few things that we can do, that’s who were talking to. That's what makes me excited about being an advocate for diversity and inclusion.
Leah: Absolutely, thank you. Give me last minute recommendations that you want to share?
Kate: You know, it's really an in. This is my favorite thing to share. It's a simple hashtag. You can remember it. I didn't create it. People in the disability Community didn't create. It was actually a slogan that was used back in the area of Poland in the 1600s. But it's really relevant is very similar to no taxation without representation which anyone who's ever taken a course in American history will recognize but it's simply that it's hashtag nothing about us without us which means if you're going to include the disability community in your Workforce, ask them what it is that they need. If you were going to open up your job to people with disabilities, reach out to disability organizations and say, this is what we were thinking of doing. Do you think that's a good idea? Because sometimes we may have the best of intentions. But we don't fully understand what's on the other side so just simply that nothing about us without us.
Leah: Absolutely. I think it's important to understand that everyone is an individual across all spectrums, including the disability community. So just because you think you know what it's like to have autism, for example, doesn’t mean, you know what, it's like for that person in the struggles that their personally going through and that goes across the board for everybody.
Thank you so much Kate for joining us and sharing your insight. I think you gave us a lot to think about and a lot of great tips.
NTI is here to help any company that wants assistance with hiring a more diverse workforce. Visit nticentral.org to learn more.
Kate is available to, to offer her assistance as is NTI in helping um create a more diverse workforce across all companies.
If you are a Disabled American or care for someone who is, visit ntiathome.org to learn more about the services and the work-at-home positions we offer.
we're here to help and if you are interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion or finding a work-at-home job, just reach out. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen.
Leah: Have a great day.