By Billy Gomes, Test Team Management Assistant and Accessibility Specialist-in-Training
As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, WeCo is highlighting some of the challenges facing people living with disabilities regarding employment.
With the current unemployment rate for people who live with disabilities at 14.1%, compared to the 7.1% unemployment rate for people who live without disabilities, it’s important to be aware of why this is happening. So, we asked Nina, one of our Senior Certified Test Consultants, about her experiences finding work in the current market.
Nina lives with a sight-related disability and graduated from a local technical college with an office support specialist certificate. Despite education and employment experience, she has struggled with landing a job in her field. To keep working and building resume experience, Nina has worked at positions not related to office support.
For instance, though it was tedious work, she worked as a researcher. “At least I could say that I was employed, and maybe that would show employers that I was capable of doing what I actually wrote on the resume.” Because of her disability, many employers assume that, to facilitate her ability to work in their office, they would need to go through a lot of effort and expense.
At WeCo, the nature of our work makes accommodation a part of our everyday routine. That is why we can say confidently that reasonable accommodation is less about cost and more about listening to the needs of the employee.
Nina, an intelligent, educated and more than capable individual, knows exactly what she needs to be able to complete her work with WeCo and other employers. As a result, her workplace accommodation with our company was extremely simple and did not require us to purchase any equipment or modify our workspace.
Many employers miss out on the talents and capabilities of qualified candidates who live with disabilities, simply because they assume that accommodation is a burden for reasons that don’t bear out in reality. Nina was turned down for many jobs before being hired by WeCo. Some employers openly told her that, despite being qualified to do the work, they simply did not want to take the time, or go to the expense, to facilitate her contribution to their workplace.
What these employers have also completely missed was that Nina’s disability could have been an asset to their organization. Living with a disability has forced Nina to look at the world differently, to problem solve everyday tasks, and to be flexible in every situation. Nina has proved this in her work at WeCo. Since starting as a Certified Test Consultant with us in 2011, Nina has assisted our company in developing new products and finding accessibility solutions for customers. Much of her ability to contribute is based upon a highly developed ability to see more than one potential solution to issues and to find a way that may not be apparent to others. As a result, she was promoted to Senior Test Consultant last year and is up for another promotion in November. Nina has also been an outstanding spokesperson for WeCo in nationwide webinars and at professional conferences.
When capable and qualified people like Nina are overlooked in business and professional environments, everyone misses out. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to be more aware of and open to the possibilities and benefits of employing individuals living with disabilities.