At WeCo, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is kind of like celebrating a big month long holiday. As a company which has a staff team largely populated with professionals who live with disabilities, we get a lot of spotlight in social media, our website gets more hits, and people who don’t normally ask us about what we do, strike up conversations with us.
It’s the one month a year where people think, “Wow, I had no idea that people who live with disabilities could/do/are….” Even a few think, “We really don’t have anyone in our office who lives with a disability, may be we should.”
But just as the last golden leaves of the poplar tree outside of our office window, flutter to the ground, the public focus of NDEAM fades, leaving me wondering why is it so difficult for people to see the possibilities and opportunities of including professionals living with disabilities in their workplaces, except for one month out of the year.
I must admit that this is a pretty big frustration for me. The biggest argument I hear from employers about why they don’t consider hiring people living with disabilities is their perception that it’s going to be expensive and a great deal of work. My personal experience is that this simply isn’t the case.
WeCo is a microbusiness which was started without any traditional source of financial resources. Many entrepreneurs understand the reason behind this: there are simply no banks loans or startup grants available for businesses like ours. Even our industry mentors prompted us to put less emphasis on business plan completion because bankers were telling them that there were no funds for even viable business ventures of our scale and scope. So WeCo was started through my personal retirement fund, donations and loans from friends and supporters, and through the hard work and faith of some talented individuals who donated their services.
I’m sharing this with you because it’s important to understand that reasonable workplace accommodation is not only possible, it’s highly viable, without a huge budget. My perspective of reasonable accommodation is first, hiring the right person because of what they bring to the table, not how they walk or roll up to it. Second, listening to the needs of the new hire and being honest with them about the resources you have or don’t have. I believe the fact that we place value on our candidates talents first, before we discuss any potential limitations their disability might create on the job, trust is the first foundation of our relationship with that person. It is upon that trust that we are able to work with them to find a viable way we can afford to accommodate their needs.
There’s an extremely important point I’m making here that I don’t want you to miss. WeCo has, and continues, to actively work to accommodate potential hires within our means and capabilities. We have found our candidates to be extremely receptive to this approach and find that, by allowing them to be the experts in regards to their own workplace accommodation needs, that the solutions are possible and feasible for us. Not all companies are comfortable with this approach, but we believe that it is just one of many ways organizations of any size or focus can engage talented people, who are often overlooked by traditional workplaces.
We find this type of honesty, and confidence that our people know what they need, to be a strength that enables our staff to stay open and honest with management, their coworkers and themselves, during the entire time they work with us. It creates an environment of “I’m safe here” and “I can ask for what I need” that many of our staff tell us they’ve never encountered in a work environment before.
WeCo’s door is always open to organizations and employers who would like to know more about how we locate, attract and retain what we feel to be a highly effective teams of professionals, who, just happen to also live with one or more disability. Reach out to us. We’re here to help.
Read more posts from Professionals living with disabilities and accessibility-related topics in WeCo’s IT Accessibility Information Blog.