National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October

We were very fortunate to have our Work Experience Coordinator, Samuel Comfort, write this blog that outlines what National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is and the steps we, as a community, can take to be inclusive and aware of our words and actions year-round. 

RECAP OF EVENTS IN OCTOBER

October is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM is a campaign that celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and provides education about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Held annually, NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation.

Goodwill Industries is proud to support NDEAM by educating our clients, employees and customers about disability employment issues and celebrating the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Throughout the month of October, Goodwill hosted events in support of NDEAM such as Mayoral Proclamations in Council Bluffs and Omaha, weekly sign language classes and social media campaigns to engage the community. Through the use of an interactive calendar, Goodwill provided the community opportunities to learn the importance of issues such as person-first-language, disability etiquette and how #InclusionDrivesInnovation.

On October 2, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh proclaimed support for NDEAM throughout the Council Bluffs community. Close to 100 people from community agencies and businesses, Goodwill’s Work Experience participants, and the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce gathered to celebrate the mayor’s proclamation with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

On October 19, Goodwill hosted Franklin Thompson, Director of Human Rights and Relations for the City of Omaha, at Benson Park Plaza as he delivered a proclamation signed by Mayor Jean Stothert. Goodwill CEO and President Dr. Mike McGinnis welcomed all in attendance, including Omaha Public Schools, ENCOR, Madonna School, Embassy Suites, SourceAmerica as well as Goodwill staff, YouthBuild and Work Experience Program participants.

Basic sign language classes were offered during October at Benson Park Plaza. These weekly classes were open to the public. Classes provided over 40 Goodwill employees and individuals from the community an opportunity to learn the basics of American Sign Language. Attendees also learned about deaf culture in order to more confidently interact with deaf and hard of hearing individuals in their communities.

Goodwill programs distributed a survey to gauge local employers’ inclusive hiring and employment policies in October. The results of this survey will help shape the future of Goodwill’s efforts as we develop trainings aimed at eliminating unemployment among ALL who want to work, including individuals with disabilities.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month activities are not solely confined to October. Goodwill seeks to promote a disability-friendly work environment year-round. Here are some ways we can carry out the spirit of NDEAM.

 

USE PERSON FIRST LANGUAGE

Using person first language helps avoid perceived and subconscious devaluation when talking to or about a person with a disability. Simply put, person first language emphasizes the PERSON, rather than the disability. Person first language can be applied to any group that is defined by a condition rather than as a people: for example, “those that are homeless” rather than “the homeless.” By using this structure, the speaker articulates the idea of disability as a secondary attribute, not a characteristic of a person’s identity. Disability is only one piece of a whole person.

As our understanding has evolved, so has the use of certain terms. When writing and speaking about people with disabilities, choose words that carry positive, non-judgmental connotations. Avoid words which put the person with a disability into a “victim” category. Consider the use of the word “handicapped.” Like many terms that refer to minorities, there is negativity attached to it. At the least, it denotes a problem or a burden. At worst, it denotes incapability. Strive to highlight what people CAN do, rather than what they cannot.

Click for a list of person first language examples >>>

 

DISABILITY ETIQUETTE 

Striving to place the person first also incorporates disability etiquette. Disability etiquette is something which can teach us to remember the individual traits of a person, not a disability. It is important that we treat all participants, customers and employees in a manner befitting their age, regardless of disability.

Speak directly to a person with a disability, rather than through a companion, aide or sign language interpreter. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions such as “Good to see you” or “Got to be running along”, that seem to relate to the person’s disability. Making small talk with a person who has a disability is great. Talk to him or her as you would with anyone else.

Respect his or her privacy. If you ask about their disability, he or she may feel like you are treating them as a disability, not as a human being. However, many people with disabilities are comfortable with questions about their disability after getting to know someone. A simple “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that” from the person with a disability can set the tone if it is not something that they are willing to share.

Just because someone has a disability, don’t assume that he or she needs help. Always ask before assisting a person with a disability, “May I help you?” If they need help, they may accept it. If they do not, do not take offense. Never help without asking and if the individual does want help, ask how before you act.

To get the attention of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and in a normal volume to establish if the person can read your lips. Not all deaf/hard of hearing people can read lips. Those who do will rely on your facial expressions and other body language to help in understanding. Show consideration by keeping your hands away from your mouth when speaking. Shouting will not help the person understand you, but you might ask if pen and paper would help.

When talking to a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck. Grab a chair and sit with that person while you talk. Standing over someone in a wheelchair or of short stature causes you both to feel uncomfortable, as well as unnecessary back and neck pain. Avoid touching a person’s wheelchair, scooter or cane. People with disabilities consider their equipment part of their personal space.

When greeting someone with significant loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say, for example, “On my right is John Miller.” When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give a vocal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another, and let it be known when the conservation is at an end.

Give whole, unhurried attention when you are talking to a person who has difficulty speaking. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting.
Be patient rather than try to speak for the person or fill in the gaps. When necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having trouble doing so. Repeat what you understood. The person’s reaction will clue you in on whether you understood correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the parts you did not understand.

Remember, people with disabilities are people first, who just happen to have a disability. Equal treatment is essential to the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace. Thank you to all who contributed to making our October events a success. More importantly, thank you for working to make Goodwill a workplace that ensures all people regardless of ability have access to resources to learn and grow.

Click to learn more about disability etiquette >>>

 

“The best way to help everyone, is for people to learn, understand and respect all people, whether they are the same or different.”
—Steven James Tingus, MS, C.Phil
U.S. Department of Education

“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”
—Robert Hensel, Poet, Writer, World Record Holder for longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair, 6.178 miles.

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Spread the Word to End the Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our community supporters, like Goodwill, to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about the R-word and how hurtful words and disrespect can be toward people with intellectual disabilities.

Using the term retard or retarded belittles people with intellectual disabilities. Spread the Word to End the Word is a day dedicated to educating people about the negative impact the “r” word has. By eliminating the “r” word from our culture, we can build a more inclusive and caring community.

March 1, 2017  all Goodwill locations will participate and advocate for eliminating the “r” word for our vocabulary.

Goodwill Impact 2016

  •  Goodwill’s Work Experience program enrolled 249 special education high school students from local high schools
  • Work Experience students earned a total of $279,820.25 in wages while gaining hands-on experience in a workplace setting
  • Work Experience is housed at nine locations throughout the Metro area
  • Our AbilityOne contract employs 122 individuals, 96 of which who identify as having a disability
  • AbilityOne employees service over 1.2 million square feet of property in federal buildings located in Omaha, Lincoln and
    Grand Island

Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the R-word.

Language affects attitudes. Attitudes impact actions. Make your pledge for #Respect today at www.R-word.org.

 

 

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National Disability Employement Awarness Month!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose is to educate others about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Accord2016posterenglishing to Department of Labor statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice that of the general population, and they are also nearly three times more likely to
live in poverty than those without disabilities. These are issues Goodwill is working hard to eliminate everyday through our Mission Advancement programs, specifically AbilityOne and Work Experience. We are all intimidated by things we do not know. Disability is a common experience that we all share. However, without an understanding of disability, we may have difficulty capitalizing on the talents of people with disabilities.

The Job Accommodation Network (AskJAN.org) is an information resource which helps develop a more inclusive workplace for individuals with disabilities, and can help develop skills to more effectively communicate at work with people with disabilities.

When working with people with disabilities, the primary emphasis is to insure everyone focuses on abilities. After all, it is abilities and productivity that matter at work.

 

Here are a few helpful hints from AskJan when working with a person with a disability:
• Be considerate of the extra time it may take a person with a disability to walk, talk, write or perform a task.
• Smile and look a person with a disability in the eyes, as you would with anyone else.
• Talk directly to the person with a disability, not their companion, assistant or sign language interpreter.
• Watch your language – use people first language. Only mention a disability if it is essential to a conversation.
• Sit down when speaking for more than a few minutes with a person who uses a wheelchair so you are at eye level.
• Extend your hand to shake if that is what you normally do. A person who cannot shake hands will let you know.
• Don’t be afraid to say that you do not understand. Listen, observe body language, paraphrase, clarify, summarize and show you are eager to understand.
• Ask the person first – before assisting or advocating for a person, always ask if and how you can help.
• Ask the person what they think will work to overcome a workplace challenge before deciding on an accommodation.
• Respect personal space as you would with anyone else.
• Do not treat people like they are less than.
• If a person is in crisis, ask what you can do to help.

All play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities — every day of every month.

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Celebrating 25 Years of ADA

ADA 25

We have gone through some big changes and giant leaps in the 240 years since the United States first became a country. Just when it seems there is no hurdle left to jump, our country extends inclusion to a minority group who has been oppressed. The specific minority group that Goodwill is in a close relationship with are the people with disabilities.

Before 1990 (and unfortunately even after 1990), people with disabilities have been discriminated against in the work place. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a law passed by Congress that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

As described by the law a disability includes both mental and physical handicaps. It doesn’t need to be severe or permanent to be considered a disability. This act opened the door to success for people with and without disabilities across the country.

There are five titles that make up the ADA; employment, public entities; including public transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications and miscellaneous provisions. These five titles make up one of the most important laws for every one with any type of disabilities.

As stated in the ADA first title, an employer can’t refuse to hire a prospect based upon an apparent disability.  The second act is as important, making school districts and public transportation accessible to people with disabilities.  The third act protects the disabled in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, stores and other public places.  The fourth title requires that all telecommunication companies take steps to ensure equivalent services for consumers with disabilities and, more specifically, people who are hard of hearing or who are deaf.  The fifth and final title includes technical provisions that relate to the ADA as a whole.

Nineteen percent of United States citizens currently have disabilities and The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities in the work place.

Since opening its doors in 1933 Goodwill Omaha has always been more than just a thrift store. has been dedicated to helping find jobs for those with barriers to employment, including those with disabilities. Goodwill is so much more than a retail store where it is common to find a good deal. Goodwill trains and employs people with disabilities and others who may be at a competitive disadvantage in the job market. Goodwill and the ADA work hand-in-hand assisting those with disabilities to find jobs and learn the necessary skills required in the work force.

Before the ADA was introduced in 1990 Goodwill was already a leader in training and assisting people with various disabilities through different programs including Work Experience. At that time it was only a one way street and work opportunities were merely a fraction of what they are today.

When employers hear the phrase “hiring a disabled employee” they might think of the overwhelming costs and the dramatic changes that they will have to make, but in reality it usually takes no more than a minor adjustment to accommodate these employees.

Businesses becoming more accessible is crucial to having a full workforce that includes everyone, regardless of their ability. The ADA shows us what can be accomplished when all workers are given an opportunity to use their talents. The Americans with Disabilities Act also makes it easier for wounded warriors and disabled veterans to be protected under the law as well.

Goodwill Work Experience, AbilityOne, and other programs focus on training people with disabilities in a similar way that the ADA has opened up the professional world for everyone with physical and mental disabilities.  Goodwill workforce development programs are working harder than ever for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the work place.  Here is to a great 25 years under the ADA and to many more!

Work Experience Trainer Peter Bataillon helps students during Skills to Pay the Bills

Work Experience Trainer Peter Bataillon helps students during Skills to Pay the Bills

 

 

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