Mental Health Awareness – Creating a More Inclusive Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 9, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By Daniel Tucker, Consultant — Cognitive/Neurological Team

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Originally celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, its objectives included raising awareness of mental health issues throughout the world; encouraging individuals to educate themselves about mental health; and searching for ways to provide greater supports. With this in mind, we wanted to draw attention to the prevalence of mental health conditions, common misconceptions, and steps employers can take to foster a supportive and inclusive work environment.

According to a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) survey, approximately 43.8 million adults experience some form of mental health condition in a given year. That’s 18.5 percent or nearly 1 in 5 of all adults in the U.S. It’s a common misconception that mental health impairments affect a small number of individuals. These statistics show that mental health conditions as a whole are actually relatively common.

Given these statistics and the number of individuals employed or seeking employment with mental health impairments, employers may want to consider steps they can take to raise awareness in the workplace. With October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it’s a good time to consider providing disability awareness training where topics relevant to mental health can be discussed. By bringing attention to the fact that mental health conditions are common, and only one part of a person’s identity, employers may help reduce the still pervasive stigma around mental illness, and make employees feel more comfortable and supported in the workplace.

In terms of disability etiquette, it’s important to know how to talk about mental health in a way that is respectful rather than offensive. For example, the terms “mental defective,” “afflicted,” “victim of,” and “sufferer of” are generally antiquated and offensive. The terms “mental health impairment” and “psychiatric impairment” are generally accepted, and individuals may have a personal preference as to what terms they prefer. Also, it’s generally better to use person first language – focusing on the person first, not the disability. For example, “an employee with bipolar disorder,” as opposed to “a bipolar employee.” When speaking with an employee that has disclosed a mental health impairment, it may be helpful to listen for the words they use to describe themselves, and to ask whether they have a preference about what terms you use.

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) offers employers numerous resources for creating a more inclusive workplace including information on disability etiquette.

JAN also offers a wide variety of resources to support the successful employment of individuals with mental health impairments.

If you have a specific situation or question you’d like to discuss with a JAN consultant, we encourage you to contact us directly or visit AskJAN.org.

References:

Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-49, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4887. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

Healthcare Workers with Motor Impairments

Posted by Kim Cordingly on July 1, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Elisabeth Simpson, Lead Consultant – Motor Team

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), the health care and social assistance sector will account for almost a third of the projected job growth between 2012 and 2022. With 16,971,800 healthcare workers employed in the United States in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013), accommodations for those with disabilities working, or planning to work in, the healthcare field is a timely topic to be discussing.

With the over ten thousand calls JAN has received related to accommodations in healthcare settings, JAN consultants can offer a wealth of experience with accommodation situations. For healthcare workers with motor impairments such as carpal tunnel, back conditions, leg impairments, or arthritis, certain job duties – tasks such as lifting, carrying, moving, transferring, standing, walking, manipulating extremities, and positioning individuals for activities of daily living or physical therapy – may be difficult to perform without accommodations.

There are a variety of accommodation options that can be implemented in order for an employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Proper lifting techniques, lowering adjustable exam tables and equipment (low-lipped showers), ergonomic layouts for equipment (cranks and handles on beds and carts) and supplies (storing items at waist height, lowering bed rails when attending to patient needs, etc.), and team lifting are beneficial work site and procedural changes.

Still, accommodation situations in healthcare settings can be tricky or complicated. When this is the case, JAN consultants might turn to other experts in the field for assistance so that those contacting us for guidance are provided with the most beneficial and accurate information. For this two part blog, I collaborated with the founder of the non-profit resource network Exceptional Nurse, Dr. Donna Carol Maheady, to discuss some of the more complex accommodation questions JAN Motor Team consultants are fielding. Seven questions were directed to Dr. Maheady. This month we will be looking at the first three questions and offering resources and information on the topic.

Questions:

1) For medical professionals with either a hand or arm amputation OR restrictions that limit the use of one hand, what are some alternative methods for giving injections? What about placing IV’s?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation must be provided to enable a qualified employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job currently held. In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

Job restructuring may be the most effective form of accommodation for individuals who have limited or no use of one hand and are working in healthcare positions that require them to perform injections, place IV’s, etc. Job restructuring can be an adjustment in how and when a job is performed, including reallocating or eliminating marginal functions of a job. However, the EEOC has indicated that an employer is not required to reallocate essential functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation. Although an employer is not required to reallocate essential job functions, it may be a reasonable accommodation to modify the essential functions of a job by changing when or how they are done.

While there may be a common or typical way a job function is performed by healthcare workers, such as placing an IV, an individual with a disability should be given the option to perform the same job task in a manner that works best for them while keeping patient care and safety in mind. Time to practice clinical skills or tasks may be needed as part of the accommodation.

A number of videos and articles are offered as an additional resource to support the work of those with motor impairments in healthcare settings:

Videos

Foreign object removal with prosthesis

Adult CPR with prosthesis

Nursing with the hand you are given

Disabled Nurse: Focus on abilities

Danielle’s story (nurse missing her lower arm)

A sequence of photos demonstrating the donning of sterile gloves with one hand can be found within the article: “Nursing with the Hand You Are Given

Articles and Book Chapters

In the book Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses Working with Disabilities by Donna Maheady, Susan Fleming (nurse born missing her left hand) wrote a chapter about her journey.

In the book The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the Trenches of Truly Resilient Nurses Working with Disabilities, edited by Donna Maheady, Connie Stallone Adleman wrote a chapter called “Loving Ourselves Exactly as We Are: Nursing after a Stroke.”

In the article “Missing a Limb but Not a Heart,” Carey Amsden, RN, discussed how she practiced performing certain job tasks with the use of one arm, such as starting an IV, and donning a sterile glove in nursing school and has been able to successfully work in the field of nursing.

2) For medical professionals who need to wear a brace or post-burn glove, how can concerns around sterility be addressed?

An employer may require as a qualification standard that an individual not pose a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the individual or others, if this standard is applied to all applicants for a particular job. Additionally, employers may comply with medical and safety requirements established under other Federal laws without violating the ADA.

However, an employer still has an obligation to consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation, consistent with the requirements of other Federal laws, which would not exclude individuals who can perform jobs safely. In situations where sterility is a concern, alternatives to standard practices should be explored with the individual.

One option could be for the employee to wear a sterile glove (perhaps a larger size), gown or drape over the brace or glove. In doing this, sterility would be addressed to the same standard that others would be held to.

It is also recommended that the Infection Control Department or designee be consulted. There may be specific infection control issues related to a particular facility or unit to consider.

3) Are there alternatives to taking a leave of absence during flu season for medical professionals who are not able to receive the flu vaccine?

Flu season, in some areas, can last a while and a leave of absence may not be feasible or could pose an undue hardship to the employer. Alternative options for accommodating those who are not able to receive the flu vaccine can include: allowing the employee to wearing a mask or protective gear, reassigning the employee to a position that does not require direct-patient contact, considering flu shot alternatives, modifying a policy if applicable and depending on state law, or allowing an extended leave and offering reassignment to a vacant position upon return. For more information, see the following article: “Vaccinating the Health-Care Workforce: State Law vs Institutional Requirements.”

Next month we will be exploring schedule modifications and specific work tasks, so stay tuned!

Resources:

Monthly Labor Review (2013). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/industry-employment-and-output-projections-to-2022-1.htm

“But you don’t look sick…”

Posted by Kim Cordingly on June 5, 2015 under Accommodations, General Information, Organizations | Read the First Comment

 

It’s late spring and with that comes many things: warmer weather, rain showers, flowers (and with them the pollen), Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and a personal favorite of mine, the Indianapolis 500. But it also brings with it awareness — awareness of different disabilities — such as National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day; Better Speech and Hearing Month; Mental Health Awareness Month; National Headache Awareness Week; and National Arthritis Month. As I think about all of this and observed all of the various posts about it on social media, it brings to mind how many of my friends and family (myself included) deal with silent disabilities on a daily basis and how many people out there are unaware that silent disabilities exist.

There are many individuals who have silent disabilities and hearing these words uttered can be hurtful. Many people do not realize that it can be a daily struggle for some just to get out of bed, take a deep breath, put on their shoes, walk the dog, etc. It can be difficult to do the most mundane of everyday tasks that most people take for granted.

So, the next time you see someone park in an accessible parking spot or use one of the scooters at the store, please try not to judge them. You just never know — they may be dealing with a hidden disability and could probably use a kind word or a smile.

And while many struggle daily to deal with their disabilities, they often do not let it stop them from working and doing what they want to and can do. Here are some famous people with disabilities who never let their disabilities define them or stop them:

Charlie Kimball – The first and only licensed Indy Car driver with Type I Diabetes -3rd place finish in the 2015 Indianapolis 500!

Muhammad Ali – Professional boxer with Parkinson’s

Abraham Lincoln –16th President of the United States believed to have experienced depression

Mary Todd Lincoln – Former First Lady of the United States who was believed to have had schizophrenia

Woodrow Wilson – 28th President of the United States who had dyslexia

John F. Kennedy – 35th President of the United States who had asthma

Ronald Regan – 40th President of the United States and actor who had dementia

Michael J. Fox – Actor with Parkinson’s disease

Harrison Ford – Actor who has experienced depression and OCD

Bob Hope – Actor who had asthma

Rita Hayworth – Actress who had dementia

Agatha Christie – Author who experienced epilepsy

Alexander Graham Bell – Scientist credited with being the inventor of the first telephone who had dyslexia

Albert Einstein – Theoretical physicist was thought to have autism, dyslexia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

John Nash – Mathematician who lived with schizophrenia

(And the list goes on…)

For more information on silent/hidden disabilities:

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations (Includes workplace accommodation information for many of the disabilities mentioned)

JAN Presentation – Shedding Light on Hidden Disabilities
Anne Hirsh, M.S. and Beth Loy, Ph.D.

Invisible Disabilities Association

But You LOOK Good – How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain

 

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Disability Awareness Training

Posted by Kim Cordingly on April 22, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Daniel Tucker, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

April is Autism Awareness Month, and in honor of that, we wanted to touch on how to accommodate employees with ASD by incorporating disability awareness training into the process. In many cases, the problem an employee may be having at work is related to social interaction and communication. Because individuals with ASD may have deficits in understanding social cues and norms of communication, they may have difficulty working effectively with coworkers. Something employers may want to consider in such circumstances is providing disability awareness training. This could be a broad training that covers disabilities generally, but in some cases, it may be beneficial to have a training specific to the disability. This will allow an employee (with his consent) to be a part of the training process and to explain how the disability specifically affects him. This empowers the employee to suggest steps that may be taken to help with more effective interaction and communication.

When coworkers are not aware of the characteristics of ASD, miscommunication can easily arise. For example, in some cases an individual with ASD may speak louder than is appropriate in a given situation. This could be perceived as aggressive or dominant behavior by coworkers, when in fact the employee doesn’t even realize he is speaking loudly. An individual with ASD may also seem to display inappropriate affect, such as not smiling when greeting someone. These behaviors can be considered rude, but in actuality, the individual may have no idea that his actions are being perceived this way; his behavior is simply being misunderstood.

Disability awareness may be able to address this particular issue to some extent because when coworkers are aware of the unique communication differences that individuals with ASD exhibit, they may be more tolerant and able to find better ways to interact and ensure they are being understood by the employee as well. It may be beneficial to have agreed upon “signal words” that a coworker can use when the employee is speaking too loudly, for example. The employee can then rely on the feedback of coworkers to make adjustments as needed.

It is important to stress that this type of training should only be done with the permission of the employee. Employers should not try to push an employee into talking about a disability if he is not comfortable doing so. It has been our experience at JAN that many employees would appreciate the opportunity to have an open conversation about their disability if it means the possibility of better working relationships with coworkers and a better chance of being successful in their work.

Brain Injury Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on March 27, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The theme for the 2015 to 2017 campaign is: Not Alone.

The Not Alone campaign provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury in the U.S. and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.

The Job Accommodation Network has just released a brain injury training module this month in conjunction with the national awareness campaign. This module will be helpful to employers, employees, family members, and others who are interested in information on the potential impact of a brain injury on an employee’s experience in the workplace. In particular, the module presents information on effective accommodations that can be provided to help employees with brain injuries be more successful in the workplace. Our hope is that this training module will educate and promote a better understanding of brain injuries and the impact they have on employment.

In this module, you will find information on:

  • Disclosing a brain injury to an employer;
  • Understanding the three reasons why it might be necessary to disclose a disability and how to go about doing so;
  • Learning about the medical information that may be required by the employer;
  • Discovering effective accommodations for physical and visual limitations and difficulties with maintaining stamina and concentration;
  • Exploring accommodation options for organizational and problem-solving challenges, as well as memory difficulties and handling change, stress, and emotions.

Real-life situations and solutions are interspersed throughout the module to help show how practical and successful accommodations can be.

In addition to the training module, the JAN Website includes a variety of resources on accommodations ideas for brain Injury in the workplace.

February Heart Health — Accommodating Employees with Pacemakers in the Workplace

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 26, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

For some, the month of February is about expressing love for family, friends, and even co-workers. For others, February is about thawing out from the cold and dark of winter and beginning to realize results from health commitments made in the New Year — to eating a healthier diet, exercising more regularly, and improving overall heart health.

However, for those who have experienced a heart attack, atrial fibrillation, or other heart conditions requiring a pacemaker to assist in maintaining a normal rhythm, February like any other month is a time to focus on the love of one’s work and new heart related concerns. This may seem particularly daunting to those who work around utility lines, strong electrical/medical equipment, or near the potential for a spark, like when welding. Electro-magnetic radiation emanating from these devices may cause electro-magnetic interference (EMI) that can interrupt the pacemaker’s functioning.

Fortunately, advances in occupational safety allow for job accommodations that may not have been possible years ago. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) provides many suggestions for working around electrical appliances, cellular telephones, medical devices, and when working as arc welders if an individual has a pacemaker.

Due to increased exposure of those with pacemakers to EMI-producing elements in their day to day lives, pacemaker manufacturers have responded with more and better implant protection; however, this cannot protect against all incidents of exposure. For this reason many people using pacemakers also use an EMI detector to warn them of an EMI source above the threshold for their implanted device in the near vicinity. Most individuals will experience only minor and temporary interference with their implants when exposed and this will most often disappear as they move away from the source of the interference.

Employers can assist these individuals who are returning to work by:

  1. Ensuring electrical appliances and equipment are well-maintained to prevent leakage and sparking;
  2. Shielding gas-powered generators and gas-powered saws;
  3. Providing EMI protective gear for these workers;
  4. Providing electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) blocking/shielding devices and appropriate long-corded, headsets for cellular telephones;
  5. Allowing the use of an EMI detector and the ability for one to move away from an area if the alarm goes off.

On the JAN Website, you can find additional tips for accommodating people using pacemakers in the workplace.

February is National Jewish Disability Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on under Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team

For the past 7 years, February has been designated as National Jewish Disability Awareness Month in the United States. Across the country, Jewish organizations have initiated programming and embarked on construction projects aimed at creating fully inclusive communities, including the world of work. While there are hundreds of organizations participating in this nationwide effort, we’d like to highlight two of these that have focused in particular on employment.

RespectAbilityUSA

RespectAbilityUSA is a national, non-profit organization working to enable people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, in her role as president states, “Indeed, Jews with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges. Many people with disabilities can be fantastic employees — when they are fully welcomed and included.”

She goes on to say, “People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to workplaces that benefit employers and staff.” She continues, “The majority of working age people with disabilities want to work and they deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream.” To this end, RespectAbility has introduced a toolkit to assist those with disabilities to obtain competitive employment.

Ruderman Family Foundation

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, is looking to achieve full inclusion in all aspects of community life. He emphasizes, “The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment. People with disabilities are the most excluded members of our society because they are unemployed at the rate of 70 percent.” As a result, he said, “We must hold up as shining examples those employers who have demonstrated a commitment to hiring people with disabilities.” The Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with the Jewish Week Media Group, has now launched its “Best In Business Campaign” to do just that.

While February is National Jewish Disability Awareness Month, inclusion happens 365 days per year. For tips on how your business can be fully inclusive by hiring and retaining more workers with disabilities, visit the JAN Website.

Finding Your Heart-Healthy Buddy

Posted by Kim Cordingly on February 23, 2015 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Elisabeth Simpson, Senior Consultant – Motor Team

Between Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, February is a time of year when connecting with others and taking care of ourselves is pushed to the forefront. So what better way to connect with others while keeping your heart healthy than to find your heart-healthy buddy in the workplace? Having a colleague or co-worker who is in the same boat as you or just wants to develop a healthier lifestyle can have a positive impact on your heart, other areas of health, and even on how you do your job.

According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (HBP) (American Heart Association, 2014). Even though HBP doesn’t typically have any symptoms associated with it, there can be deadly consequences for not treating this disease. On a positive note, HBP is a disease that can be prevented and treated. The AHA offers a list of eight suggestions for controlling HBP.

These include:

  • Eat a better diet, which may include reducing salt
  • Enjoy regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Comply with medication prescriptions
  • If you drink, limit alcohol
  • Understand hot tub safety

So how do we integrate these preventative measures into our work life routines where stress can be constant and various factors limit how well we take care of ourselves during the workday? JAN’s suggestion: Find a “heart-healthy buddy!” It can be hard to start a new routine and stay on track. Finding a co-worker who is interested in making or maintaining healthy lifestyle choices can be a great support system.

Here are 5 tips for maintaining a healthy heart in the workplace with your heart-healthy buddy that address a number of the tips for controlling HBP provided by the AHA.

  1. Meet up at lunch for a short walk, yoga, meditation, etc.

We know it can be hard to step away from the desk and take advantage of the breaks provided, especially when the temperature starts to drop! But physical activity not only helps to control HBP, it helps manage weight, strengthen the heart, and manage stress levels (AHA, 2014). Even short periods of exercise can make a difference! The AHA (2014) recommends that those who need to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week, with physical activity being performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. Flexibility and stretching exercises are also suggested (AHA, 2014). Of course, those with chronic conditions should talk with their healthcare provider before increasing their activity level. Once you have the go-ahead, put that smart phone down, give the computer a break, and get moving!

  1. Hold each other accountable for meals at work including lunch, parties and celebrations, and off-site employer sponsored events.

You get busy during the morning and forget to pack a lunch. Next thing you know, it’s 11:45 am and you are starving. What to do? Are you tempted to call up the local pizzeria and have that meatball hoagie you love so much delivered right to your office? And what about those holiday parties, monthly birthday celebrations, and work retreats? It can be hard to resist the pot-luck casseroles and cakes without having someone holding you accountable. Knowing that your heart-healthy buddy will be there for support, and vice-versa, can make the decision-making process easier at events where it is especially hard to pass on the homemade cupcakes you both love so much!

  1. Swap heart-healthy dinner recipes.

The AHA has indicated that eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and other diseases (AHA, 2014). But after a long day of work it can be daunting to think about preparing a meal that is heart-healthy and easy to make. One way to take the stress out of meal planning can be to swap your favorite heart-healthy meals with your buddy. If you have the time, planning out your menu for the entire week over the weekend or even prepping parts of the meal can be helpful.

  1. Take turns bringing in heart-healthy snacks that can be shared.

Mid-afternoon hunger pains can get the best of us and making a stop at the snack machine can be hard habits to break. The AHA (2014) recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day, which is less than ¾ teaspoon of salt per day. Raw vegetables and fruits can be a great alternative to chips and salted nuts and are great for sharing. The AHA offers free recipes online that include snacks and appetizers including a Greek yogurt dip and hummus to go with fruits and vegetables shared during an afternoon break with your heart-healthy buddy (AHA, 2014).

  1. Offer support to one another to help manage stress.

Although stress is not a confirmed risk factor for either high blood pressure or heart disease (AHA, 2014), managing stress in the workplace can help to reduce emotional discomfort or anxiety that results from feeling stressed. One way to combat stress during the workday is to be mindful of when you are feeling stressed and employ techniques to reduce stress. This can include talking with your heart-healthy buddy about what triggers your stress, how to mitigate the effects of stress, plans for managing stressful events that can’t be changed and, brainstorming how to solve problems that contribute to stress.

Following these tips and getting support from a heart-healthy buddy may help you to feel better while at work and have a positive impact on the work that you do. Of course, if there are accommodations that can be made in the workplace that are needed because of a heart condition your employer may need to provide them, absent undue hardship. Visit the JAN Website for more information on heart conditions and accommodating employees with heart conditions.

American Heart Association. (2014). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp.

Campaign for Disability Employment “Who I Am” PSA Airing Nationally

Posted by Kim Cordingly on January 15, 2015 under Campaign for Disability Employment, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist

The new “Who I Am” public service announcement from the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Campaign for Disability Employment is now airing on television stations around the country. The PSA features nine people with disabilities who are not defined solely by their disability but instead by their many life roles — including working in jobs they love. The participants in the “Who I Am” PSA remind us that recognizing the value they add to the workplace fosters a work culture welcoming of the talents of all individuals. Fostering a work environment that is flexible and open to the talents of all qualified individuals, including those with disabilities, actually promotes workplace success for everyone.

What can YOU do to help promote inclusion and opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace? Show your support by encouraging your local television stations to air the “Who I Am” PSA. “Who I Am” reminds us to see one another for who we are and what we can contribute. The PSA will positively impact television viewers and empower those with disabilities – especially those with non-apparent disabilities – to bring their whole selves to everything they do – including their work. The CDE invites you to encourage stations to air the PSA by sending a letter or e-mail to your local television stations. The CDE offers a template letter to make it easy.

While the “Who I Am” PSA is intended for television broadcast, the CDE would like to see the PSA and its important message distributed as widely as possible. To facilitate this outreach, everyone is encouraged to share the “Who I Am” PSA by accessing the PSA section of the Website. There are English and Spanish versions of the PSA available in both audio introduced and open captioned formats. Also, as part of the  “Who I Am” Outreach Toolkit, the CDE will soon offer accompanying posters and discussion guides, which will include DVD copies of all PSA formats.

Another way to participate in the CDE’s effort is to promote inclusion by sharing the diverse factors that make you who YOU are. Whatever unique identities you bring with you to work each day, chances are you’ve drawn upon many of them to do your job better, whether consciously or not. Because everyone can add value to the workplace, the CDE has launched the Ask Me Who I Am public engagement effort, which asks everyone to use hashtag #WhoIAmPSA to share one or more of their diverse identities to demonstrate the various skills and talents all workers can contribute. Join the effort by sharing what factors make you who YOU are.

The Campaign for Disability Employment is a collaborative effort to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers and others to recognize the value and talent they bring to the workplace. Stay current on the CDE’s initiatives by following the Campaign for Disability Employment using Twitter and Facebook. To learn more about this campaign and to view this and other PSAs, visit the CDE Website.

Employer Perspective – On the Benefits of Mentoring

Posted by Kim Cordingly on November 25, 2014 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, What Works for Me | Comments are off for this article

By: Melanie Whetzel – Lead Consultant, Cognitive/Neurological Team

 

Tailored Label Products, Inc. (TLP) is a manufacturer of custom labels and die cut adhesives located in Menomonee Falls, WI. TLP won a 2014 APSE award for being a visionary employer and leader who carries out the mission of APSE – which in simplest terms is inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community. Mike Erwin, CEO of TLP, agreed to answer a few questions for us about TLP’s award winning mentoring program. Melanie and Kim Cordingly were in Long Beach, CA, the night of the awards dinner to see Mike Erwin and his employee Patrick Young accept the award.

1. What was the APSE award about?

APSE is a national group focused on facilitating and advocating for the optimal employment of those with disabilities. One of our employees has an intellectual disability. This young man has become a well-respected spokesperson for the cause within our state.

 2. On the benefits of the mentoring process, you stated that if the employees weren’t mentoring other employees, they would just be working. We love that comment!

A case in point … we allow employees to step up and act as a mentor and advocate for their personal development. We have had the most unlikely folks step up to make certain their fellow employee with a disability is successful in his ever increasing role. Some of our team members use traditional “motherly” skills to lay the groundwork for knowledge in the job. They have the INTUITION to see what will work for the employee at risk.

 3. What are the biggest benefits this relationship provides to the mentors?

Our employees take greater personal pride in their workplace…for being allowed to step up and use soft skills that traditionally would not be applied this way in the workplace. They also take pride in the part they played in the individuals’ job/career development. The mentors develop more empathy for others as a result of this exposure.

 4. How are mentors chosen? Do they come naturally from work relationships?

The employees have already displayed the passion for helping others. They inherently would be the best trainer in a particular department as well.

 5. How did your mentoring program get started?

No plan…it was just thrust upon us. We had the opportunity to do the right thing in our first case with Patrick and it expanded from there.

6. What type of training do the mentors go through?

There is no class for this. We support those who possess on the job “trainer” behavior and exhibit the right kind of empathy skills as well as maturity and tenacity (patience)…all qualities you would want in any employee. We have had formal traditional coaching training for our crew and the mentoring is all part of deploying those skills.

 7. Anything else you would like to include?

It is great to see Patrick evolve into “appropriate independence.” He is improving each day in so many ways. We are one of the components in his balanced life. EVERY workplace should have the goal to place at least one person with an intellectual disability in the workforce, or at least provide an opportunity to shadow and expose folks to a potential fit instead of prejudging and avoiding the “risk.” If folks could see the positive outcome in the workplace for stepping up and embracing the hiring of individuals with disabilities, including the soft-side benefits….more organizations would benefit. There is a big gap between wanting to help and easy access to those with the potential to learn and participate in the workplace. The rewards of this effort clearly outweigh any risk!