■ StatePoint Media / Contributed
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and a good time to focus on the issue of inclusion in the workplace. With historically low unemployment rates among the general population, those with disabilities may enjoy expanded opportunities, particularly as more employers discover the power of a diverse workforce. But finding the right job fit is important, say experts.
“When those of us with disabilities have a real seat at the table, the innovations we introduce are beneficial to everyone,” says Kathy Martinez, head of Disability & Accessibility Strategy at Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo is an example of a company that is committed to attracting, hiring and supporting team members with diverse abilities. This includes having a dedicated team of diverse multidisciplinary professionals with expertise in occupational health and psychiatric nursing, vocational rehabilitation, behavioral/mental health, ergonomics, disability management, human resources, employee relations, benefits and leave administration.
When looking for a job, Martinez says that those with disabilities should ensure the company offers a supportive environment and will view an individual’s experience as an asset to the organization.
“Before accepting an offer, ask the hiring manager or human resources contact what benefits and programming are offered,” suggests Martinez. “This is an easy way to get a feel for the company culture.”
To get the conversation started, Martinez recommends asking about the following:
• Accommodations management office. Is there a dedicated staff member or team working to ensure that employees have the tools and resources they need to be successful? Will this team be available quickly to address issues as they arise?
• Accessibility. Is the physical workspace accessible to you? Will technologies or equipment you need to perform your job be usable?
• Employee resource group (ERG). ERGs, such as The Diverse Abilities Team Member Network at Wells Fargo, can provide resources, opportunities and camaraderie to employees. Find out if the company has such a group for those with disabilities.
• Leadership program/opportunity for growth. Will the job offer opportunities for promotions and raises? Are there resources, such as leadership programming and professional development courses, for employees looking to grow? Discover what your future at this company could look like.
• Diversity. Is this a company that values diverse abilities? Will the employer value your personal contribution?
Remember that finding the right job is as much about you selecting the right employer as the right employer selecting you. Hold out for a position that will offer you the resources that will bring out your full potential.