Disability hiring starts with considering all applicants
There are certain patterns you can see in a resume that signal someone is dealing with a disability. Each resume leaves us hints about life events and perhaps what someone is currently going through.
Each resume tells a story both in what is included as well as what is omitted. To be more inclusive in hiring people with disabilities, pause to dig into these resumes further.
Resumes we see on a regular basis:
A person is seeking employment after a 5 year employment gap. Perhaps they are recovering after an injury or illness?
A person has a series of very short duration jobs that all seem to end abruptly. Are they struggling with their mental health or finding accommodation difficult in their workplace?
A person takes a step backwards in their career into a less prestigious role or perhaps even a part time role. Are they currently dealing with a newly emerged disability? Are they trying to find something that’s less pressure so they can focus on their health?
Any one of these resumes would raise an eyebrow of a recruiter and these people are the first ones to put on the “no” pile. If you want to make your organization more inclusive towards hiring people with disabilities, the first thing you can do is re-consider these applicants.
Take a chance and give them a phone call. Look at their resume a second time. Finally, don’t rush to make any conclusions about their work ethic or “culture fit” based solely on a sheet of paper.
Disability hiring is human hiring. You are not recruiting for a machine–you are recruiting for humans. And sometimes humans (and life) takes a non-linear path.
Peak Performers is honored to accept this recognition as the second largest staffing agency in Austin. We are changing the world one job at a time by hiring professionals with disabilities. A big thanks to all of our customers who are helping us hire–we could not do this without you. Also, thanks to all of the talented, professional job seekers who seek us out looking for their next opportunity. We appreciate your trusting us to help you with your career transition.
If you’re hiring in Austin, we can help. Find out why we’re an award winning staffing agency who can help you find great talent and advance your DE&I goals through diverse hiring.
And if you’re looking for work, we can help you find Austin jobs.
Everything you Know about Disability Inclusion is WRONG
Summary of Event
Everything You Know about Disability Inclusion is WRONG! In this hour long presentation, Disability:IN Central Texas brings together a panel of leading disability inclusion experts who will share their hot takes on what companies, leaders, HR, and even your well-meaning coworkers get wrong about disability hiring and inclusion. We debunk myths, share our real world stories, and get real about disability etiquette.
Everything you know about disability inclusion is WRONG…well maybe not everything, but we all have something we can learn!
Key Points from the Webinar
A big thanks to Kate, Dylan, and Chris for their insights into this topic. Feel free to connect with any of these panelists regarding questions you have about disability inclusion. This panel was moderated by Myles Wallace.
If you want to hire people with disabilities, Peak Performers is happy to help. If your business is looking for a peer group to support you as you work towards disability inclusion, consider becoming a member of Disability:IN at the local or national level.
We encourage you to watch the whole video. Below is the executive summary of key questions and answers from the panelists.
What steps are companies taking to be more inclusive, where are they at, and what do they still need to do?
The pandemic has made many companies more aware of the health needs of their employees and made them more likely to grant accommodations.
Companies still have an opportunity to invest more in disability hiring and retention similar to how they do with other DE&I programs and to reinforce learning so that disability inclusion is something that stays top of mind even as the pandemic fades away.
COVID has forced many companies to invest and take seriously work from home as an accommodations. Digital collaboration tools have made it easier for the disabled community to find jobs and participate in the workforce. This has been a boon for many workers.
Companies still have an opportunity to be more welcoming to employees and explicitly state that accommodations are available to employer upon request.
Companies need to be aware as they bring companies back into the workplace that many people have developed disabilities during the pandemic. Companies have an opportunity to step-up and be more welcoming to all people with disabilities.
During the talent acquisition phase, companies can be doing more to build a welcoming space where all feel invited to apply. We should also be moving towards a point where accommodations are not a big deal and a quick conversation.
How have well-meaning coworkers and bosses accidentally insulted or been non-inclusive. What could they have done differently in those situations?
Sometimes coworkers feel like they need to walk on eggshells around me and don’t know how to include me. So instead they just didn’t include me.
If you’re on the fence about how to include somebody in your workspace, just ask. Use an open-ended question and allow the person with a disability to specify what they’re comfortable with.
It’s important to hold your workers with disabilities to the same standards as people without. We don’t need to be babied, and we take great pride in our work.
Also, don’t come down hard on employees, disabled or not. Instead have constructive coaching conversations with the goal of providing feedback and helping people improve.
If you’re working around people with disabilities, you’re probably going to say or do the wrong thing. Listen for feedback, own your mistakes, and seek to do better next time.
Don’t rush to assumptions. We need to work towards intentional inclusion and express an earnest curiosity about people with disabilities. You have a lot to learn from their lived experience
Also, as a person with a disability, don’t be afraid to speak up and express what you need to be successful.
What does disability etiquette mean to you?
Treat people with disabilities like anyone else. Treat them with respect. Just try to be a good human.
Also, ask questions, be curious, but don’t be condescending.
Be intentionally inclusive. Be accommodating, accepting, and acknowledge the people with disabilities around you. This doesn’t need to be complicated.
It sometimes take a moment of confrontation for us to do better. Don’t shut down when you are confronted. It’s a work in progress for all of us.
Furthermore, many of us have different experiences within our own disability culture. Don’t make assumptions about that person’s experience or preference. You’ll have to engage with each person with a disability in a unique way.
What is the difference between bias and discrimination?
Bias is how we interpret situations without conscious thought. Discrimination is more of an action and intentionally preventing someone access to something.
Bias often comes down to a perception. When you act on that perception and intentionally withhold resources that we get into discrimination. Also, when you intentionally create barriers towards someone because of your perception of them, that’s when we get into the area of discrimination.
I think it’s important to point out where biases come from: stereotypes. Stereotypes fuel our biases and then our biases become beliefs and this ultimately leads us to taking actions against people and discriminating.
We also have to quit using labels. Labels belong on soup cans not on me. Furthermore, we have to stop putting labels on other people as a way to empower ourselves by putting others down.
What interesting conversations have you had with a professional with a disability on your podcast?
I talked with someone from Red Cross and how he’s seen Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) positively impact his organization. The Red Cross wanted to be more inclusive towards people with disabilities but failed to include that in any of their messaging. We can all do a better job at broadcasting individually and as organizations that we’re disability-inclusive.
What training were you exposed to within organizational development and what would you have liked to see around disability inclusion in these trainings?
A lot of people accidentally fall into Human Resources. This leads to many issues in the workplace with people lacking formalized training. We need to spend more focus and training on people who “fall into” human resource roles.
At the local, state, and federal level and what would you hope to change regarding disability inclusion?
At the federal level, I would work to permanently remove the sub-minimum wage.
On the state level, we’re missing access to community-base options. We have people with disabilities waiting too long to get access to services.
At a local level, it’s important to ensure that people with disabilities have a seat at the table and representation in local government.
Making Meaningful Change to Disability Inclusion and Hiring
After explaining Peak Performers Staffing Agency mission of hiring people with disabilities to a new person, I experience a range of emotional reactions ranging from enthusiasm to curiosity to indifference.
But my least favorite reaction is…
“Well, good for you. I’m glad someone is helping those people.”
While this seems like a benign statement, what is often implied here is “someone else is helping people with disabilities so I don’t have to.” Furthermore, the speaker usually makes it pretty clear in the statement that they are not part of this “other” group of people.
Not my Problem?
It’s estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that disability affects 26% of the population. This is not a mysterious group of “other” people. These are your friends and family, your bosses and coworkers, maybe even you.
Furthermore, the longer that you live, the more likely it is that you will acquire a disability through accident or aging. Looking out for disability inclusion is not only looking out for other’s well-being but also your own future well-being.
Access to accommodations, embracing an inclusive environment, and hiring diverse people with disabilities directly makes your workplace better and helps ensure you will have a future there.
We’re All in this Together
Disability inclusion is a direction, not a destination. This direction is the result of effective leadership, policy changes, and hiring goals. But meaningful change really happens through one hiring decision at a time, one job accommodation at a time, one work conversation at a time. Change happens through small incremental steps you have the power to impact.
Maybe you have the power to hire someone with a disability. Maybe you have the power to grant an accommodation. Or maybe you have the power to disclose your own disability and empower others to speak out about theirs.
You have the power to join us in changing the world, one job at a time.
It can sometimes be confusing when a group of people start calling themselves something different and ask you to do the same. Language changes and so too does cultural norms and the labels applied to people. Over time, we have seen people with disabilities (as well as other minorities) change what they prefer to be called.
Once we used the word “handicapped.” Now many prefer to use the words “person with a disability” so as to put the person before their disability.
Once we referred to people as having “shell shock.” This has moved towards “post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” perhaps to be more inclusive people who share the condition who are not survivors of war.
Once we referred to people as “retarded.” Now, most will prefer the words “intellectual disabilities,” perhaps due to how many have used “retarded” in a casual derogatory sense.
These changes can be confusing
As an outsider, this can seem overwhelming and confusing. You will probably say the wrong thing and you might even be corrected. I certainly have!
This experience of being corrected can be embarrassing, especially if it happens publicly. But it’s important to realize why you’re being corrected–and why this is more important than your pride.
Often, labels are applied to a group of outsiders and people in the minority, including those with disabilities. Often, these people did not choose what to be called–the labels might be chosen by medical professionals, government, cultural influencers, or society at large. Historically, some labels might have been used to denigrate people or remind them of their “lesser than” status in society.
And so people choose to change these labels.
Giving people the power to identify themselves shifts the power from us to them. This shift is important: this empowers them to transform a label into an identity.
Labels will keep changing
Recently, we’ve been seeing a growing popularity around the word “neurodiversity.” This term aims to be more inclusive of people whether they have autism, ADHD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Some people prefer to use the term “neurodiversity” while others prefer to be specific about the condition they experience.
And these labels will keep changing. For example:
Currently, it is culturally acceptable to casually use the word “crazy” in order to describe any number of wild and unpredictable things. We call ourselves “crazy;” we call each other “crazy;” everything is just “crazy.” People who experience psychological disorders would be right to take offense to this. So it’s important to be receptive when the time comes to retire this word. And we need to be especially mindful of applying this label in a way that’s hurtful towards people who are different.
Bottom line: be respectful, be empathetic, and seek to call people what they want to be called.
The other day, I was having a conversation and a person. The conversation turned to our mission and they said “I don’t see your disability–it can’t be that bad.” To which, I wanted to reply “Well, that’s great but I have to live with it.”
Some people without disabilities struggle to recognize the significance and impact of invisible and hidden disabilities. After all, if we can’t see it, can it really be all that bad?
Invisible disabilities are very real
The first thing to realize is that invisible disabilities are very, very real and they do impact people’s lives. Furthermore, each person will be impacted differently. To further complicate things: each individual person will be affected differently at different times!
Sometimes the impact of invisible disabilities will be tangible. For my own part, I cannot hear you in a crowded restaurant without assistance. Also, I can show you my audiogram that looks like a downward ski slope.
However, if you were, for example, autoimmune compromised the impact might be less tangible. Perhaps you are sick more often than most people and your illnesses lasts longer. Perhaps the indirect impact of this disability leads you to be less likely to go out in public and constantly anxious about your health.
Or if you had ADHD, the impact might affect how you are able to work and communicate with other people. It might affect your attention span. People with ADHD sometimes struggle in school or work environments due to their shifting attention or hyper fixation.
Or if you have PTSD, the impact might be fear, sense of dread, or generalized anxiety. It might affect your sleep and how comfortable you feel in social situations or in public.
Each of these conditions is complicated and diverse, as are the people who carry them. For your part, listen to people’s experiences and feelings. Don’t rush to judgements and acknowledge their feelings and condition as real and impactful.
The second thing that you can do is change the way that you talk about other people. Don’t make assumptions, don’t make fun of people, and don’t make little of any other person’s experience. (Especially don’t engage in any of these activities around other people.)
You never know who around you has an invisible disability so don’t diminish any person or any condition. You may be speaking to someone who has that condition or one similar to it! Like chameleons, people with invisible disabilities are often camouflaged and hiding around you.
Furthermore, having an invisible disability is often a minimizing and socially isolating experience. Many are afraid to talk about it, even to their close friends and family members.
Don’t make their life any harder. Remember to be nice 🙂
It’s natural to have questions. Having a disability means that you adapt to the world and this makes your experiences different and interesting! Any one of these questions are not inherently problematic, and many people with disabilities will gladly tell you about their lived experience. However, what can be problematic is the WAY we ask these questions.
Advice for Asking Better Questions
1 – Consider the Intention of your Questions
If you’re asking a question with the intention of confirming your biases or to validate your judgement of a person, your question is not going to be received well. On the other side of the coin, while we may want to help, they might not need your help–don’t ask questions with the intention of “rescuing” them.
2 – Set Your Tone Carefully
Asking someone “what’s wrong with you?” is not a great tone to set. Be polite.
3 – Consider Your Timing
Would you walk up to a stranger and immediately ask them personal questions? Or would you ask a co-worker personal questions in a public space or in front of others? Carefully consider when you ask someone these kinds of questions and in what environment.
4 – Ask Permission
Disability can be a guarded topic that we may not want to talk about, or a person with a disability may get asked about their condition so often they’re sick of talking about it! It’s important to realize that someone may not want to talk about their disability with you–so give them space to opt out. To start a conversation, I recommend starting with “Do you mind if I ask you about XXXX?”
On July 26, 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. This laid the legislation groundwork for protecting the rights of people with disabilities and making the world more accessible. That’s why this July we’re celebrating “Disability Pride Month.”
Significance of Disability Pride Month
Here’s why you may want to care about Disability Pride Month:
The idea that you can be proud of yourself AND have a disability is still a novel idea.
Disability rights legislation is relatively new and has already had a dramatic impact on millions of people’s lives.
It’s about time that people with disabilities had their time to celebrate!
Holidays only develop significance through the meaning we collectively attach to them. These range from somber (MLK day and Memorial Day), to goofy (Halloween and Valentine’s Day), to historic (4th of July and Juneteenth), to religious (Easter and Hanukkah).
Eventually, these holidays develop a life of their own. Who would have thought that Valentine’s Day would turn into an excuse to exchange chocolates and send love-themed cards? Who knew that 4th of July would become inextricably linked to hotdogs and potato salad? Meanwhile some holidays lose their significance—who really “celebrates” Columbus Day any more?
Disability Pride Month doesn’t often have parades or exchanged presents or fireworks. We don’t even get a day off to celebrate it.
But it can have significance. Happy Disability Pride Month, y’all!
About the Disability Pride Month Flag
“The black background represents the suffering of the disability community from violence and also serves as a color of rebellion and protest…the five colors represent the variety of needs and experiences: Mental Illness, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Invisible and Undiagnosed Disabilities, Physical Disabilities, and Sensory Disabilities.” –Dr. Charlie Roads
Evolution of this flag: originally the had a large lightning pattern running through it to symbolize “how individuals with disabilities must navigate barriers, and demonstrates their creativity in doing so.” More modern versions of the flag, such as the one pictured in this article, do away with the lightning pattern because the design can cause epileptic episodes.
Celebrations in 2022
While still relatively uncommon, you can find celebrations in several major cities:
Sheltered Workshops vs Competitive, Integrated Employment
When you hear hear “employment for people with disabilities,” what do visualize? The first picture that enters many people’s head is a sheltered workshop. In sheltered workshops, groups of individuals with disabilities work side-by-side. Often these people with disabilities have similar disabilities to each other. Sheltered workshops help many people but are not competitive, integrated employment situations.
Sheltered workshops are often run by nonprofits to employ people with disabilities.
Employment in sheltered workshops is often based on their disability.
Their work is often light assembly.
Pay to people with disabilities in sheltered workshops is usually very low, sometimes even below minimum wage.
People who participate in sheltered workshops can often only earn up to a certain amount before they become ineligible for state assistance.
My great aunt participated in a program like this. Due to the extent of her intellectual disability, this was a good environment for her to do something during the day. Also, it gave time back to my grandparents, who were her full time caregivers. For this reason, I would argue that these programs do have an inherent value in our society and are appropriate for some people with disabilities.
Competitive, Integrated Employment Matters
When sheltered workshops are the only thing society envisions when they picture “work for people with disabilities,” we are discounting the abilities of many people.
Every person with a disability also has a unique range of abilities. We cannot make assumptions about a person’s ability because many people with disabilities are capable of competitive and integrated employment in the regular workforce.
Competitive and integrated employment means:
Competitive: Their employment is primarily contingent on their ability to perform the work. Integrated: They are working side-by-side with people who do not have disabilities.
Some of our employees will work for Peak for multiple assignments.
Many of our employees will go onto get hired by the client or find other competitive jobs.
Sometimes a client will know an employee of ours has a disability (since it is visible) and sometimes they won’t (if it’s an invisible disability).
People with disabilities are a large group of people with varying abilities and also varying limitations–just like people without disabilities! If you are ready to hire people with disabilities, first look at the person and then at the disability. If you utilize this mindset, you’ll be surprised by what they’re capable of.
If you’re not sure how start but are interested in employing people with disabilities, we can help!
Picking a top rated staffing agency in Pflugerville is important for both job seekers and employers. Staffing agencies are important partners to finding talented personnel. Here are some of our tips for picking a top rated staffing agency in Pflugerville, Texas.
Staffing Agencies: What to Consider
Specialization of Staffing Agency
Industry specialization is important for picking the best staffing agency. Many staffing firms will specialize in particular kinds of recruitment. Staffing firms often have experience recruiting for that industry and many connections in the industry. Furthermore, the search process for an administrative assistant or enterprise architect may look very different than recruiting for a groundskeeper–the staffing firm will need to look different places to find those workers.
And if you’re looking for work, seeking out a staffing firm that specializes in your area of expertise means you’re more likely to find a job faster.
Some staffing firms, even top-rated ones, have a “revolving door” reputation.
As a job seeker, you don’t want a company that doesn’t value your hard work and company loyalty. And as a business, having employees constantly turning over costs you time and money.
Ask the staffing agency about their retention and re-deployment rates. Both are key to Peak Performers success and our nonprofit mission. We have a turnover rate that is half that of the industry average!
What Benefits are Offered?
Benefits keep employees happy, retained, and happy. Many staffing agencies have little-to-no benefits that they offer, or their benefits are poor. Obviously, their employees will keep looking for other work and ultimately the staffing agency will struggle to hold onto talet.
Every staffing business in Pflugerville is rated online (you can find our Google ratings and reviews here). If you are looking for work, this is important so you can hear honest feedback and gain insights into the company. It’s equally important for businesses to use in evaluating potential staffing agencies. Staffing agencies are acting as an extension of your brand and representing your open jobs–so their reputation rubs off on you.
If you’re looking for work, a staffing agency should never, ever charge you to consider you for employment. This is probably a scam.
If you are an employer, consider staffing agency cost through multiple lenses: hourly bill rate, conversion cost, direct hire fees, and other add-on fees. Also ask about their “placement guarantee,” which is basically insurance on your direct hire employees. Keep in mind that you may not want to pick out the “cheapest” staffing agency–sometimes you get what you pay for if you pick out a cheap staffing provider!
Are you a job seeker? If so, browse our jobs or join our talent pool. We’re happy to consider you for one of our many open jobs.
“We continue to expand our staffing and recruiting services into new industries and markets in an effort to position Peak for future growth,” said Bree Sarlati, CEO of Peak Performers. “Our new leadership team will enable us to grow our company and thereby expand our nonprofit mission to help people with disabilities get jobs.”
Gunther Doran isa senior business development leader with a track record in staffing operations, marketing and sales management, and operational process improvement. Gunther previously served as the Vice President of Peak Performers.
“Many people with disabilities struggle to find work and many employers struggle to hire and then retain employees with disabilities,” said Gunther. “At Peak Performers, I work to connect these two parties and thereby grow the company and mission.”
Chief Financial Officer
Michael Sergi is a senior financial professional with a knack for business planning, analytics, and continuous improvement. Michael previously served as the Vice President of Finance for Peak Performers.
“Self-sufficiency starts with a paycheck,” commented Michael. “In the role of Chief Financial Officer, I help to ensure our employees get paid and our organization stays solvent.”
Chief Operations Officer
Christi Seaback brings to the team over two decades of corporate recruiting and staffing. Christi previously served as a Staffing consultant and then Recruiting Operations Manager for Peak Performers.
“I seek to ensure operational excellence in serving both our customers and job seekers, as well as helping our organization be nimble to the ever-changing needs of our industry,” said Christi.
1) Seek out support resources. Veterans (and often their spouses) have access to a wide range of resources. In Texas, the Texas Veterans Commission helps orient thousands of veterans every year to a variety of services available, including helping them find work.
2) Attend a hiring event. Texas Veterans Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs hosts several hiring events each year (in person and virtual.) This is a great way to meet local employers!
3) Look for jobs on WorkinTexas. If you are a veteran, jobs posted to WorkinTexas (a job search platform administered by Workforce Solutions) are made available first to veterans and then to the rest of the population. This gives you an opportunity to get your resume in first!
4) Seek out veteran-friendly employers. Peak Performers, for example, maintains a veteran hiring ratio of at least 10%. Peak and other employers like us have made a commitment to hiring veterans.
5) Look for veteran hiring preference. Some organizations (especially government agencies) take it one step further and give hiring and interview preference to veterans. This helps increase your chances of getting the interview.
6) Utilize online tools to translate your resume. Tools like the military crosswalk can help you convert your military experience to “civilian-speak.”