Everything you know about disability inclusion is WRONG

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.

Are you ready to be more disability inclusive?

Here are two quick ideas:

  1. Join Disability:IN Central Texas as a member.
  2. Work with Peak Performers to hire more people with disabilities.

People with invisible disabilities are everywhere

Empathy for invisible disabilities

Not all disabilities are visible

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.

For more examples of visible and invisible disabilities, make sure to check out our disability re-defined page.

Be kind and watch what you say

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 🙂

Over 50? Looking for a job?

Tips for Austin Job Seekers over 50

It’s hard finding a new job or transitioning careers, especially when you might be thinking more about retirement.  Things can be extra challenging these days competing with tech savvy millennials who will work for lower wages and can relocate easily—however your future is still bright!

Here are 5 tips to compete in the job market!  

1) Stay positive, stay current

Employers can sense energy and enthusiasm—they appreciate perspective but don’t want someone stuck in the past.  Make sure to stay positive and in the present both on paper and in person.  Remember that you want to highlight your past and not live in it.

2) Get techie

Realistically, most of your work will be done on a computer from now on.  Most likely you already use a computer on a daily basis but maybe it’s time to learn some new skills.  It’s likely in your new job you will be using Google Docs, Quickbooks, Salesforce, or another cloud-based, collaborative application–so maybe it’s time to do some research and familiarize yourself with the software currently prevalent in your career field.

3) Update your resume

Have you been in one job for ten years?  Twenty?  Probably time to update your resume.  Did you know that your local library may have resume writing classes?  Have you looked at resume writing tips online?  Also, don’t forget to tailor your resume towards each job you apply for.

4) Network and use Linkedin

Linkedin is not only a great way to look for jobs but also to reconnect with former colleagues and friends in the field.  Many of your best job leads will come from personal referrals.  So tighten up that resume and get online to connect.

5) Leverage your experience

You’ve been there and done that.  Don’t forget to show it on your resume and talk about it in the interview.  Most employers value experience, perspective, and a long list of things you’ve done.  While ideal resumes should be tailored specifically to the job you’re looking to get, don’t be afraid to point out all the ways you’ve changed the world!

By the way, have you heard about our mission at Peak?  Do you think you might be a Peak Performer?  Send us your resume!

4 tips for job seekers with disabilities

Disability and Employment

Based on Census Bureau data from 2015, there were an estimated 1.6 million working-age Texans with one or more disabilities. In the same year, Austin was home to nearly 72,000 residents living with disabilities or roughly 8 percent of the city’s population. These are significant numbers, and they likely do not include many invisible disabilities as defined by the ADA Amendments Act (2008).

While the situation is improving, many challenges remain for job seekers with chronic medical conditions in the United States. Discrimination in the workplace, lack of accessibility and inaccurate perceptions are all contributing factors to a disability unemployment rate that is more than twice as high as the general population. Moreover, the unemployment rate is not an ideal metric to gauge the economic participation of people with disabilities, as it does not account for many people who would like to work but are not actively seeking employment.

However, more and more employers are realizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities. In this day and age, companies need employees who are able to solve problems in unique and creative ways. And candidates with disabilities are often well positioned to think outside the proverbial box.

With more than 27 years of experience putting people with disabilities to work in Austin, we’ve compiled some of our best advice for job seekers with chronic medical conditions.

Consider a public sector job

The Obama administration exceeded their goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities during the past several years. With many states and municipalities following, this act alone has undoubtedly contributed to a falling disability unemployment rate over the same time period.

If you’re unable to get a government job directly, you might consider working with a company that does business with the public sector. At Peak Performers employment agency, we recognize that disabilities have little to no bearing on an individual’s skills and capabilities. Our mission is to find jobs for qualified individuals, especially those with a disability. In fact, at our company, your status as a person with a disability can actually put you at an advantage–when we fill jobs, we give priority to qualified people who have a chronic medical condition.

Expand your network

We’re not the only ones in Austin providing jobs for people with disabilities. We recommend utilizing a variety local and online resources in your job search. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Launch Pad Job Club is a networking, support, and job lead sharing organization that aids and supports job seekers in Austin. Looking for work is hard to do alone. The job club model offers free, weekly meetings to network and learn from local experts and job seekers.
  • Workforce Solutions is our regional workforce development system and a partner of the American Job Center network. With three locations in the Austin area, WFS is a one-stop resource for job search assistance and employment-related services in Travis County.
  • If you are new to the workforce or are recently disabled, you might benefit from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – one of the leading sources of guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Consider when to disclose

The key question for many disabled job seekers is when (or if) to disclose their medical condition to a potential employer. Depending on your individual circumstances, this decision will be different for everyone. However, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared to address any skepticism from a hiring manager.

For people with highly visible disabilities, it is generally recommended to address any accommodations at the outset, so that expectations are set early in the process. Those with invisible disabilities can often choose whether or not to disclose at all. Many career advice articles suggest that if your disability is not easily noticeable, it’s best not to say anything. Despite legal protection, the sad truth is that workplace discrimination is still a significant reality for people with all types of disabilities.

Know your worth

If and when you do decide to disclose, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to outline your entire medical history. We recommend sharing any accommodations you might need and focusing on how you’re able to contribute to the company. As with any job search process, it’s important to highlight your skills, experience and professional accomplishments. Understanding your worth can go a long way to giving you the confidence to nail the interview. The system might be broken, but you certainly are not.

Invisible Disabilities

Invisible Disabilities

Recently, I was reading through a comment section below an article about what it’s like living with a disability. One contributor offered this example scenario:

Scenario 1: A blind person is in a store. Through an mistake in their cane technique, they accidentally break a piece of merchandise

Scenario 2:A person suffering from PTSD is in a store. They smell a cologne that was the same their attacker wore. They become very upset and accidentally break a piece of merchandise

Who do you think the store owner will be more sympathetic toward?

It might sound pessimistic, but my bet is that 9 out of 10 times, the person with PTSD will end up paying for the broken merchandise, while the blind person probably will not. Why is this?

Inclusion of People with Invisible Disabilities

Many would argue that it’s the difference between a visible disability and an “invisible” one. Invisible disabilities are the ones you might not even know someone has. A longer list can be found on our Disability Defined page, but I’ll name a few here:

  • anxiety/depression
  • heart disease
  • sleep disorders
  • digestive disorders (such as Crohn’s Disease or IBS)
  • bipolar disorder
  • cancer

Often, the applicants we see here at Peak Performers who have “invisible” disabilities also have this in common: they’re more likely to protest, “Oh, but I’m not really disabled.”

Disability Defined

The legal definition of “disability” was originally set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passed in 1990, this Act offered a fairly limited definition, covering mostly the physical conditions we traditionally think of as “disabling.”

In 2008, however, this definition was broadened considerably, under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). Most notably, the ADAAA now includes individuals who have been diagnosed with the “invisible” disabilities.

Traditionally, these are the conditions that, because they were not protected (either under the ADA, or pre-dating regulations), were not only invisible, but were also hidden. These are also the “newest” disabling conditions, in the sense that it hasn’t been until recently that scientists and therapists have begun to understand them. Today, in spite of laws meant to protect disabled individuals from discrimination, I’ve seen plenty of career advice articles extolling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In other words: unless your disability is hard not to see, it’s best not to say anything.

To me, this is a sign that there is still something wrong with the system. Individuals still expect to encounter disability discrimination in the workplace.

Recently, to the tune of $7 million, a Missouri judge successfully sued the state for firing him due to his disability, a very difficult form of muscular dystrophy. His lawyer called the success “vindictive” for her client, adding that: “He felt like he was heard and somebody listened to him and believed him and saw him for the first time on these issues.”

The Need for Change

Visible disabilities, such as the Missouri judge’s muscular dystrophy or blindness, have often been documented for many years. And yet, they are still discriminated against. Invisible disabilities, such as PTSD or Crohn’s disease, are easier to hide, less understood by your average person, and tend to have a shorter history of documentation. They’re also harder to “prove,” and someone could be accused of simply “faking it.”

I’ll leave you by returning to my first example, and ask: Who would you ask to pay for the broken merchandise in your store?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Learn more here, and follow Peak Performers as we work to grow awareness.