Invisible Disabilities and the Workplace

Autumn dawn in forest

56 million people in the United States have a disability. Some disabilities are more visible than others, especially if the individual relies on a wheelchair or walking cane. But others, known as “invisible” disabilities, are not. People who live with invisible or hidden disabilities also face challenges in the workplace and in their communities, which can make daily living more difficult.

Defining invisible disability:

In simple terms, an invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities and that is invisible to the onlooker. Unfortunately, the very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgment. For more information on invisible disabilities, visit: www. invisibledisabilities.org.

According to NPR.org, “It is hard to pinpoint the number of Americans with an invisible disability, but it’s estimated there are millions. Their conditions may range from lupus to bipolar disorder or diabetes. The severity of each person’s condition varies, and the fear of stigma means that people often prefer not to talk about their illnesses.”

Invisible disabilities in the workplace:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that reasonable accommodation be provided by an employer, if necessary, for all people with disabilities, whether hidden or visible. Unfortunately, if a disability is not visible or obvious, often people have difficulty understanding the need for accommodation, and some employees think coworkers are receiving favoritism.

There are myths and negative stereotypes that continue to exclude individuals with disabilities from the workplace despite their willingness and ability to work. For more information on myths and perceptions of hiring people with disabilities, click here.

Disclosing a disability:

In most cases, individuals would choose to disclose a disability to request a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation allows an employee with a disability to do their job. It is the individual’s decision to disclose their disability if he or she can perform the essential job functions without accommodations. To learn more about hidden disabilities in the workplace, click here.

Adding value to the workplace:

Hiring people with – visible or invisible – disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate. All new hires need to become familiar with an organization’s management style and workplace culture. Working with agencies serving people with disabilities, including PRIDE Industries, brings the added benefit of comprehensive training and guidance to ensure success for employer, employee and new team members.

Recruiting qualified people with disabilities brings benefits far beyond filling a job opening, including low turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs, and a loyal and committed workforce. A 2007 DePaul University study noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures for workers with disabilities; participating employers described their employees as “loyal, reliable, and hardworking.”

PRIDE Industries published Ability Matters — a free resource guide created for businesses interested in learning more about employing people with disabilities. To download your free copy of Ability Matters, click here.

 

With Appreciation

Autumn Thanksgiving arrangement with thankful message

“Happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” — Frederick Koenig

For 51 years, PRIDE Industries’ mission has created jobs for people with disabilities – in our business enterprises, and by partnering with others in the community. Every paycheck delivers dignity, self-respect, and the pride of contributing to the community.

To our employees, your passion and dedication have helped PRIDE Industries be the renowned social enterprise today, thank you.

To our customers, friends and supporters who create opportunity for more than 3,300 people with disabilities employed and supported by PRIDE – thank you.

To our business and community partners who employ and help individuals with a wide range of disabilities transition to the workforce, thank you.

To the counselors, trainers, recruiters, job coaches, job developers, and countless community resources who pave the path to employment, thank you.

From all of us at PRIDE Industries – may the good things of life be yours in abundance, not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the coming year.

 

Veteran’s Salute – Vernon Alcorn

While working on an Idaho ranch as a young adult, Vernon Alcorn decided he wanted a larger purpose in life. In 1994, he and a friend both decided to apply to the Idaho National Guard.

“The training was mentally challenging,” said Vernon. “However, I adjusted well and was excited to make the military my career.” After two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the US Army as part of the 46th Engineer Battalion.

Vernon served 21 years in the Army, advancing from a Private E1 to First Sergeant E8. In 1998, he was sent to his first overseas deployment to Nicaragua for a humanitarian mission. Fast forward to 2003 – Vernon was part of the first army troops sent over for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later went again for combat operations in 2008 – 2009, as well as to South Korea in 2013 for an operations support position and to a final deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

Serving in the military gave Vernon an opportunity to become a leader and an effective team builder. His dedication and bravery won him many awards, including two bronze stars. “My proudest moment serving was the day I became a First Sergeant in Afghanistan,” said Vernon. “With this position came the responsibility of commanding 294 soldiers – the height of my career.”

After returning home from Afghanistan, Vernon was on track to become a Sergeant Major but decided to retire in 2015 while stationed in Fort Polk, LA. “I enjoyed my time in the Army and the camaraderie I had with fellow soldiers. However, as my kids got older, I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Starting a new career at any time presents challenges; this is often compounded when applying military skills to civilian positions. Like many veterans, Vernon struggled with making the career transition between soldier and civilian. “I applied to several jobs with very little luck. Most interviews went downhill after I had mentioned I was in the military. I went from a management position to an entry-level job to help support my family.”

Fortunately, Vernon kept searching for better opportunities and applied for a Quality Control Assistant Manager position at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk contract.

“From the start of my interview, I knew that this company was different. My prior work in the military was viewed as a positive aspect rather than something that I needed to hide,” said Vernon. He was hired in 2016 and shortly afterward was promoted to the Forward Operating Base/Range Facilities Manager.

“My job at PRIDE gives me purpose as a civilian,” says Vernon. “The Army never leaves you, and I enjoy being able to support the training on Fort Polk in a civilian capacity. It makes a positive impact on my life being able to work with people with disabilities and see their accomplishments. One of my children has a disability, and I know how important it is to have opportunities to enter meaningful careers with room for advancement.”

In his tenure at PRIDE, Vernon has become a valued team member. His advice for other veterans transitioning from the military is “Be prepared for change – I worked my way to the top and had to start all over again. Understand that a lot of companies won’t know what your job role is or your skills. Go in with an open mind.”

Veteran’s Salute – Kathryn Strawder

“After graduating high school, I had little experience but lots of ambition.” Kathryn (Kathy) Strawder enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1995 to start a meaningful career with potential. “I enrolled as a Private, the lowest rank possible. The transition was rough; I felt like I made a huge mistake. However, the rigorous training was necessary to build us up.”

After Basic and Advanced Individual Training AIT training, Kathy joined the 17th Signal Battalion in Kitzingen, Germany. Throughout her career, she was stationed in Germany, Fort Hood, Korea, and Fort Bliss, including a deployment to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

“In Bosnia, we dressed in full battle rattle (combat uniform). It was tough for my team, but we were always supportive and helped each other to get through the mission. I gratefully landed back in Germany after the deployment was over.”

With determination and drive, Kathy soon rose above the challenges. “When I was a young Specialist, I attended school to become a Non-Commissioned Officer. I received three awards, including the Commandant’s List (Honors Award), Iron Soldier, and Class A. After graduation, some female officers told me how proud they were of me for representing women in the force. I then went back to my unit and won Soldier of the Month.”

Kathy was promoted to Sergeant and enrolled in the Green to Gold Educational Program to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. “I never forget that every contribution, no matter how small, contributed to the success of our team. The Army taught me important leadership skills including mentoring, resiliency, patience, and focus.”

“To this day, I’m proud to have served for over a decade in active duty and the Army Reserves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Kathy left the Army in 2009 to concentrate on her family. “The first six months after leaving were the most challenging – I felt like I had lost my identity. There were so many new things I had to get used to, including signing up for benefits and even picking out work clothes.”

“I still miss the Army, but I love the life that I have now. My advice to other veterans adjusting to civilian life is to have a plan, be open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly don’t give up.”

Kathy worked as a civilian within the military field until she was hired in 2014 at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss  contract as Human Resources Director – helping manage employee relations for a small city of facilities experts that keep the base operational.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be part of this wonderful company,” says Kathy. “I can’t say enough how much I love my job. My son has Autism, and I can only imagine what the parents who started this company had in mind when they envisioned something better for their children. Just like the Army, I believe in PRIDE’s mission!”

Veteran’s Salute – David Daniel

“My dad served in the military for 30 years. He inspired me to join as well.” David Daniel served in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 2012, enlisting shortly after graduating high school.

“My transition to military life was slightly humorous. At basic training, you follow a strict regimen: when to get up, go to sleep, make your bed, fold your clothes and hang your uniforms,” said David. “Coming from a military family, I thought this was normal. I guess this helped me make squad leader!”

After his first overseas assignment to Guam, David was sent to Patrick AFB in Florida in 1990. Shortly afterward, he was sent to Kuwait for the Gulf War. “It was a surreal experience,” said David. “I packed up and said goodbye to my friends and family, and still couldn’t believe I was leaving.”

David served multiple tours throughout his time in the Air Force, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “You realize that you are much more capable than you thought. I understood this especially during my deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan; when my team was attacked.”

Through his dedication and exemplary work, David moved from Airman Basic (E-1) in 1984 to Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) in 2012. The Air Force led him all over the world including the Middle East, South America, East Asia and Europe.

Throughout his career, David has completed many roles in civil engineering, helping keep various bases safely running through times of conflict and peace. His bravery also earned him several awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star.

“I went to 19 countries – and loved them all,” said David. “However, my most memorable moment was a 2010 humanitarian deployment to Suriname. I was asked to lead a RED HORSE team (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) to build medical clinics and schools. It was an incredible experience to create a positive impact.”

At the end of his career, David served as the Superintendent for the 87th Mission Support Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey – acting as the principal advisor to the Commander on all enlistment issues for 3,911 personnel.

Although he had enjoyed serving in the military, David looked forward to a new beginning. “I officially retired on November 1st, 2012, serving a total 28 years, ten months and 14 days,” said David.

“I enjoyed my career, but it was the right time to end. Thankfully, PRIDE Industries offered me a position as the Operations Manager at the Ft. Bliss contract.”

Working in a familiar environment helped make his military transition easier. “My transition went rather smoothly,” explained David. “I moved from Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL), NJ to Ft. Bliss, TX and took off the uniform. I was also fortunate to have my Dad’s advice to know what to expect.”

In 2015, David joined PRIDE’s Western Currency Facility contract as the General Manager. He currently manages a team of 50 people, including those with disabilities and veterans. “I love that PRIDE gives people opportunities and confidence through employment.”

“Working for PRIDE has positively impacted my life, and I enjoy the ability to build teams who accomplish more than they ever imagined.”

Inclusion Drives Innovation – NDEAM

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The theme of this year’s month-long celebration is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

“Inclusion Drives Innovation,” is at the heart of PRIDE Industries’ mission – to create jobs for people with disabilities. In 1966, a group of parents met in the basement of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Auburn, California, determined to create employment opportunities for their adult children with disabilities.

For more than 50 years, PRIDE has had to be innovative to drive inclusion and grow our mission. With more than 5,600 people, including more than 3,300 people with disabilities and operating in 14 states and the nation’s capital. At PRIDE, we know that disability does not mean inability and that through employment, individuals with disabilities gain a sense of purpose, dignity, inclusion, and lead more self-sufficient lives.

pride industries employee at fort bliss going up ladder, HVAC tech

“For the first time, I did not have to hide my disability.” Meet Michael, click here.

 


“It really means a lot to have a job because I am on a regular schedule and making money with consistent hours.” Meet Sam, click here.

 

“My work gives meaning to my life.” Meet Richard, click here.

Through PRIDE’s innovative roots and by harnessing the ‘power of purpose’, people with disabilities gain opportunities to become contributing members of the community.

Strength, Prosperity, and Well-being

Labor Day is a tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers that have contributed to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Though the unemployment rate has dropped to record lows in recent months, people with disabilities continue to struggle with high levels of unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, only 34% of people with disabilities (ages 18-64) were employed, compared to a 76% rate of employment for people without disabilities.

At PRIDE Industries, our goal is to create jobs for those who want and can work. Through PRIDE’s business enterprises and by partnering with others in the community, people with disabilities become contributing members of the community.

Since 1966, our mission has proven that disability does not mean inability and that through employment, individuals with disabilities gain a sense of purpose, dignity, inclusion, and lead more self-sufficient lives.

On Labor Day and year-round, together, we can celebrate the contributions of all American workers – with and without disabilities.

 

From all of us at PRIDE, have a happy and safe Labor Day!

An Untapped Labor Pool – The Benefits of Diversity in The Workplace

In today’s highly competitive business environment, companies are working harder to maintain profit margins while creating high standards and developing new strategies for growth. A workforce rich in diversity and varied backgrounds is often better equipped to create viable and creative solutions to the business challenges of a global market.

Diversity refers to variances among ethnicity, gender, age, and religion, including individuals’ attributes and experiences. One out of five people in America has a disability, making them the nation’s largest “minority.” The group represents all ages, genders, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels. Integrating people with disabilities in your business and the workforce can create a competitive advantage.

Businesses that employ individuals with disabilities appreciate their diverse experiences and perspectives, adding value to the workplace. Recruiting qualified people with disabilities brings benefits far beyond filling a job opening, including low turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs, and a loyal and committed workforce. A 2007 DePaul University study noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures for workers with disabilities; participating employers described their employees as “loyal, reliable, and hardworking.” This untapped labor pool can offer a source of skilled employees while contributing to lower business expenses.

In most cases, hiring people with disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate.  All new hires need to become familiar with an organization’s management style and workplace culture. Working with agencies serving people with disabilities brings the added benefit of comprehensive training and guidance to ensure success for employer, employee and new team members.

Ability Matters is a free resource guide created by PRIDE Industries for businesses interested in learning more about employing people with disabilities. The booklet was compiled with input from business leaders to help companies gain the competitive edge by achieving diversity in the workplace.

Ability Matters was developed by PRIDE Industries in collaboration with the following organizations; The ARC of California, ALTA California Regional Center, Work Training Center, Inc., California Disability Services Association, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Unisource Worldwide, Inc. The guide addresses topics ranging from business advantages to recruitment and hiring, as well as support services, tax incentives, and realistic workplace accommodations.

To download your free copy of Ability Matters, click here.

Independence Day

Today on Independence Day, we celebrate the independence, freedom, and liberties that were hard-won 241 years ago.

Currently, there is much discussion about what constitutes independence and inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. PRIDE Industries’ programs and services promote independence and self-reliance for all individuals with disabilities, including developmental, intellectual, physical, sensory, mental illness and more. Since 1966, our mission, to create jobs for people with disabilities, has expanded opportunities for those most often excluded from employment.

Through our more than 50-year history, PRIDE Industries has proven that employment is essential to an individual’s sense of purpose, dignity, and inclusion. For many individuals, independence and inclusion are achieved through employment, choice and increased self-sufficiency.

From all of us at PRIDE Industries, happy Independence Day.

 

On This Day

 

“Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend, and neighbor.” — George H. W. Bush

 

On Memorial Day, join PRIDE Industries in remembering the women and men who sacrificed their freedom for our own and who faced danger for our safety. Together, we honor them.

To learn 25 Interesting Things About Memorial Day, click here.

From all of us at PRIDE, happy Memorial Day!