A Goal in Mind…

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By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, rehab/marketing intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.

 

When Matthew Parker graduated high school he did as many grads do, and dreamed of what his future career path would look like. He had goals and ambitions; knowing that eventually he wanted to work with animals in the community. However, he felt like he was below sea level, staring up at very high mountains between him and his dream.

An intimidated, young Matthew with Asperger Syndrome—now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder—and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) started volunteering, hoping that it would turn into employment. “My very first working job was over at Atria. They had me clean dishes, but they decided not to hire me because I was having a hard time multi-tasking, communicating and adapting to changes,” remembered Matthew, “I really struggled quite a bit when I was younger.”

Matthew remained determined to succeed as he found employment at PRIDE Industries. In a specialized environment for individuals with disabilities, Matthew found supports that he never had before. He practiced basic soft skills necessary for employment, such as good hygiene. “They designed a worksheet for me with visual hints so I could get better about having cleaner hands and less germs,” said Matthew.

A case manager at PRIDE saw immense potential within Matthew. “I quickly realized that Matthew was so capable,” said Dawn Horwath. “We could give him any task and he could do it.”

PRIDE tapped into many resources throughout the years to prove to the community what a capable employee he is. He participated in multiple PRIDE operated External Situational Assessments (ESA)—trial community jobs to assess workers’ capabilities. In 2005 he completed Personal Vocational and Social Adjustment (PVSA) services—person-centered training to overcome barriers including communication, assertiveness, anger management, etc. “It was amazing to see such incredible growth and determination in Matthew with each step,” said Dawn, “It has been a long journey, but we never gave up on him.”

As someone who previously needed repeated patterns and routine, he was finally adapting to a variety of job responsibilities and conquering barriers one by one. “I used to have a hard time when things changed all of a sudden,” Matthew reminisced, “but now I have learned how to handle it and I am much more flexible.”

A speech and language counselor, Dyann Castro-Wehr, partnered with PRIDE to help Matthew overcome communication barriers. “Dyann has been great at helping me,” said Matthew, “sometimes I would tell her about a situation and she could figure out a little trick to help me overcome it.” Dyann created an anger meter for Matthew to become aware of his feelings and express himself in the best way possible.

Each day of Matthew’s journey at PRIDE was a stepping stone to his employment in the community. Community employment brought new successes and new disappointments, but now he’s applying his communication and problem solving skills—something that has been beneficial in many facets of his life, especially as he adjusts to newly married life.

Matthew has been successfully working in the kitchen at Cascades of Grass Valley, a retirement community, for a year and a half. PRIDE Employment Services still work with him to ensure his success continues. “It makes me feel so relieved” Matthew said about his PRIDE job coach meetings, “because I have a much better support system than I did when I first started out.” Together Matthew and his job coach have weekly discussions to work out any difficulties he might have at work.

As Matthew reflected back on how far he’s come, he proudly said, “I feel pretty good about myself. I have a great life going for me right now, but I definitely have a goal in mind so I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”

Congratulations Matthew on conquering one more stepping stone. You’re on your way to your dream job!

Inclusion Works: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The month-long celebration is themed “Inclusion Works” and places a spotlight on the contributions made by workers with disabilities and educates the public on the value of a diverse workforce.

For 50 years, PRIDE Industries has created jobs for people with disabilities while championing inclusion and a diverse workforce. At PRIDE, we know that inclusion does work and has transformed its mission into countless daily success stories.

Often, with accommodations at work, whether to their workspace, schedule or with the help of assistive technologies, many individuals with disabilities can become or remain gainfully employed. In most cases, hiring people with disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate.

By partnering with PRIDE Industries, businesses can leverage its person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going support to ensure long-term employment success. PRIDE places people in its own business lines and provides support to more than 500 individuals annually in community-based opportunities.

Following are a few examples of individuals with disabilities who found employment success with a little help from PRIDE:

Melissa
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Making positive change is never easy, but with support and guidance, Melissa’s life transformed and she is now living a life she never thought possible.

More about Melissa’s journey, click here.

 
 

Alice
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“To me, we all have a disability; the only difference is you can physically see mine.”

Through PRIDE’s job coaching services, Alice is celebrating 17 years of working in the community. For more on Alice’s story, click here.

 
 

Derek
pride-industries-_-d-ramsey-_-los-angeles-afbAs a retired veteran, Derek struggled with applying his former skill-set to the civilian workforce.

Through PRIDE Derek found a new career while continuing to serve his military family. More on Derek’s journey, click here.

 
 

Dani
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Job hunting is a difficult process. For a young, first-time job seeker with disabilities, the process can be even more daunting.

Through participation in PRIDE programs and services, Dani is on her way to the future she imagined, “Now I feel like I am becoming more of the adult I want to be.”

For more on Dani’s journey, click here.

 
 


Are you interested in hiring employees with disabilities in your business? Speak to our expert staff by contacting us at info@prideindustries.com.


 

Where Are They Now

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM brings the issue of employment for people with disabilities to light. Individuals with disabilities face unemployment at nearly four times the rate of the general population. This stubborn statistic is not due to lack of interest or skills – but a lack of opportunity.

Last October, we introduced a group of women who participated in the “Presenting Yourself Positively in an Interview,” makeover event. The event exclusively supported job seekers with disabilities.

Seven women enrolled in PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Program received makeovers. The event served a diverse group of women from all walks of life, each with unique obstacles and stories.

We followed up on their progress, and here we share with you:

Alysha

PRIDE Industries Success Story AlyshaAfter participating in the makeover event, Alysha got a boost of confidence and soon after landed a job. We are happy to report that in December 2014, Alysha joined PRIDE Industries’ custodial team ensuring that the Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B is sparkling clean.

Alysha has an anxiety disorder. Although there were many disability-related challenges, Alysha made an effort to pursue self-sufficiency and independence.

When asked how life is different now, Alysha replies: “I do not spend so much time in my room, or look for other ways to avoid interacting with people.” Working at the airport has also helped Alysha overcome her anxiety.

More about Alysha’s journey, click here.

Ashley

PRIDE Industries _ Ashley02Employment success often follows a windy path for individuals with disabilities. Ashley has, not one, but multiple challenges. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Asperger’s – an autism spectrum disorder. She has attention-deficit hyperactivity, depression and anxiety and mood disorders.

Despite the challenges, Ashley never gave up. Soon after the makeover event, she landed a retail job. While the job was only seasonal, it was a great learning experience and a step forward on her journey.

Now, Ashley is a courtesy clerk with the locally headquartered grocery chain, Raley’s. Working at the grocery store provides a welcome environment where she sees the potential for a long-term future.

More about Ashley’s success, click here.

Pamela

PRIDE Industries WeaveWorks Sacramento _ Pamela 03Pamela has a learning disability. Because of her disability, her search for work was fragmented over four years.

At the time of the makeover event, Pamela was a volunteer at a thrift shop. Soon after, she landed a paid internship at WeaveWorks Recycled Fashion in Sacramento. Pamela earned the internship through PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Program.

She excelled in the internship and WeaveWorks offered her a permanent position. At WeaveWorks, Pamela assists the receiving team and is a valuable asset to the group.

More about Pamela’s journey to employment success, click here.

Four more women received makeovers as part of their employment journey. One is thriving as an in-home care provider. A second recipient volunteers with a local hospital and hopes it will translate into regular employment. Two remain unemployed. One continues to pursue an opportunity in the insurance field; the other put the job search on hold due to disability-related setbacks.

For 49 years, PRIDE’s mission has been to create jobs for people with disabilities. We know that disability does not mean inability and that employment builds confidence, self-reliance, and dignity. The path can be long and full of twists and turns. For some, it can take a few months; for others it could take years. However, when a person with disabilities becomes gainfully employed, we know that opportunity will greatly impact him/her and those around them.

Pamela, Ashley, and Alysha are just a few of our countless successes. We look forward to following all of the women along their paths and will continue to cheer them on.

Abilities Not Disabilities

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The transition from high school to employment without an advanced degree can be daunting for any young adult, especially individuals with disabilities. Kristopher Arneson, 22, has a disability and successfully transitioned to PRIDE Industries four years ago.

Kris connected to PRIDE as a WorkAbility program participant. WorkAbility is a Department of Rehabilitation program administered through organizations like PRIDE, adult schools, and colleges. The goal is to help students develop skills that lead to gainful employment including direct work experience that ultimately leads to job placement. At the same time, the program works with employers to help them recognize the valuable contributions that individuals with disabilities can make in the workforce and their communities.

As a young child, Kris was diagnosed with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “When I was young, the ADHD was so severe, I was unable to speak,” says Kris. “I had speech therapy until high school.” His challenges include processing and retaining information. He refers to these as “glitches” in his processing system. “In school I could not solve problems or equations in my head because it either took too long – or the processing just erased.” His confidence suffered, and he was bullied enduring physical and verbal assaults. “All I knew was hatred towards my disability,” says Kris. “I never thought there was a place that accepted people like me.”

At 18, Kris began working in PRIDE’s manufacturing division doing packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment projects. Unfortunately, just a few months after he began work, Kris began having medical issues. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a chronic condition that affects the lining of the digestive tract. People with Crohn’s can experience incapacitating symptoms often treated with medication or surgery; there is no known cure. Kris was hospitalized for several months after surgery while proper medication and treatment options were tested.

Once his condition improved, he returned to work at PRIDE. While working on the manufacturing floor, he recalls seeing the electronics manufacturing staff in their blue smocks. “I wanted to wear a blue smock with my name on it,” says Kris. “That was my goal. I wanted to get in there to work.” With his confidence still bruised from his high school experiences and his hospital stay, he doubted his own abilities. “What I am supposed to do in my life?” he wondered. “No one was willing to give me a chance. My teacher would always put me down and made feel like I would never achieve anything, so that was my mindset.”

At PRIDE Industries, Kris was given that chance. “My first job in electronics was manipulating metal,” says Kris. “You have to shape the metal for the desired design so that it goes on the computer boards correctly.” Kris excelled at his new work. “Since I began working with Kris, he stood out as someone who wanted to work at a higher level,” says Steve Hackett, Production Manager. “Kris has surpassed my expectations and continues to look for new challenges.”

PRIDE Industries employee Kristopher Arneson at work.Recently, Steve Hackett joined with case managers and electronics supervisors to create a mentoring program for individuals with disabilities within the Electronics department. Kris was the first person to participate in the program. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Kris. “This manager has confidence in me. That is something I never felt before.” Through the program, Kris has developed technical, planning and leadership skills, and is now monitoring the work of others in his area. Kris works one-on-one with his supervisor, Sornpit Khamsa, a PRIDE manufacturing technician.”Sornpit was the very first person who gave me a chance to grow. He’s really given me hope.”

As time passed, Kris began to notice a change in himself. “I started to realize that I felt safe at PRIDE. I did not have to be cautious anymore. Wherever I was, I was accepted.”

At PRIDE, Kris was given an opportunity to grow and develop skills to help him achieve his dreams. “The people I work with are just like me; the staff – they treat me with respect. They treat me like a human being not a person with disabilities,” says Kris. “When I am here, I am safe. I feel accepted.”

Kris’ goal is to become an electronics manufacturing lead and mentor other individuals with disabilities working at PRIDE. “I was in their shoes – and look at me now. I want to help others get to where I am,” says Kris. “I want to show them that they are accepted here and that there is no reason to be afraid. You are not going to get hurt here, and you are not going to be judged. You are going to be accepted.”

For 49 years, PRIDE has been creating meaningful opportunities for individuals with obstacles to employment. The opportunity we create through employment allows people too often excluded from the workforce to accomplish their personal goals and more; it changes lives.

When asked what advice he would give his 18-year-old self, looking back in time, Kris replied; “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you push yourself and surpass expectations, you can achieve anything.”

Why Words Matter

Man with a disability laughing with a woman at a cafe

Let’s Talk: Disability Language

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). We take this opportunity to highlight the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and promote a culture of inclusiveness.

One out of five people in America has a disability, making them our nation’s largest “minority.” The group represents all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels. The likelihood of joining this group is high. Disability can be acquired at birth, in the blink of an eye due to an accident or injury, or acquired from illness or age.

Despite its frequency, many people are still uncomfortable talking about disability. This uncomfortableness contributes to the obstacles that people with disabilities face in obtaining employment or fully integrating with their workforce. The truth is that there are as many preferences about ways to identify a person with a disability as there are individuals. So what is a well-intentioned person to do? When in doubt: ask. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first, let’s talk about two distinct (and oft-debated) approaches to disability language.

Person-First Language (PFL)
People-first language is generally at the heart of our organization’s disability awareness training. The emphasis is on the person – not the disability or condition. Those who support people-first language (PFL) believe that using a diagnosis or condition as a defining characteristic robs the person of the opportunity to define him or herself. PFL was developed to address the stigma often associated with disability. Advocates wanted to reaffirm that disability does not, in fact, lessen one’s personhood. As such, the PFL movement encourages the use of phrases like “person with a disability,” or “person with autism” instead of “disabled person” or “autistic person.”

The disability community is not only large; it is often divided. Increasingly, a second preference is being voiced: Identity-First Language (IFL).

Identity-First Language (IFL)
For those who prefer identity-first language, “disabled person” is a perfectly acceptable way to identify a person. Their belief is that PFL purposefully separates a person from their disability, presuming that disability is something a person should dissociate from to be considered a whole person.

From their perspective, it also implies that “disability” or “disabled” are negative, derogatory words when, for many, disability is just a part of their being or uniqueness. Within the Autistic community, IFL is preferred by many when Autism is considered as a part of a person’s identity. Using IFL language, you would say that someone is “Autistic,” not a “person with autism.” However, even people with IFL preferences draw an important distinction when it comes to the use of a term strictly for its medical definition. You would never refer to a person based on a diagnosis such as “Down syndrome person” or “cerebral palsy person.”

Confused? You are not alone. So what’s a person to do?

JUST ASK.
The debate between PFL and IFL is proof that words do matter. Language, however, is never “one-size-fits-all.” When in doubt, do not assume. Ask the person how they choose to identify.
Words and language are powerful tools. Language, and the meanings we attach to words, have the power to influence, develop, and change attitudes and beliefs. Each person’s use of language and identity are deeply personal. Just ask and respect their choice.

Quick note: Always avoid terms that dis-empower people or have negative meanings like “handicapped,” “wheelchair-bound,” “crippled,” etc. And please, never use the “R” word. The word “retarded” is a highly offensive term for people with intellectual disabilities.

For more information about People-First and Identity-First Language, here are a few more:

Why Person-First Language Doesn’t Always Put the Person First

Describing People with Disabilities

Identity-First Language

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

People with disabilities are four times more likely to face unemployment than the general population. The persistent statistic is not due to lack of desire or ability to work but to a lack of understanding and a shortage of opportunities for people with disabilities. National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), shines a light on the issue of employment for people with disabilities.

At PRIDE Industries, we focus on abilities rather than disabilities. For 49 years, PRIDE has been creating meaningful opportunities for individuals with obstacles to employment. We serve those who are born with – or acquire a disability – including veterans, and young adults leaving the foster care system. Through training, job skills development, coaching, and placement, we create opportunity daily. The result is changed lives.

PRIDE Industries_ Connie LFor Connie, opportunity meant finding her calling and contributing to something greater than herself. Click here to learn more about Connie.

PRIDE Industries _ Ramon T 02For Ramon, opportunity means participating in, and contributing to, a team. For more about Ramon, Click here.PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ JoshuaFor Josh, it meant finally getting the chance to prove himself while developing professionally. More about Josh, Click here.

PRIDE Industries Fort Bliss MacAnd for Mynor, it meant being able to provide for his family and secure a future for his young daughters. Click here to learn more about Mynor.

The opportunity we create through employment allows people too often excluded from the workforce to accomplish their personal goals – and more. Employment is essential to an individual’s sense of purpose, dignity, and inclusion. That individual success extends to families, friends and entire communities.

Won’t you join us in creating jobs for people with disabilities? The life that is changed could be your own.

Contact PRIDE Industries at info@prideindustries.com to learn how your business can employ individuals with disabilities.

Hiring People with Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As the month comes to an end, our focus on employment for individuals with disabilities should not. Hiring and celebrating the accomplishments of people with disabilities should be a year-round effort if we are to make real progress in creating opportunities for those most excluded from employment.

Hiring a qualified individual with disabilities brings benefits beyond filling a job opening. Businesses that employ people with disabilities understand that diverse experiences and perspectives actually add value to the workplace. The business benefits extend to lower turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs, and the development of a loyal and committed workforce.  Hiring individuals with disabilities is a win/win for business owners and their bottom lines.

A 2007 study done by DePaul University noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures for workers with disabilities. Employers also described their employees with disabilities as “loyal, reliable, and hardworking.” Click here to view a summary of the study.

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

Interested? Speak to our expert staff about hiring employees with disabilities in your business by contacting us at: info@prideindustries.com.

At PRIDE Industries, our mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities. For nearly 50 years, PRIDE has been preparing people with disabilities for employment and more independent lives.  PRIDE helps people move from dependence to greater independence with person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going supports to ensure long-term success. We place people in employment in PRIDE’s own businesses, and support more than 450 individuals annually in community employment.

Following are a few examples of successful individuals with disabilities at PRIDE Industries who hold a variety of important positions:

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Chance Martin, Administrative Assistant, PRIDE’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) team.

Chance provides uses his technical skills to provide administrative support to the AOC team including data entry and document preparation among other duties. Click here to learn more about Chance’s story.

Carlos Gutiérrez, General Maintenance Worker, PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss.

Carlos provides technical and skilled craft support to PRIDE Industries’ basewide facilities maintenance contract at Fort Bliss, Texas. Click here to learn more about Carlos’ story.

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Devin West, Hand Packager, PRIDE Industries in Auburn.

Devin successfully transitioned from high school to full-time employment. Through her job at PRIDE, Devin has gained vocational training and job skills and looks forward to working in the community one day.  Learn more about Devin’s story, Click here.

How can you make a difference for individuals with disabilities?

  • Look beyond a disability to ability in your workplace hiring.
  • Hire PRIDE Industries and its employees for your business service needs.
  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities.

Together we can change lives…one job at a time.

Creating a Good First Impression; Eliminating Obstacles

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Throughout the month, we focus on raising awareness of the challenges – and value – that people with disabilities have in the workforce.

People with disabilities face unemployment at a rate four times greater than the general population – and not for a lack of desire or willingness to work. Individuals with disabilities can work when provided with the opportunity. Creating a good first impression can help to open doors.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, the William Charles Salon in Fair Oaks, volunteered its time and space to host the “Presenting Yourself Positively in an Interview” event, exclusively supporting job seekers with disabilities.

Seven women enrolled in PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Program received makeovers. The Supported Employment program helps individuals with disabilities prepare for and sustain jobs in the community. The makeovers included haircuts, esthetician services, and makeup by a professional makeup artist. For Ashley, who had a scheduled new employee orientation the following Monday – the makeover came at a perfect time. “When you feel good, you want to do a better job,” says Ashley.

Below are a few event photos and before & afters:

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For others, it was the confidence-inspiring boost needed to continue searching for employment. After nearly 20 years in the insurance field, Bridget has been unemployed for over a year. Like many individuals with disabilities, Bridget is capable and anxious to work, but she has struggled to find an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. “I feel re-energized after the makeover, more confident,” Bridget says. “I feel good.” Thanks to the makeover, Bridget is now able to present herself in a more positive way. She is inspired to continue her search for a job as a Litigated Claims professional.

The event served a diverse group of women from all walks of life, each with unique obstacles and stories. Through PRIDE’s Supported Employment Program, they gain job-seeking training, interviewing skills and job etiquette knowledge.  Some were seeking first jobs; others were working toward re-entering the workforce after a disability diagnosis.

The day began with a fun catered lunch, generously provided by Noodles & Company of Citrus Heights, a PRIDE Industries supporter and employer of people with disabilities.

Anyone will tell you: when you look good, you feel good. Removing one more obstacle helped to move these individuals forward on their search. “The makeover reminds me that it is important to maintain a good look, and it motivates me to continue looking for work,” Bridget says.

How can you make a difference for individuals with disabilities?

  • Patronize or partner with businesses that employ people with disabilities.
  • Hire PRIDE Industries and its employees for your business service needs
  • Employ people with disabilities through your business. Contact us. We’d be happy to help! Contact us at: info@prideindustries.com.

Together we can change lives…one job at a time.

Perceptions Debunked! Myths about hiring people with disabilities

Mike

People with disabilities face unemployment at nearly four times the rate of the general population, not because they do not want to work or are unqualified. Unfortunately, many employers do not realize the benefits that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace.

Individuals with disabilities represent the single largest and most diverse minority group.  Often, concerns over the cost of equipment, training or insurance clout opportunities for people with disabilities. Other times, employers worry that employees with disabilities simply will not fit an organization’s culture, or are perceived as less productive.

Today’s post will tackle a few of these perceptions and show the facts, in an effort to help employers recognize and address these myths and negative stereotypes. Such myths and stereotypes often exclude individuals with disabilities from the workplace despite their willingness and ability to work.

 

Perception:  the potential unknown costs of accommodations.

Fact: Employers already make accommodations daily, such as scheduling flexibility, allowances in dress code rules, or providing a comfortable chair. According to the 2014 U.S. Department of Labor, Job Accommodations Network (JAN) report on workplace accommodation. The report concluded, “workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways.” Click here to view.

 

Perception: concerns over job performance.

Fact: According to a study done by DePaul University, “Exploring the Bottom Line: A Study of the Costs and Benefits of Workers with Disabilities.” The study, “noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures. They also described their employees with disabilities as loyal, reliable, and hardworking.” Click here to view.

 

Perception:  an increase in insurance premiums.

Fact: Insurance rates are based on the relative hazard of the job and the accident history of the workplace, and not on whether workers have disabilities.

 

Perception: co-workers will be uncomfortable and worried about saying the wrong thing.

Fact: simple etiquette and mutual respect can avoid relationship barriers. Click here to view 10 Tips.

 

Perception:  productivity will be negatively impacted.

Fact: working alongside an individual who has overcome major challenges in their life and managed their disability on the job raises morale, creating a positive working environment for everyone.

 

Perception: employees with disabilities are more difficult to supervise than employees without a disability.

Fact: Employees with disabilities should be held accountable to the same job standards as any other employee. Managers should be confident that their supervisory skills will work equally with all employees – with and without disabilities.

 

How can you make a difference for individuals with disabilities?

  • For Employers, schools and community-based organizations, the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has created 31 tips to help promote employment for people with disabilities during the month of October, which is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Click here to view.
  • Recognize and support businesses that employ individuals with disabilities.
  • Contact PRIDE Industries at info@prideindustries.com to learn how your business can employ individuals with disabilities.

Together we can change lives…one job at a time.

 

10 Tips on Communicating with People with Disabilities

NDEAM2

It is no secret that some people are not comfortable around individuals with disabilities despite the fact that one in five people in the U.S. has a disability. A person with a disability is more like you than they are different. Individuals with disabilities are just typical everyday people who live with various challenges.

At PRIDE Industries, where two out of three employees are people with disabilities, even new employees can feel unsure at first. Here are ten tips on how to be more comfortable while interacting with people with disabilities.

1. Use people-first language

Here’s an easy one; always emphasize the person first in your conversations. Say “person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person.” Avoid terms that disempower people or have negative meanings like “handicapped,” “wheelchair-bound,” “crippled,” etc. Also, avoid the “R” word; there is no need for such use. For specific disabilities saying, “person with Tourette syndrome” or “person who has cerebral palsy” is, usually, safe to say. If you are not sure what words to use, just ask.

2. Communicate with the person

Always speak directly to the person with a disability rather than through a companion or colleague. Additional tip, do not speak louder or slower, be your usual self.

3. Be considerate and patient, don’t patronize

Be patient if a person requires more time to communicate, to walk, or to accomplish various tasks. Do not be patronizing. There is no need to pretend to understand if you did not; instead, repeat what you understood and let the individual respond.

4. Ask before you help

It may be hard to resist, do not automatically help without asking first. Do not assume that people need help simply because they have a disability. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen and ask for instructions.

5. Be sensitive about physical contact

Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and mobility equipment should be treated as an extension of that person’s personal space. If you are assisting someone, always ask where the best place is to touch him/her or their equipment. Also, do not lean on a wheelchair or any other mobility equipment. Lastly, respect individual’s personal space.

6. Clearly introduce or identify yourself

Give the person with visual disability verbal information about the things that are visually obvious, and let them know you are near, enabling the individual to “see” their surroundings. For a person with a hearing disability, tap the individual on the shoulder or wave your hand to get their attention. Then, look directly at the person and speak clearly and slowly to establish if the person can read lips.

7. Avoid the “you are so inspirational” comments

While some individuals get inspired by people with disabilities, remember they are simply living life – like everyone else. Such comments have a negative effect, reminding individuals with disabilities how differently they are perceived.

8. Relax

Be yourself. Do not be embarrassed if you use common expressions such as “see you later” or “did you hear about this” that seem to relate to the person’s disability. Remember, it is okay to ask questions when you are unsure of what to do.

9. Keep calm

Breathe and keep calm. Individuals with disabilities are just like the rest of us, no need to worry. However, be conscious of how your reactions affect others. Be nice.

10. The golden rule

Lastly, remember the “golden rule” – treat everyone the way you wish to be treated. It is that simple.

Interacting with people with disabilities is only as hard as you make it. Remember these few tips and you should be okay. Hey, you may even have something in common; you’ll never know unless you make an effort.