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.

 

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.

Focus on Abilities: Macular Degeneration and the Workplace

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

In the U.S., more than 7 million Americans are affected by a visual disability, including more than 600,000 in Texas. As a result of developing Macular Degeneration, Michael Prieto became one of these individuals.  The disease first caused vision loss in his right eye in 2003, following with the left in 2011.

Macular Degeneration is a condition that causes the center of the retina (the macula) to deteriorate. This area of the eye is responsible for the central vision needed for reading, driving, recognizing colors and other daily life activities. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, there is no cure and is considered an incurable eye disease.

Because of his disability, Michael became unemployed. He did the best he could to handle his vision loss and continued to look for employment. Despite his efforts to continue life as a productive member of society, his eyesight increasingly became a concern and an obstacle to employment.

During interviews, Michael would do his best to hide and never mentioned his disability for fear of not being hired. Eventually, he landed a position with a heating and air conditioning company at Fort Bliss. In 2012, Michael was hired by PRIDE Industries as a general maintenance worker at PRIDE’s Fort Bliss contract in Texas where PRIDE provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation.

“For the first time, I did not have to hide my disability,” says Michael. “I also received additional tools from PRIDE’s Assistive Technology resources.”

To help him succeed on the job, PRIDE provided Michael with an oversize cell phone, a Ruby Handheld Magnifier and access to other assistive devices as needed. As a general maintenance worker, Michael helps maintain HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units throughout Fort Bliss. Michael along with his team, provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality for the more than 8,000 individuals on the base.

individual with visual disability using a Ruby MagnifierIt is the smallest things on the job that create obstacles for Michael, such as reading small text. Fortunately, the Ruby Magnifier allows Michael to amplify any tiny impediments. Learn more about PRIDE’s Assistive Tech. program, click here.

Since 1966, PRIDE has provided support services and opportunities for those most often excluded from employment: people with disabilities like Michael. “PRIDE has given me a second chance to continue my job skills due to my eyesight disability.”

 

To learn more about Macular Degeneration, view the video below: