The LDA Adult Topics Committee hosted an impressive panel presentation at the 2015 LDA Conference in Chicago. The goal of the presentation was to bring in disability compliance representatives of Fortune 500 companies to talk about hiring and accommodating employees in today’s job market. The prestigious panel included representatives from AT&T, Discover Card and Ernst & Young Global.
The panelists discussed current policy, procedures, and resources that address hiring and supporting employees with learning disabilities. The panelist discussion revolved around how companies are gearing up to hire more individuals with disabilities due to the recent 7% mandate under Section 503 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act. Section 503 regulations became effective on March 24, 2014.
These new regulations establish a nationwide 7% utilization goal of qualified individuals with disabilities (IWDs). Federal contractors can apply the 7% goal to each of their job groups or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Federal contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified issues that impact IWDs.
The new 503 regulations require these contractors to document and annually update several quantitative comparisons of the number of IWDs who apply for jobs and the number of IWDs they hire. The U.S. government believes having this data will assist contractors in measuring the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts for IWDs. The data must be maintained for three years to be used to spot trends.
The 503 mandate will be challenging for companies to implement. Companies will need to revisit their policies on accommodations for IWDs in their workforce ecosystem, including their Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICT is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, and even satellite systems. ICT also includes applications such as videoconferencing, publisher works, distance learning and even kiosks that are used for making and receiving airplane or movie tickets. Ensuring ICT products and services are accessible to IWDs also improves engagement and retention rates for impacted employees. Creating a more accessible workplace is required for jobs of the future, whether that includes providing text-to-speech software or any other available ICT solution from the multitude of options available in today’s marketplace to address individual needs.
Highlighted employment resources included: The US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), Fifth Quadrant Analytics, Job Accommodation Network (JAN), International Association of Accessible Professionals (IAAP), and United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The panel presentation offered a glimpse as to how companies are preparing themselves to hire more people with disabilities and how companies are viewing people with disabilities in the marketplace due to increased global numbers estimated at around 1.3 billion IWD (Fifth Quadrant Analytics, 2013). Based on panelist discussion points, individuals with learning disabilities could be in favorable positions to leverage future employment opportunities globally.
Christopher is the Department Head of AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center (amacusg.org) located at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His IWD advocacy efforts can be followed through twitter| @ leecm363 | @AMAC_Tweet .
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