Thursday, April 26, 2017
Here at Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO), employment for individuals with disabilities is a very important issue. We believe that employment can be crucial for psychological health, as well as being beneficial in aiding socialization, integration, and the development of skills. We also recognize that for many individuals, employment is necessary to achieve and maintain financial independence.
We have written and published many blog posts about employment for individuals with disabilities. We know that this demographic is often overlooked by employers, and, as a result, these individuals are underemployed. We also know that individuals with disabilities that are employed are often underpaid. There are many reasons for the low employment (and compensation) levels of individuals with disabilities: lack of access to education, employer attitudes/stigmas around disability, and physical barriers are just a few. As we pointed out in one of our previous blogs, whether or not a person is employed can sometimes be linked to something as simple as where that person lives.
We are advocates for independent and integrated living (including employment) for individuals with disabilities. As such, we are constantly researching employment trends, identifying the problems that exist, and advocating for change. Today, we would like to write about a positive employment trend that has been taking the disability community by storm: disability job fairs.
Job Fairs for Individuals with Disability
Job fairs provide quick and convenient means to apply with several companies. They offer advantages to employers and also to individuals looking for employment. In the last few months, job fairs specifically for individuals with disabilities (and sometimes for individuals with specific disabilities) have been on the rise. Advocates and organizations in the disability community, and/or large companies (with disability hiring policies already in place) usually host these fairs. As such, employers that attend these job fairs are committed to hiring practices that are inclusive and diverse – and they also recognize the underutilized potential of individuals with disabilities.
Example: recently (April 2017), Microsoft hosted and participated in a virtual job fair specifically for individuals with autism. Aside from Microsoft, successful companies such as AT&T, Ford, Hewlett Packard, and JPMorgan Chase participated. Each company hosted its own “virtual job booth” during the online event. These companies had “representatives ready to answer questions, discuss openings, and accept applications.” The fair also included two free sessions – hosted by LinkedIn -that educated individuals with autism on how to use its site to find jobs. In a post about the event Neil Barnett, Microsoft’s Director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility, wrote: “The vast majority of people with autism are unemployed or underemployed, leaving a large pool of untapped talent. If we work together, we can help make a difference.”
Call to Action: Host Your Own Job Fair for Individuals with Disabilities
There are more than 54 million individuals with disabilities in the United States, and a large percentage of these individuals are unemployed. Chances are, you are connected to an individual with a disability that is looking for employment. Are you interested in advocating on behalf of these individuals? Perhaps you can speak to the hiring manager at your place of work to see if there is a disability hiring and recruitment policy in place. If there isn’t, recommend one. If you are the one responsible for hiring, consider actively recruiting individuals with a disability.
If you are interested in advocating on a larger scale, consider spearheading the movement to host a disability job fair in your own community. As Barnett said, if we all work together, we can help make a difference. Bringing together local businesses and individuals with a disability looking for employment can positively impact the lives of the potential employees, can enhance the companies for which they work, and can lead to economic benefits on a local level. It’s a win-win! If you are interested in hosting a job fair, please follow this link for a tips on organization and preparation.
For more information about how to advocate for individuals with a disability in your community, please take a moment to visit ILO’s Advocacy Resources page. Information related to employment for individuals with disabilities can be found in our employment blog archive. If you are interested in learning about how ILO creates integrated, inclusive communities for individuals with disabilities please let us know! We would love to meet you and your family with special needs, and learn about your dreams for the future.