Meet Arthur Edge of GSK

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Arthur Edge is a biopharmaceutical Technology Manager at GSK and his challenge at the company is to strengthen GSK’s manufacturing processes and launch new products in the fight to cure Lupus.

He is proud to be a part of the team to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new self-injectable formulation of Benlysta (belimumab), which treats systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in adult patients.

This became a really personal matter to him, when a close friend was diagnosed with Lupus.

For Arthur, recruiting and retaining a diverse team is important, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there’s a lack of diversity.

Arthur Edge GSK headshot
Arthur Edge GSK-Glaxo Smith Kline

At GSK, he had the most productive and rewarding career experiences working on global teams where each individual is unique and their uniqueness is recognized.

He has a passion for learning and a desire to continuously improve. He believes he is bigger than his career, and his life is bigger than himself. GSK helps him to live this reality through its Modern Employer culture.

Arthur is active in leadership roles within the biotech community and in community service. He is the president of the Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology advisory board for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, and he has leveraged GSK employee volunteers to work with him and support student success.

Finally, Arthur list three points of advice for young professionals: find an area of expertise and build a career platform around that area; be mentored and be a mentor; and work on problems that interest you.

With ‘Drama,’ Victoria Canal Could Raise Bar For Disabled Artists In Pop Music

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Victoria Canal is on stage singing in to mic with a male guitarist by her side

The ever-evolving entertainment industry can be daunting for any young, up-and-coming artist in pursuit of creative fulfillment. For her new song and music video, however, Victoria Canal found herself looking inward to address the most formidable obstacle of all: herself.

HuffPost got an exclusive first look at “Drama,” viewable above. In the video, Canal plays both a “light” and “dark” version of herself. Each persona, she said, “casts a different energy and puts out a different reality into the world.”

“The concept came about as I was starting to enter the music industry space more and really putting myself on display more than ever before,” said the Spanish American singer-songwriter, who is based in Los Angeles. “I sat down to write a song about the inner voice in my head, the self-critic who tries to make me feel small and tries to make me feel like anything other than what I know is my highest self. I wanted to really brush off that voice.”

Canal is hopeful that the self-empowering message of “Drama” will encourage all listeners to “embrace the best version” of themselves. The song also speaks to the 21-year-old’s personal experiences as a bisexual woman who was born without her right forearm.

The singer-songwriter ― who lived in Germany, China, Japan, Dubai and Spain before settling in the U.S. ― said her global upbringing has influenced her music as much as her disability and sexuality have. At the same time, she’s also conscious of the fact that mainstream pop has been slow to spotlight both LGBTQ artists and artists with disabilities.

“I’ve always seen [my identity] as a unique opportunity, really,” Canal said. “I used to shy away from the word [‘disabled’] and all the things it implied. But as I’ve grown up and lived a few more years, I’ve met a community of people who embody strength. ‘Disabled,’ to me, actually has a totally different connotation. To me, it means strong or resilient, determined, hopeful.”

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Making a Difference and Influence through Diverse Abilities at TIAA

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TIAA employees pose for a group photo in an office setting

This October, TIAA employees celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month by giving back to the community and candidly sharing the triumphs and challenges of living with disabilities and helping those with disabilities.

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities Business Resource Group (BRG), formed for associates with disabilities and caregivers of those with disabilities, held multiple events companywide in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, to grow awareness and support of diverse abilities and how it affects colleagues and people in the community. The events educated TIAA employees on diverse abilities and how to be more inclusive to everyone.

One of the events included a visit from Hendrick Motorsports’ Richie Parker, who shared his unique story of overcoming obstacles and facing adversity. Richie Parker was born with bilateral amelia, a non-genetic birth defect in which limbs are not formed. He is a renowned speaker on overcoming adversity, and has been profiled by ESPN. Parker is the contributor to six NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, and currently serves as a chief engineer of government and military projects.

TIAA is also passionate about making a difference in local communities, and additionally in recognition of Disability Awareness Month, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team partnered to facilitate a community service project with seven local offices. The teams assembled sensory kits for children with autism and other similar developmental disorders. The Diverse Abilities BRG office chapters came together via video conference in offices to pack sensory kits that included ‘squeezy’ and fidgety type toys and kinetic sand designed to calm children.

“We’ve had a need for things like this particularly in the eastern part of North Carolina these past few years due to hurricanes,” said Jessica Otto from the Autism Society of North Carolina. “As you can imagine, it’s very traumatic for a person with autism to deal with the power going out.  These kits will be a comfort for lots of kiddos!”

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities BRG virtual coast to coast event began with a Kinetic Sand Packing Race, where each site selected two members to pack the small bags of kinetic sand the fastest. In total, they packed 50 small bags of kinetic sand.  In Jacksonville, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA Bank employees brought the effort full circle by volunteering at the Mount Herman Exceptional Student Center to hand out the sensory kits to the students, and helped with other tasks at the center. TIAA employees from Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Iselin, Jacksonville, New York and Waltham packed over 930 kits for four local nonprofits that support and help with autism.

TIAA values and practices diversity and inclusion, as well as philanthropy and giving back. Providing numerous opportunities for employees and their families to learn, share, and help those with diverse abilities advances inclusiveness in the workplace and in communities.

Lyft is Giving Free Rides to People On Their Way to Job Interviews and Training

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pink Lyft logo pictured in an iPhone

Affordable transportation can be a huge obstacle for low-income workers pursuing new employment—which is why Lyft is now offering free and discounted rides to passengers who are starting at new jobs.

The company’s newly-launched Jobs Access Program will help to facilitate free transportation for unemployed people who are attending job interviews, job training, or their first three weeks of work prior to receiving their first pay check.

“Everyone needs access to reliable, affordable transportation—to get to work, visit the doctor, make it to school, or simply participate in city life,” the company wrote in a blog post. “In fact, a recent study pinpoints commuting time as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. Our own study shows that 44% of Lyft rides start or end in low income areas, and that our passengers saved 178 million hours compared to other transportation modes.

“So we’ve partnered with several leading national and local organizations dedicated to workforce development in order to deliver free or discounted rides to people making their way through the employment pipeline.”

With the help of various nonprofit partners, the $50 million program is launching in more than 35 US and Canadian cities.

The program will also pay particular attention to vulnerable populations such as veterans and people with disabilities.

One of Lyft’s program partners is the National Down Syndrome Society. According to Ashley Helsing, NDSS’ Director of Government Relations: “There are roughly two million people living with disabilities in the United States. Of those two million, nearly 30 percent, or 560,000 people, are unable to leave their home because of transportation barriers.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

More Jobs Than Ever for People with Disabilities

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women sitting in a wheelchair at work giving a high-five to a coworker

By Philip Pauli

New statistics show that Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in unprecedented numbers. New data from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire reveals that 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016, compared to 87,201 the previous year.

But even as Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in greater numbers, serious gaps in employment still exist between different states. For example, 54 percent of working-age people with disabilities in North Dakota have jobs, while only 27.4 percent of people with disabilities in West Virginia are employed.

New Data on Disability and Employment

According to a recent Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, only 35.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18 to 64 had a job, compared to 76.9 percent for people without disabilities. However, this is an increase from the previous year, which was 34.9 percent. Out of almost 20 million working-age people with disabilities, only 7.4 million people with disabilities had a job in 2016.

A new poll released by RespectAbility shows that millions of people with disabilities want to work. The companies driving successful inclusion include JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens. These companies see people with disabilities as resourceful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines.

However, looking at topline national statistics only tells part of the story. State-specific data compiled by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC) shows massive differences among states. In fact, there are some states where people with disabilities are twice as likely to be employed as in other states.

Best States for People with Disabilities

Stats:
• 343,483 new jobs for people with disabilities

• Floridians with disabilities experience the biggest jobs gains of any state, with more than 35,000 people with disabilities entering the workforce.

• Employers hire more people with disabilities as they find that recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities benefits their bottom line.

Top 10 States for Workers with Disabilities (and percentage employed)
1. North Dakota 54%
2. South Dakota 51.6%
3. Minnesota 48%
4. Alaska 47.9%
5. Nebraska 47.4%
6. Wyoming 47.2
7. Utah 47%
8. Iowa 45.9
9. Kansas 44.7%
10. Montana 43.9%

Comparing the number of working-age people with disabilities reveals that Floridians experienced the biggest jobs gains of any state in the nation, with 35,480 entering the workforce. The second largest growth was in the state of Georgia, where 28,000 working-age people with disabilities got jobs. In terms of the largest states in the nation, California added 19,398 working-age people with disabilities to the workforce, while Texas added 17,736 with disabilities to their state workforce last year.

Alaska had the biggest percentage point gain in disability employment rates, going up 5.5 percentage points, followed by North Dakota’s 5.2 percentage point gain in jobs. Idahoans with disabilities have also seen a big increase with their employment rate rising from 38.3 percent in to 43.3 percent. South Carolina has also seen an increase in the number of people with disabilities working, with more than 23,000 getting jobs

Looking at Employment Gaps

Looking at the difference in employment rates between people with and without disabilities can reveal how far behind they are in a state’s economy. The smaller the gap, the more inclusive a state’s economy is, which translates into more opportunities for people to earn an income and become independent. The bigger the gap means fewer jobs for people with disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers. Alaska shows great success with only a 28.2 percentage point gap, the smallest gap of any state. According to the new data, Rhode Island had a 48.6 percentage point gap in employment.

What Works?

Looking beyond the data, two questions emerge—what works to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and what can state leaders do to improve outcomes?

“States including Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Alaska show how a commitment to school-to-work transitions can create brighter futures for young people with disabilities,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Pennsylvania and Minnesota have also brought Employment First policies and a collaborative approach around transitions which has resulted in thousands of new jobs for their constituents with disabilities.”

There are two models that are achieving extraordinary success with work-based learning opportunities: Project SEARCH and Bridges from School to Work. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. Likewise, Bridges offers assessments, workshops and job matching. SEARCH has grown to more than 300 programs in 46 states and served nearly 3,000 youth. Among those young people, more than 78 percent found jobs. These are transformative results for people with disabilities.

Linking Expectation and Education

“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, policy and practices director at RespectAbility. “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.”

Despite progress made in recent years, students with disabilities are lagging significantly behind their nondisabled peers in educational attainment.

Only 65 percent of students with disabilities complete high school, with less than seven percent completing college. For youth of color with disabilities and English Language Learners with disabilities, their outcomes are even less. Key barriers include low expectations and the fact that many school systems either fail to diagnose early enough or address their issues at all. This often pushes children with disabilities into the school-to-prison pipeline. Appropriate early intervention, positive supports, and basic training for educators, parents, and guardians are vital.

Race, Disability and Employment

Even as companies are driving inclusion and states are finding success, there are still people left behind. “Just as looking at the state level employment rates tells a more complex story,” Kahn-Pauli said. “So too when you look at the employment rates among people with disabilities across racial lines.” Only 28.4 percent of African-Americans, 37.4 percent of Hispanics, and 40 percent of Asian Americans with disabilities hold jobs in their communities.

Building on Success

Despite the still-present gaps, seeing a four-fold improvement in one year’s time is fantastic, said Mizrahi. “The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, strong actions by many governors, and more positive portrayals of people with disabilities on TV are starting to have a positive impact.” she said. Further reports by the annual Disability Statistics Compendium and monthly Trends in Disability Employment show signs for continuing hope as more people with disabilities enter the labor market.

“At the end of the day, our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” Mizrahi said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

Source:  respectability.org

High-Tech Jobs for the Neurodiverse

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image of wheels cranking with man holding cell phone in his hand

Expandability, a not-for-profit division of Goodwill of Silicon Valley, uses a neurodiverse set of professionals to operate its innovative employment program, Neurodiversity Pathways, formerly called Autism Advantage. The organization increases accessibility to high-tech jobs for neurodivergent individuals, many of whom are on the autism spectrum.

Neurodiversity advocates promoting support systems (such as inclusion-focused services, accommodations, communication and assistive technologies, occupational training, and independent living support) that allow those who are neurodivergent to live their lives as they are, rather than being coerced or forced to adopt uncritically accepted ideas of normality, or to conform to a clinical ideal.

Designed for underemployed or unemployed neurodiverse adults who hold or are working toward a two- or four-year degree (or equiva-lent), the program equips them with workplace and personal effectiveness skills needed to succeed in today’s work environment. Neurodiversity Pathways also supports and educates employers across industries including financial services, networking, security, and enterprise software, on the value of hiring neurodiverse candidates.

Expandability used a $50,000 grant from Symantec Corporation to enhance its program and extend its reach. Cecily Joseph, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, said, “The Expandability program provides crucial access to high-tech jobs for a group of tremendously skilled people within our community, who are often underrepresented by traditional hiring practices.”

Building on previous success, the Neurodiversity Pathways program makes a direct connection between employers and neurodivergent individuals, while also raising awareness in the community to their unique skillsets. To ensure success, the program trains hiring managers and their teams on how to create an inclusive environment. Continuing to build best practices and engagement will bring more employers and candidates to the program and increase employment opportunities.

“Expandability has a unique opportunity to address a need often overlooked,” said Trish Dorsey, Executive Director of Expandability. “Employers are looking for strong technical talent to fill critical roles. Talented people on the autism spectrum can help fill this gap. With Symantec’s generous grant, we can provide training and make corporate connections that are not afforded with traditional education and recruiting processes.”

For more information, visit ndpathways.org.

Stronger Together: Salesforce, Abilityforce & Sunday Parker

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Sunday Parker of Salesforce sitting with her team members in a conference area

By Jaeson Parsons

Sunday Parker’s experiences with a mobility-based disability since birth has given her unique insight into the struggles that those with disabilities face. We wanted to get a better understanding of Sunday’s career journey as well as her insight into the creation and success of Abilityforce at Salesforce.

Sunday, pictured far left, has succeeded, and now she is the Global President of Abilityforce, the Employee Resource Group at Salesforce.

DiversityComm asked Sunday to give us some background into her experiences growing up with her disability.

“I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma that didn’t have a stop light, let alone many accessibility considerations,” she stated. “As a wheelchair user since age 9, I was often lifted into shops and restaurants that didn’t have ramp access. Overcoming challenges was my ‘normal’—I faced barriers going to school, spending time with friends, and even lived in a house that had multiple steps getting in the front door.”

After graduating high school in 2009 and moving to San Francisco to attend university, her experiences were eye-opening.

“For the first time, I could take buses and trains, easily go along sidewalks, and the majority of businesses were accessible. This shift from living in a small town that had barriers at every turn to one of the most accessible cities in America was life-changing.”

Sunday graduated in 2013 with a degree in interior architecture and design; however, she felt more suited to the tech industry.

“After graduation, I wasn’t sure where my career journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to be part of an organization where I felt valued and could explore my interests,” she said.

It was Salesforces’ philanthropic method that attracted her to apply.

“[Their] commitment to donate 1 percent of earnings, 1 percent of products, and 1 percent of employee time to charitable causes is an organization I was excited to be a part of, and felt I could bring value to.”

Before accepting the position, Sunday requested to speak with an accommodations manager to discuss her disability needs for the position. She was encouraged by their reaction.

“My initial conversation started with them assuring me, ‘My job is to make sure your first day is the best first day you’ve ever had, so let’s talk about how we’re going to do that.’” A company switch is tough for anyone, but there is added complexity as a disabled person like myself who requires accommodations. But I left that conversation not just excited, but confident to start my journey at a company that was mutually invested in my success.”

Once at Salesforce, Sunday became involved in a grassroots group called Abilityforce. Founded in 2016, this was Salesforce’s first resource group for employees with disabilities.

Through her career development, Sunday has experienced many challenges and missed opportunities related to accessibility in the workplace, as well as the lack of resources, and this was something she wanted to see improved drastically for future generations. Sunday has seen firsthand the benefits of employee resource groups as it relates to the team environment at the company.

“Having employee resource groups helps to build a culture where everyone, regardless of their identity, can feel empowered to bring their full and authentic selves to work. People want to work at companies that reflect the communities they live in.”

We asked Sunday to outline the future for Abilityforce.

“We have a long-range plan to become a best place to work for people with disabilities. We continue to strive to have our physical and technological environments accessible and designed with everyone in mind by developing innovative best practices.”

Companies like Sunday’s that create employee resource groups allow for a deeper connection within the company and across the globe, as colleagues around the world provide their unique insight for development. Sunday said something that was very powerful—that we are stronger together. Finding ways to connect and break down the chains of isolation through human connection is a powerful tool. In her final remarks, Sunday stated that business can be a powerful platform for social change. Creating employee resource groups can increase solidarity and become a driving force for equal opportunity and accessibility within the workplace.

Honoring the Dedication of Renae Templeton—This communications specialist is irreplaceable

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Renae Templeton is sitting at work desk talking on the phone and on the computer

By 1st Lt. Tracci Dorgan

Many Soldiers have come back from their deployments and come by the Adjutant General’s headquarters building to meet her, shake her hand and thank her. The South Carolina National Guard has an employee who is the welcoming voice and face of visitors to the Adjutant General’s building in Columbia, South Carolina. Many aren’t even aware as she works behind her large desk answering calls and providing direction to guests, that she arrives to work each morning in her pink wheelchair.

“I was born with spina bifida, but that does not stop me,” said Renae Templeton, a communications specialist employee in the South Carolina Military Department. In addition to working with the security personnel and visitors, she also answers the main line to the headquarters building of the South Carolina National Guard.

“I love helping my Soldiers and Airmen,” said Templeton, who has served in this role since 2009. “I love getting the morale calls from overseas and enjoy helping to connect service members from thousands of miles away to a family member who is awaiting a phone call.”

As she travels around the three-story building, she stops to help whoever she can.

“Renae caters to everyone and never thinks twice about helping,” said Jack Kotchish, an executive assistant in the command group who has known her since she was first hired. “Everybody who comes through the front doors enjoys getting her daily greeting, witty discussions and laughter.”

“On my first day working here, I was introduced to Jack, who told me to never hesitate to call if I needed any help. Here is it eight years later, and I’m still calling for help,” she said jokingly.

Each October, the Department of Defense celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates the public about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of everyone’s skills.

Templeton shared that during her years there, many Soldiers have come back from their deployments and come by the Adjutant General’s headquarters building to meet her, shake her hand and thank her.

“I don’t know what we’d do without Renae,” added Kotchish. “On the occasions when she is out, it takes three or four of us to fill in and handle all the incoming calls. I don’t know how she does it by herself.”

Source: army.mil

National Investors Call for Workplace Disability Inclusion

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Investors representing more than $1 trillion in combined assets, led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, today called on companies they invest in to create inclusive workplaces that can benefit from employing the millions of talented people with disabilities who remain underrepresented in the workforce.

Signatories to the joint statement disability inclusion investor statement. Download PDF File included New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Fortune 500 asset manager Voya Financial.

“Disability inclusion provides businesses with a great opportunity to improve their bottom lines, while boosting diversity and innovation,” said Comptroller DiNapoli, Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We want to know that our investment dollars are being used to maximize a company’s potential and its long-term profitability. Disability inclusion expands the pool of talent companies can hire from and creates welcoming workplaces that foster different perspectives, giving an enterprise a competitive edge.”

“Companies that embrace disability inclusion in the workplace benefit from increased innovation as well as profitability,” said Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read. “We are asking the companies we invest in to adopt policies to improve the representation of people with disabilities in their workforce and continue to identify opportunities for improvement.”

“Today’s announcement on disability equality by the nation’s leading institutional investors and pension funds marks a key turning point in the disability rights movement,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., bone cancer survivor, amputee and Board Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). “This new, concerted focus on corporate and shareholder engagement and accountability catapults the issue of disability inclusion into the forefront of corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance — ESG — investing. Citizens, employees and shareholders will now be watching how companies respond to this new challenge and which corporations authentically support our goal of economic independence and workforce participation of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

When companies adopt best practices for hiring people with disabilities, they outperform their peers among numerous financial metrics, according to “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” a report published in 2018 by Accenture, Disability:IN, and AAPD.

The report concluded that corporate America has failed to capitalize on the talents of more than 10 million people with disabilities.

In their joint statement, the investors called for companies to adopt policies for:

  • Setting goals for hiring people with disabilities and tracking progress in meeting those goals;
  • Public support from a senior executive for creating a disability-focused employee resource group that fosters a supportive network; and
  • Including people with disabilities in their corporate diversity and inclusion statements.

The investors’ statement also encouraged companies to participate in the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The DEI, an initiative of Disability:IN and AAPD, allows companies to self-report and benchmark their disability policies and practices and identify ways to build reputations as inclusive organizations. In January, Comptroller DiNapoli wrote to 49 corporations in the portfolio of New York state’s pension fund, urging them to register for the DEI. A number of companies participated as a result.

“Companies looking to get started on or advance in their disability inclusion journey should attend the Disability:IN Annual Conference on July 16-18 in Chicago and/or register for the 2020 DEI,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN. “These opportunities will allow companies to benchmark and network with their industry peers to advance their inclusion efforts.”

This multi-state investor group is supported by various disability organizations, including members of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, representing some of the leading disability rights organizations throughout the nation. The full list of disability organizations that support this investor initiative are below.

The full text of the investors’ statement is available here . Download PDF File .

Supporting Disability Organizations:

  • American Council of the Blind
  • ADAPT
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • Communication Service for the Deaf
  • Disability:IN
  • Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
  • Little People of America
  • National Association of the Deaf
  • National Coalition of Mental Health Recovery
  • National Council on Independent Living
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
  • Not Dead Yet
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
  • United Spinal Association

 

Online Recruitment Platform to Connect Workers with Disabilities to Rewarding Careers

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The ISABLED Virtual Career Fair platform makes it easier to connect recruiters from leading companies and high-impact professionals with disabilities. They are are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. There are currently more jobs in the U.S than available workers to fill them, and companies are forced to explore more options to find talent to hire to help them grow their business.

Workers with different abilities (often referred to as workers with disabilities) are just one example of highly-skilled, but untapped segments of the population that more and more leading companies are seeking to recruit.

ISABLED, an online recruiting platform connects workers that identify as having a disability, with recruiters from leading companies who value inclusion and diversity in their workforce. The ISABLED platform allows job seekers and recruiters to connect and chat in real-time, from anywhere, and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

” The ISABLED Virtual Career Fairs are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. Instead of asking both sides to attend a job fair at a physical location, we bring the career fair to them. The ISABLED platform allows our employer partners to recruit nationwide in just a few hours, and job seekers have instant access to the very recruiters who are seeking to fill the open positions” Stated Kevin O’Brien, Managing Partner, ISABLED.

The ISABLED website will include content to connect workers with disabilities to job opportunities from a wide range of companies and industries. The website will include a job board and a virtual career fair platform. ISABLED will host 4 virtual career fairs each year, and companies can host standalone virtual career fairs for their company as often as they like.

The first ISABLED virtual career fair is set for July 25, 2019, and open now for registration.

About ISABLED:

ISABLED, a division of Astound Virtual has a laser-focus on connecting industry-leading companies with workers people with disabilities who seek employment. Through the ISABLED Recruitment Center (IRC), job seekers and recruiters meet and interact, in real-time, but from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

Meet the first openly autistic woman elected to political office

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Sarah Hernandez sitting at her desk smiling wearing a flowery green and yellow dress

By Kathleen Wroblewski, Director of Communications, Bay Path University

It’s difficult for many people to approach a stranger’s house and knock on their door. It’s quite another matter if you are knocking on doors and running for public office.

Within minutes, you need to introduce yourself and connect with the person on the other side of the threshold. We call it being face to face—a fundamental form of human communication.

When Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez, ’14 G’15, of the occupational therapy department decided to run for the school board in her local town, the process of canvassing in the community and meeting strangers was absolutely terrifying. “At first, I had to watch how people did it. And, slowly, I learned to pick up certain cues and how to handle myself in different situations. People were very patient with me. It was a big step when I knocked on that first door.”

Sarah’s success is all the more remarkable because she is neurodiverse: she is on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a development condition defined by social and communication difficulties and repetitive, inflexible patterns of behavior.

When you first meet Sarah, a mother of three with a friendly and welcoming smile, she appears to be the opposite of society’s profile of being autistic. But appearances can be deceiving. Sarah, along with many other young girls and women, has mastered what is known as “social camouflaging,” or hiding in plain sight. In many ways, this coping technique has led to women of all ages to be misdiagnosed, or in some cases, not diagnosed with autism at all. And that gets to the heart of Sarah’s story:

“I was diagnosed in my thirties, and that is not unusual for women. I knew that I was different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were times that I just had to shut down and not communicate. I was lucky to learn it was a form of autism because most women fly under the radar and never find out. They live in a world of inner turmoil. It’s only recently that researchers are looking at the gender differences in autism. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ASD are based on data gathered from the studies of boys.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common in boys than girls. As awareness of autism grows, new protocols are being developed that indicate the gap may not be as wide as once thought. In the meantime, there are discernable shifts in society’s perceptions of autism.

Expanding the Definition of a Diverse Workplace

Sarah, like many others on the spectrum, has learned to live with her autism. She is a role model for her occupational therapy students, sharing her experiences to make them more sensitive to the differences and contributions of the members of her “tribe.”

“I let my students know right up front that I am autistic. And I share my knowledge of the strengths of autism—our ability to think in patterns, to visualize, and to be problem solvers,” she says.

In fact, this skill set is prompting companies and organizations to expand their definitions of a diverse workplace. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, by Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, reports that the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool. With a vast number of IT and IT-related positions going unfilled, HR departments are re-examining their recruitment practices and working environments to accommodate neurodiverse employees. In companies with active neurodiverse hiring programs, such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, and others, they have already realized productivity gains and a high number of innovations. They have found that diversity does deliver.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

“I know I am incredibly lucky to be working at Bay Path,” states Sarah. “I am doing what I love, and I can be honest about who I am.”

Sarah’s generosity of spirit does not stop at Bay Path. She and her husband have one biological child, have adopted two children, and are therapeutic foster parents. When one of Sarah’s children experienced difficulties in school because she is darker in complexion, she knew she had to step forward to give voice to her daughter and others. She decided to run for the school board.

“I can hide my disability, but my daughter can’t turn her skin color off. I decided that I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with others on the spectrum, as well as represent all those who need a spokesperson.”

So, Sarah left her comfort zone and began knocking on doors, participating in debates, and attending meetings. She never hid her autism. And she won.

But her victory wasn’t just for the schoolchildren in her town. Through social media, her election gained broad attention. NBC Hartford did a profile on her, and at a national conference on autism, she shared the stage with former Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Senate.

For Sarah, the attention was sometimes hard to believe: “As a person on the spectrum, I believe we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. But we have to keep participating, and we have to work to represent ourselves. I like to say, ‘We have to put our pants on in the morning.’ We just need to show up.”

Sarah certainly has.

Source: baypath.edu