HuffPost: Dear Hiring Manager: All the Disability-Related Skills I Can’t Put on My Resume

Dear Hiring Manager,

By now, you’ve probably skimmed over my meticulously-worded resume, and maybe you’ve even made up your mind as to whether I’m as qualified as the nearly identical resumes of my fellow recent graduates. You may have even Googled me and seen the many blogs I have written about my disability and have formed your opinion on them. As I have been told by many human resources professionals, disability is a subject that can scare many off because of the perception of weakness, inefficiency and need. However, I could create a completely different application package including all of my disability and chronic illness-related skills and accomplishments, one that paints a far more complete picture of my potential as an employee. So, without further ado, here are my disability-related job skills, in cover letter form.

As a seven-year Crohnie (Crohn’s Disease patient) and proud member of the disability community, I am used to upholding my responsibilities in a fast-paced and challenging environment. From the time I was diagnosed in high school, I was intent on ensuring that my medical issues did not get in the way of my ambitions, and even completed my academic courses around the time of my diagnosis while completely bedridden. I was able to graduate from college a year early, Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, while adapting to a rapidly changing medical situation, including hospitalization for an intestinal blockage during my summer college courses. I am used to operating under pressure, and have gained experience with remembering complicated information while under a number of prescription pain medications. Despite the need for these medications at the time, I completed my coursework ahead of schedule while working part-time and completing three internships. I never let my medical situation hinder my determination to complete my work, once tottering to a class two hours after a minor surgical procedure.

Organization is one of my greatest strengths, and in 2014 alone, I was able to successfully schedule approximately two doctors’ appointments a week for five months (most after working hours) while working full-time, coordinating among medical imaging facilities and various specialists and organizing each appointment in a color-coded calendar. This organization and the coordination of my medical team led to the discovery of an infection, and although this was a difficult hurdle to overcome due to the treatments and pain, I upheld my duties at my job and never used my medical situation as an excuse to do less. My other skills include digesting complicated information, including possible treatment routes and unfamiliar medical conditions. Clear communication skills have been essential so that I can advocate for myself when I disagree with a proposed treatment route or procedure. I also have ample experience with multitasking by writing concise correspondence, conducting research and scheduling appointments while receiving IV treatments.

Most importantly, I want these skills to reflect that my disability does not define my usefulness, and my history with chronic illness should only be used to strengthen my accomplishments. Very often, people with disabilities are written off because employers are unsure as to whether they will be able to keep up with the work successfully. A person without a disability is not held up to this same standard of having to prove himself or herself, while a person with a disability is asked to repeatedly prove that their disability will not slow them down. My entire life since the age of 15 has shown that my complicated medical history has never slowed me down, and I am proud to say that I have achieved everything on my resume while dealing with my medical issues. The existence of my Crohn’s Disease only bolsters my accomplishments in my eyes, and it should never be used to question whether I am “less than able” to complete the job.

Dear Hiring Manager, I am not my disability, but my disability is a part of me. It causes complications in my life, but the ways in which I have overcome those obstacles should carry more weight than the obstacles themselves. I have been determined and passionate as I have challenged myself to strive for my ambitions, and those are the qualities I can offer you. If you want a determined, passionate, striving and successful individual, please consider hiring me, or any other applicant with a disability.

Sincerely,

Sarah Blahovec

NYT: Separated From Brother, Left to Toil Far From Home

NEWBERRY, S.C. — A shabby bunkhouse sits just beyond the shadows of this small city’s colossal Kraft meatpacking plant. Inside live a few older men with nowhere else to go, and several younger men who pay to throw down a mattress.

There is also Leon Jones.

Mr. Jones, 64, has an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist.

And yet he is more than just another anonymous grunt in a meat factory. Mr. Jones may be the last working member of the so-called Henry’s Boys — men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights.

That seemed to be the end to an outrageous but isolated Iowa story: men abused, rescued and reintegrated into the community. But a few lingering clues suggested that at least one other Henry’s “boy” was out there: a Leon Jones, living beside a South Carolina turkey plant.

So, on a recent autumn morning, I knocked on the door of this bunkhouse, sitting beside a mobile home with its door open in abandonment, not welcome.

“Hi,” said Leon Jones.

Tall and with an easy smile, Mr. Jones has been working turkey ever since he left a state institution in 1969. For decades, he hung live birds from shackles; now he works an evening shift, sweeping up and disposing of turkeys that arrive by truck already dead. D.O.A.s., they are called. Continue reading NYT: Separated From Brother, Left to Toil Far From Home

The Hill: Jobs Where They Are Most Needed

A recent report has warned that the trust fund undergirding the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) is nearing depletion.  At the same time we hear reports – mostly from states – that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are a vital safety net for many individuals and families.

We believe there’s a way to relieve these pressures and create a path to meaningful lives for many individuals with cognitive and physical challenges. That path is bound up in a single word: Jobs.

But first, let us introduce John D.

John D. is a 21-year-old with autism. He has learned to read, do basic math and master skills that help him get along in the community. John also now has a job – a full-time job – at the National Institutes of Health. It is not a “special” job. It is a job that requires him to file papers, follow orders for materials to be delivered, maneuver across the large NIH campus and interact with other employees. He has this job because NIH saw value in and agreed to participate in a program called Project SEARCH.

With a few of years of work-experience training at The Ivymount School, John and several classmates were selected by NIH as Project SEARCH interns for a year. They worked on the NIH campus in a variety of jobs with the support of a job coach. At the end of the year, John was one of eight young adults offered a job. He lives at home, gets himself to and from work using public transportation and, most important, is a self-supporting, contributing member of society. John’s supervisor will tell you that he is among his most dependable employees, arriving every day on time, often being the first to volunteer to work on holidays.

Once a candidate for SSI support that averages about $6,600 annually, John D.  now pays taxes that support the system.

In our experience, for every John D., there are many others who can find only part-time work or no work at all. Even though some may have more significant deficits, they are clearly capable of holding a job. The problem is that there just aren’t enough jobs for individuals with disabilities – a problem that has grown worse under current economic conditions.

For John D.’s classmates, it means they cannot find a job. Some of them, undoubtedly, will end up on SSI as parents look to the years ahead, when they may not be around to support their children. Continue reading The Hill: Jobs Where They Are Most Needed

Disability.gov: Presidential Proclamation on the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Read President Obama’s proclamation celebrating the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA provides civil rights protections for Americans with disabilities so they have equal access to participate in the classroom, workplace and in their communities. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.gov or read “10 Things You May Not Know about the ADA.

Visit Presidential Proclamation on the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

BBC: The parish councillor with Down’s syndrome

Stephen Green, 49, is one of just a handful of parish councillors with a learning disability in the United Kingdom.

Elected onto Nuthall Parish Council in Nottinghamshire last year, Green has Down’s syndrome and his dad, Grenville Green, assists him to be an active member of the community.

Parish councillors help organise events, fundraise for local charities and fix problems such as the classic pothole in the road.

Some may be surprised to hear that a man with Down’s syndrome can partake in community activities like this but is this because they fundamentally can’t do it, or because there isn’t enough support and access for equal participation?

Councillor Green says his greatest success has been to save the popular monthly Men’s Breakfasts in his parish by volunteering to gain a food hygiene certificate and so allow the early morning club to continue.

Video journalist: Kate Monaghan

visit the site and watch the video

US Labor Dept: Opening Doors for Students with Disabilities

By Guest Blogger, TaKeisha Bobbitt, Managing Director, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

Internships are invaluable professional development tools and can open doors that education alone cannot. Every summer, college students from around the country descend upon Washington, D.C., vying for internship experiences through a competitive selection process. Many individuals use these entry-level opportunities to make contacts and explore opportunities for full-time employment after graduation.

Unfortunately, students with disabilities are often underrepresented in the pool of new interns filling spaces in programs across the nation’s capital. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) internship program was designed to address this gap, providing interns with disabilities hands-on work experience and mentoring and preparing them to succeed in the workforce. It offers undergraduate, graduate and law school students, along with recent graduates with disabilities, a 10-week work experience and living stipend for the summer.

Each summer, anywhere from 10-30 interns participate. In the preceding months, they undergo a rigorous application and selection process, which includes submission of a resume, essay questions and letters of reference. Finalists also participate in a minimum of two interview sessions. During this stage, they meet with panels of community and business leaders who assess their leadership skills and potential. Each phase of the process connects with necessary professional development skills that will help applicants during their career journey. Continue reading US Labor Dept: Opening Doors for Students with Disabilities

A Whole Lott More

A fascinating look at how people with developmental disabilities are competing in a struggling US work force.

In a tough economy, the entire country worries about jobs, homes, and children’s futures. Yet how often do we think of the most vulnerable members of our society? Around eight million people in the US have a developmental disability but the vast majority – around 80 percent – remain unemployed.

They live in the shadows of society – all too separate from the non-disabled world. Many Americans in the US with development disabilities who do work have historically found refuge in “workplaces” – coalitions of industry and social service that provide manufacturing jobs. Most states in the US have facilities such as these – in Toledo, Ohio, there is Lott Industries.

Over the years, Lott has employed up to 1,200 workers at a time. For decades the company excelled in building car parts, competing successfully with the non-disabled and achieving the highest quality ratings. However, with the decline of the car industry in neighbouring Detroit, Lott is faced with a crisis.

For Lott to move into the modern age, it must overcome the odds to create a new, dynamic model for working environments for people with disabilities. This model must also be inclusive, allowing people with disabilities to work in the wider community. It must be self-sustaining and should provide people with disabilities a decent wage.

But for some whose lives are affected by disabilities, they are not sure that a workplace can evolve at all.

read more

NPR: Subminimum Wages For The Disabled: Godsend Or Exploitation?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

For more than a year now, President Obama has been calling on Congress to increase the minimum wage.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s time for 10.10. It’s time to give America a raise.

(APPLAUSE)

INSKEEP: The president recently signed an executive order making $10.10 per hour the minimum that workers employed by federal contractors can be paid. That includes disabled workers. Those workers can legally be paid just pennies per hour when they work at what are called sheltered workplaces.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For some, sheltered workshops are a godsend, providing the disabled with opportunities that might not otherwise exist. For others, they’re an example of good intentions gone wrong.

NPR’s Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: It’s not unusual these days to see a developmentally disabled worker at a grocery store or restaurant as more of the disabled get jobs in the community, but many thousands more work at sheltered workshops like this one.

GUS VAN DEN BRINK: We’ll walk around. You can see some of the jobs that we do.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hey, Gus.

BRINK: Hi. How are you doing?

CORLEY: Gus van den Brink heads the Sertoma Centre, an agency providing programs and training for the developmentally disabled. He greets workers here who are packaging bottles that will be shipped off to a microbrewery.

BRINK: We do 100 percent quality control. The supervisor in the area is always checking the work when they’re finished with it.

CORLEY: Sertoma Centre, located in Chicago’s south suburbs, started off as a sheltered workshop, providing employment opportunities to the disabled by getting subcontracting jobs. These days, about 250 people work here. Their pay is regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law was originally created to encourage hiring veterans with disabilities. It allows companies, including some federal contractors, to pay subminimum wages based on how productive a person with disabilities is compared to a non-disabled worker doing the same task. Continue reading NPR: Subminimum Wages For The Disabled: Godsend Or Exploitation?

AP – Disabled struggling to find work

WASHINGTON – Most Americans with intellectual or developmental disabilities remain shut out of the workforce, despite changing attitudes and billions spent on government programs to help them. Even when they find work, it’s often part time, in a dead-end job or for pay well below the minimum wage.

Employment is seen as crucial for improving the quality of life for people with these disabilities and is considered a benchmark for measuring the success of special-education programs. Yet the jobs picture is as bleak now as it was more than a decade ago.

Only 44 percent of intellectually disabled adults are currently in the labor force, either employed or looking for work, while just 34 percent are actually working, according to a survey by Special Olympics and conducted by Gallup and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. That compares with 83 percent of nondisabled, working-age adults who are in the workforce.

“The needle has not changed in more than four decades,” said Gary Siperstein, professor at the University of Massachusetts and one of the authors of the study. “We just can’t move the barometer. And we’ve invested a lot of resources with lots of good programs around the country.” Continue reading AP – Disabled struggling to find work

“Deciding for Herself – a Family for Jenny”

Born with Down Syndrome, Jenny Hatch, 29, went to court to emancipate herself from a group home. Along the way, she found the place where she belongs.

Here is an article on Jenny in People Magazine, showing us what self-determination and supported decision-making look like: they look like LIFE!


Bursting through the front door of the Village Thrift store in Newport News, Va., Jenny Hatch greets her coworkers with shouted hellos and hugs. Though it’s her day off, Jenny, 29, who has Down syndrome, can’t stay away. “I love my thrift store,” she says of the shop co-owned by Jim Talbert and fiancée Kelly Morris. Walking to the back office, the petite honey-haired young woman with the sunshine grin settles down at the computer and pulls up a video on YouTube, watching news footage of a court decision she has viewed hundreds of times before. “I watch it every day,” she says. “It was a happy day.”

Continue reading “Deciding for Herself – a Family for Jenny”