For Organizations

Help-Your-Self believes that an essential component of leading an independent living lifestyle is having the opportunity to work and maintain gainful employment. The opportunity to work provides income, a sense of purpose, identity, self worth, and a sense of contribution to society. This can be achieved by offering individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as individuals without disabilities.

Best Practices for Businesses

Help-Your-Self provides organizations the tools they need to reach and serve the disability market and information about the benefits of employing people with disabilities. All people, with and without disabilities, should have the same consumer opportunities, it simply makes good business sense.

The process for developing business and marketing plans for able bodied individuals is the same process for people with disabilities, except for a few added components. A good business plan starts by identifying the categories of the benefits that the employers and the employees receive, and a good marketing plan starts by identifying one's target audience. Similarly, when providing work opportunities for individuals with disabilities, it is important to acknowledge people's abilities and understand their limitations; when marketing a product to consumers with disabilities it is important to outreach to the community that people with disabilities associate with.

Many businesses are afraid of employing people with disabilities because they are unfamiliar with the ramifications and, organizations' marketing efforts and outreach towards people with disabilities are hindered by myths. Help-Your-Self can provide answers for the type of questions that cause fear and we can help dispel these negative misconceptions by offering an insight into the needs of people with disabilities. Providing accommodations can sometimes mean making architectural changes like adding a ramp, changing a door knob, or widening a door. Most of the time, however, solutions are simple: providing software, changing the location of a switch, allowing your employee to have an office near the bathroom, installing a speakerphone, raising the height of a desk or file cabinet, reallocating tasks among employees, and allowing telecommuting. Some important factors are:

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Take advantage of an individual's strengths.
  • Ask your employee what their limitations are.
  • Ask your employee what type of accommodations they need.
  • Take advantage of the problem-solving insight that the employee with the disability has.
  • Work together with your employee to implement the accommodations.
  • Avoid attitudinal barriers by creating opportunities for employees to network.
  • Address concerns about productivity, safety, insurance costs, and transportation directly.
  • Create a position for a Director of Workplace Accommodations.
  • Offer sensitivity training.
  • Address the issues of egress in emergency situations.
  • Create an advisory committee of community members with disabilities to help you with marketing and outreach.
  • Develop cooperative relationships with local resources, disability organizations, rehabilitation hospitals, independent living centers, and state agencies for vocational rehabilitation, the department of health, and the department of human services.

Businesses should welcome the opportunity to employ people with disabilities as members of their working team as well as their audience. By doing so, the organization empowers the community, enhances business growth and increases overall worker satisfaction.

Benefits of Diversifying

All people, with and without disabilities, should have the same consumer options; it simply makes good business sense. Organizations should welcome the opportunity to employ people with disabilities as members of their working team as well as their audience. By doing so, the organization empowers the community, enhances business growth and increases overall worker satisfaction.

What part of your organization needs to be accessible? People with disabilities should have access to all offices, public spaces, electronic information, printed materials, multimedia, lectures, film series, advertising, marketing, and products.

Although people are often afraid of creating an accessible work environment, it is not always difficult to accomplish. For information and resources on workplace accommodations and universal design, see our other pages: Etiquette, Accommodations, Technology, Resources.

Top 10 Reasons to Hire People with Disabilities

  • Employees with disabilities can fill the void of labor shortage and be a source for continued or supplemental need for staff.
  • Employees with disabilities have a high job performance rating and are more likely to grow with your company.
  • Employees with disabilities are more likely to be timely, demonstrate less absenteeism and have an innate drive to succeed.
  • Employees with disabilities relate to your customers with disabilities more efficiently.
  • Diversified work environments are more productive and more efficient.
  • People with disabilities offer a pool of employees which are highly educated and bring with them talents and insights that other employees cannot offer.
  • Employees with disabilities most often excel in their field and are proud of it.
  • Employees with disabilities motivate other employees.
  • Companies that hire and accommodate people with disabilities receive tax benefits.
  • By employing people with disabilities your organization may gain more recognition from your community.

How We Can Help

Our consulting services are designed for a variety of organizations, including: government, private industries, medical facilities, public facilities, museums, theaters, and other non-profits that wish to increase accessibility to individuals with disabilities. Our staff and network of consultants, some with disabilities and some without, all have experience with disabling conditions and are professionals in the development and implementation of programs, policies, and services geared towards increasing the productivity of people with disabilities. Organizations which have obtained first hand knowledge by consumers with disabilities are able to produce more efficient policies that successfully serve to integrate people with disabilities into their organizations. We can help you eliminate architectural barriers, program barriers and communication barriers while increasing tolerance, acceptance and productivity. We advise on:

  • ADA Compliance
  • Communication Skills
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Disability and Community Outreach
  • Egress
  • Enabling Technologies
  • Grant Evaluations
  • Grant Writing
  • Hiring Policies
  • Policy Analysis
  • Sensitivity Training for Employees and Management
  • Training Seminars
  • Work Incentives
  • Workplace Accommodations

For information and resources on workplace accommodations and universal design, see our other pages: Etiquette, Accommodations, Technology, Resources.

Success Stories

This story emphasizes how people with disabilities are highly motivated:
RoseAnn Ashby, U.S. Department of Education, Branch Chief in the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

I have been employed at the U.S. Department of Education since 1987. I am a Branch Chief in the Rehabilitation Services Administration, an agency within the Department primarily responsible for funding and overseeing the vocational rehabilitation program. I am blind and use a computer equipped with a screen reader with speech output to enable me to review and edit the work of my staff. I also use the services of a reader-assistant: she reads documents to me that are not available in electronic format; helps me with copying, faxing, and filing. Prior to having adapted speech software I had to do all of my writing by dictating to a reader; this was a burdensome process. With accessible computer technology I am as efficient and productive as any employee with sight. I am considered a high performing staff member of the agency and I am responsible for supervising a 15-member branch, the largest branch in the Administration. I am very positive about my employment, believe my work is rewarding, and I feel valued by the organization. My disability is not a barrier to my success on the job.

This story emphasizes how inexpensive adaptive equipment and open communication techniques are sometimes all that is needed to accommodate an individual's needs:
Sheri Denkensohn, Senior Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.

I am paralyzed as a result of a diving accident that occurred when I was 16 years old. I moved to the Washington D.C. area in 1989 to attend Georgetown University Law School. I have been employed four yeas with the Office Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Management has provided me with accommodations necessary for me to be successful and productive. I attribute this success to open communication. Once I accepted the job my supervisor called to discuss my needs. I requested voice-activated software ($500). Advances in assistive technology have made it cheaper for agencies to accommodate disabled workers. This technology, which was no more difficult to load onto the computer then a standard software program, enables me to work faster - goals that all agencies are looking for employees to achieve. I was then asked to meet with my supervisor to look at the floor plans and select the most accessible office. This interactive process allowed me to be in an office that met my needs--- it did not have a narrow corridor and was close to the elevator. I provided measurements about appropriate desk height and requested an automatic door for my office. I explained that by independently operating the door without having to ask for assistance I would not have to restrict my hours to those when other office personnel were present. I wanted the ability to arrive early and work late! The process of making reasonable accommodations does not end once an employee requests an accommodation and the accommodation is made. It is an ongoing process. Repeated staff meetings allow e to communicate effectively with my colleagues.

This story emphasizes how misconceptions and unease can be overcome:
John V. Wright, Jr., Meteorologist-in-Charge, National Weather Service.

John V. Wright, Jr. has been the Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Weather Forecast Office in Blacksburg, Virginia since arriving there in 1994. He currently manages a staff of 24 meteorologists, hydrologists, and hydrometeorological technicians. Wright was born with cerebral palsy, which affects his walking gait and speech. When he was first hired, despite holding a Masters degree, his manager was uncomfortable with working with someone who had severe muscle spasms. The Director assigned him to another project that enabled John to gain the respect of his co-workers. Just recently, he has begun to use adaptive software. A program called "Naturally Speaking" enables him to speak to his computer and the computer translates his spoken word to text at a rate of up to 150 words a minute. Mr. Wright has given more than 450 presentations and has trained more than 2,000 SKYWARN observers to be volunteer severe weather spotters. His awards include the National Exceptional Specific Prediction Award; the Department of Commerce's Bronze Medal, and the Administrator's Award from the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mr. Wright believes that having cerebral palsy has made him look to other avenues in life that might have otherwise been of less importance.

This story emphasizes that, by diversifying one's staff, an organization can improve profits and company moral:
JPMorgan Chase
- From the Inside Out, By Joan Leotta

Many companies seek to improve themselves by dealing first with external factors such as enhancing customer relations or minding competitors. When it comes to diversity, however, JPMorgan Chase has a different strategy; they start by looking inwards, at their own employees, and creating an atmosphere of inclusiveness. That inclusive environment has become a springboard for creative ways to develop better products and services for their customers with disabilities.

Chairman, William B. Harrison, Jr., explains the company's vision with regard to diversity in this way: "JPMorgan Chase has seen first-hand the benefits gained with a corporate culture that's actively inclusive, where colleagues are recognized based on their talent and skills, and where diversity is used as a competitive advantage to benefit from the broadest possible pool of employee talent, experiences, and perspectives."

Employees with disabilities are actively recruited and mentored for advancement. The firm solicits ideas from all employees on how to better serve colleagues and customers with disabilities. About eight years ago the company began to form networking groups, hoping to inspire creative thinking and to develop strategies to implement those ideas. "Employee involvement and creative solutions are fostered in this environment," says Joan McGovern, a JPMorgan Chase vice president and the director of the company's Access Ability Resources Center. "At a high level, these individuals form around common and core interests," she explains, be it a product, service, or way of doing business. About 20,000 employees worldwide in all corporate divisions now participate in various monthly networking groups. Some groups focus on technology, while others work on family issues and inclusive recruitment. "We want to attract the best talent in the industry," says McGovern. "To meet this goal, [we] have created a workplace where differences are respected. Gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability are just some of the differences that make people unique as individuals and give us the diversity of experience and perspective that make us stronger." Every major staff department has a diversity leadership team of senior executives responsible for setting and implementing specific initiatives for their area. Firm executives review their progress monthly, and the senior person's compensation is tied to meeting certain objectives related to attracting and retaining a diverse employee base.

This story emphasizes how providing accessibility accommodations is as easy as simply providing information:
Microtel Inns and Suites: Going the Extra Mile For Accessibility, By Carmen Jones, President and Founder of Solutions Marketing Group

Truly accessible hotel rooms are rarer than one might think -- even years after the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated accessible public accommodations. Yet one company, Microtel Inns and Suites, truly "goes the extra mile" to earn the business of people with disabilities. Many corporations have disability information on their Web sites; generally it takes a treasure map to find them. On the Microtel web site they feature a travelers with disabilities link where one learns about the Microtel accessibility services. The information details specifications of both rooms and public spaces. For instance, in the lobby area there is a slide-out counter; in accessible rooms, light switches are 42 inches from the floor, and clearance under the guestroom desk is a minimum of 27 inches. A heavy-duty 8-inch metal frame (not a solid bed base) is installed in each accessible guest room. The height of the bed is not greater than 23" from the floor. Each hotel has at least one accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower and installed bath bench or removable bath seat. The corporation even hires "Mystery Shoppers" with disabilities to stay in their properties and report on access. Microtel understands that ‘attitude is the real disability. They make full use of The Opening Doors program -- developed by Virginia-based W.C. Duke and Associates -- to train staff. There is no condescension or paternalism.

Every company that invests educated effort in accommodating customers with disabilities is realizing a profit benefit. The aggregate annual income for people with disabilities is $1 trillion dollars, and $220 billion of that is discretionary. In 1995, people with disabilities spent $81 billion on travel. More businesses are beginning to understand that the disability niche is indeed a profitable market, and Microtel Inns and Suites has taken access to a new level in the hospitality industry.

This story emphasizes how, with the help of specialized consultants, accessibility and market expansion are easily attainable:
Avis Really Tries Harder, By Joan Leotta

Michael Caron, Vice President of Avis Product and Service Development, explains about their accessibility program, "A couple of years ago we began to see an upswing in requests for special devices to aid driving. One in five Americans is considered to have a disability of one form or another. We're very proud to address the needs of this underserved segment of our population. We engaged a firm named Diversity Partners in New York to help us research the situation and identify products and services that could help us to better serve our customers and the potential customer base of persons with disabilities.

It took only four months to go from the initial idea to the launch of the test phase. Less than eight months later, Avis rolled out of the program nationwide. Research has already begun on expanding the program, and Avis is considering adding vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts to their fleet. While all drivers must meet Avis's standard licensed driver conditions, there are no additional requirements nor any added fees for the adaptive devices. Avis provides accessible bus services for customers and waives the second-driver fee for designated drivers of customers with visual limitations.

Caron notes, "Since the program began we have experienced a fifty percent increase in the number of calls requesting assistance—I think the program is working!"

For more information see Resources