Does disability disclosure and self-identification really help support your staff

I’ve attended a number of high profile, disability focused events this year such as CSUN in California and the M-Enabling Summit in Washington.  One of the most commonly discussed issues centres around the provision of assistive technology.

Why is this a subject of such focus at the moment?

Man wearing shirt and tie sitting in low back leather armchair reading a tablet device

And is there any one solution which stands out from the rest, that’s both supportive to staff and affordable to federal government departments and their contractors?

The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently issued regulations to improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  For Federal contractors and subcontractors, these regulations set out a target that seven percent of their workforce comprises of employees with disabilities.

To monitor and control this regulation, organizations must now invite applicants to self-identify as an individual with disabilities (IWD) at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process and then every five years thereafter.  

But, what impact does this have on individuals with disabilities?

My belief is that this new self-identification form will potentially be perceived by disabled job seekers and employees as yet another barrier to applying and retaining employment.

Disabled job seekers already lack confidence in applying for jobs, often having been rejected many times before on declaring a disability.  They lack confidence in their own abilities, having been brought up in a world where ‘disabled’ is perceived as ‘not as good as others’.  And, when they accept a position, they fear discrimination for requiring additional support to carry out their role.

In light of this will this new self-identification form even be used?  And if so, what are the repercussions for organizations?

For Federal contractors and subcontractors, failure to comply with this new regulation could result in serious consequences from costly lawsuits to an entirely dissolved business.

So, what’s the answer?

The obvious answer is to better communicate the benefits of the self-identification form to disabled applicants and employees.  Remove the stigma from declaring a disability to your organization by openly demonstrating your willingness to go the extra mile for your staff, regardless of ability.  But, how do you demonstrate this commitment?

One suggestion might be to build assistive technology into an organisation as a core part of the IT portfolio.  Deploying it across the organisation’s network for everyone to access, whether they need it or not, will improve productivity and communication across the board, whilst making the workplace much more inclusive for all.

It will help attract more individuals with disabilities to an organization defining it as an employer which  clearly values equality and human rights.  Staff will be more committed to supportive organizations as they feel more valued and respected.  And, organizational reputation will be further strengthened from the commitment to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

One of the most progressive organizations, which has provided assistive technology as a standard issue and eliminated the need for self-assessment is Transport for London in the UK.  Watch how Transport for London made a real difference to their staff with assistive technology.

Being a more inclusive and supportive organization benefits everyone - employer and employee alike. Small changes like rolling out assistive technology organization-wide can make a big difference, helping meet OFCCP regulations and ensuring staff are fully supported and happy in their workplace.

For find out more about how Texthelp can help drop me an email