By: Heidi Dirkse-Graw, MS, CRC, LPC – President/CEO – Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc.
Imagine yourself on a rustic deserted island in the tropics. White sand. Palm trees. Crystal blue water. It all seems perfect. You are resting in the warmth of the sun. Then you wake up and realize you have nothing to eat and you don’t know how to survive in the wilderness. All you see is sand, water and trees for miles. What do you do? Where do you turn for help?
Becoming a business where people with disabilities are woven into the fabric of the workplace, supply chain and culture of business may sometimes feel like the deserted island. The concept is welcome and inviting, but the practicalities of how to make it happen leave one questioning where to turn for help.
In my experience helping businesses and job seekers with disabilities, I have found that two factors are vital to success: resources and the power of collaboration.
On the island, there are many sources of food. One just needs to know where to look. In disability employment, information is a click away. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website, www.dol.gov/odep, offers a launching point. It is the only non-regulatory agency of the federal government designed specifically to help people with disabilities and employers/business to promote disability inclusion in the workplace. On the website you will learn about five different programs that can help get you started. Most resources are completely free of charge and some programs help businesses learn about tax credits that help offset costs of implementation.
But what about collaboration? Aren’t you alone on the island? Let’s suppose you awake one afternoon from a siesta in the warm sun. You’re no longer hungry as the coconuts are a plenty and you now eat crickets, the latest rage. Today, however, something catches your eye down the beach. You look closer and you think you see people! Your whole world changes. Now you are not alone; there are others who are also trying to find a way to build shelter, forage for food and make a life. Suddenly, your way is made easier; there is collective energy more powerful than yourself.
Becoming part of a collective group of businesses that promotes disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and market, is akin to discovering that you are not alone on the island. In fact, the more you collaborate the more effective your efforts. You brainstorm best practices, discuss resources and implement innovative strategies. Everyone gains and change happens. I’ve seen it.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. In communities around the country events will be hosted to bring together business to begin and/or continue the conversation of workplace inclusion of people with disabilities. In Portland, Oregon, will you join us for Amplify! on October 19, 2017? It promises to inspire, equip and unite.
Why attend Amplify!?
Because disability inclusion matters.
It benefits business.
It benefits us all.