Salesforce com: Employees with Disabilities Deserve Better – Here’s What Businesses Can Do

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AAPD President and CEO Maria Town believes companies can and should become more accessible to talent with disabilities. [Maria Town/Office of Equality]

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Now is the time to recognize the many contributions people with disabilities make to the workforce and the economy. Now is also the time to recognize the ways in which the workforce can support the advancement of this community. For me, honoring this month is especially important. For too long I have seen my disability as something to be “overcome” or minimized in education and work. It wasn’t until I discovered the disability community that I began to recognize the immense value that our collective experiences as employees with disabilities bring to the workforce and how we can change our ways. work environments to make them better for everyone.

I’m the Salesforce Global Events Co-Chair Capacityforce Equality group, our employee resource group that brings together visible and invisible people with disabilities, employees with disabled loved ones and allies. In this role, I support initiatives that center the intersectional nature of disability, that build trust and community for people with disabilities and their allies, and I advocate for actions that promote access and inclusion at Salesforce. From our work to closing the accessibility gap In defense of the voice of employees with disabilities, including my own, Salesforce is committed to creating a more accessible workplace. While there is still a lot of work to do, part of the journey towards creating a truly egalitarian workplace is creating a space for important conversations about the inequalities that exist.

People with disabilities of all types should be able to see themselves in all sectors and at all levels of that sector, from the frontline worker to the board member.

Maria Town, President and CEO, American Association of Persons with Disabilities

I had the opportunity to speak with the President and CEO of the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) Maria Town. Prior to his position with the AAPD, Town worked in government at the federal and municipal levels. She worked on policy related to youth and disability employment, then held a community engagement role at the Obama White House. After her work with the Obama administration, she worked in the city of Houston as the head of the mayor’s office for persons with disabilities. Town and I discussed the important work the AAPD is doing and how businesses can and should become more accessible to talent with disabilities.

The power of representation

“I’ve had cerebral palsy my whole life,” Town said. “I didn’t meet anyone else who had my disability, career and family of their own until I was 23. That’s why making sure no one lives this is a huge motivation for me. People with disabilities of all types should be able to see themselves in every industry and at every level of that industry, from the frontline employee to the board member. ”

Seeing yourself represented in spaces expands your idea of ​​what you can be and accomplish.

We know that employment is the key to many other aspects of life: the ability to maintain stable housing, save for the future, start a family, or pursue any other dream you may have.

Maria Town, President and CEO, American Association of Persons with Disabilities

Over the past year, Salesforce has established relationships with a wide range of non-profit organizations, agencies and resource centers to help close the employment gap for people with disabilities. One of them is the AAPD career fair. This event directly connects future and current disabled job seekers with participating companies. Town continues: “We know that employment is the key to so many other aspects of life: the ability to maintain stable housing, to save for the future, to have a family or to pursue any other dream. that you might have.

Remove obstacles during the recruitment and application process

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, only 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed (which means that 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed). This is a much lower employment rate than for people without disabilities – 66.3% of people in this category were employed. “The number of barriers people with disabilities face when navigating the mainstream job market is part of the reason why employment levels within this group are so low,” Town said. use as an example. When I went to work for the city of Houston. Their job application portal required applicants to have a driver’s license. Due to my disability, I do not drive, which is a fairly common experience in the disability community. I was going to work in an administrative role that didn’t require driving, but because of this requirement, I couldn’t be hired. Town explained that there are often application questions that many of us take for granted, but signal a person with a disability that they are not welcome in your company. “For example, saying ‘must have good speaking skills’ when you mean communicating,” she said.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that at all levels of education in 2020, people with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than people without disabilities.

Removing barriers and being more intentional in raising awareness when recruiting also gives employers the opportunity to connect with talent with disabilities earlier in their careers. “For students with non-traditional CVs and GPAs (cumulative grade point averages) that reflect significant barriers they may have faced in school due to systemic ableism and lack of access, companies may prioritize talent development, ”Town said. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that at all levels of education in 2020, people with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than people without disabilities. “We have seen time and again that disabled students and recent graduates have been denied opportunities like internships. So we are doing everything we can to remove these barriers and I would encourage companies to do the same.”

Making these changes can also help to attract and keep talent with disabilities. “Take a close look at all aspects of your recruiting and application process. Consider the accessibility of these processes and the cultural values ​​you communicate to potential and current employees. It can make a huge difference in a business’s ability to present itself as a welcoming and inclusive business. ”

Changing the way you work – long term

“Before the pandemic, when people with disabilities requested remote work, it could take months to even have a conversation around housing. The pandemic has shown us that remote working, in many cases, can work, ”Town said. “We have encouraged employers not to just ‘get back to normal’. Because what is “normal”? For people with disabilities, and for so many other employees, normalcy wasn’t enough and it didn’t work. ”

With remote working options. You also give people more flexibility to make personal and family safety plans that work best for them.

Maria Town, President and CEO, American Association of Persons with Disabilities

Earlier this year, Salesforce announced its “work from anywhere” model, giving employees the option of continuing to work remotely in the long term. “With remote working options. You also give people more flexibility to make personal and family safety plans that work best for them.”

Focus on accessibility in all parts of the business

“There are many initiatives that focus on more recruiting women and people of racial and ethnic backgrounds who are underrepresented in technology. These efforts for diversity and inclusion often do not incorporate content. related to the accessibility of technology, ”Town said. “Make sure skills related to promoting access are built into diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Then you will have the opportunity to truly shape the next generation of talent. If we view access as part of the product and service base, instead of being a complement, we can increase access to opportunities and equity for people with disabilities around the world. ”

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