Finding the Strengths in Disabilities
Every Monday and Wednesday mornings, the Vocational Services Job Club
hums with strategies to get people back to work. With individual
guidance and group support, the Job Club gets people to:
- analyze their strengths
- find hope in abilities they may have overlooked
- examine personal and ethical issues that might affect their job success
Vocational Services counselors help people find answers to questions such as:
- How much should I tell a prospective employer?
- Should I say that I have seizures?
- Should I tell the interviewer that I had a head injury?
- Should I let them know I can't remember as many things as I used to?
- Will they want me to tell them I can't work as fast as I used to?
- Will they think I'm weird because I haven't had a job for a few years?
Self-identity and self-esteem
Most of us get a big part of our self-identity and self-esteem from
the jobs we do. When disability strikes, it brings special problems. All
of us are only "temporarily able-bodied." If we become injured, get
epilepsy or have an accident, our self-esteem can plummet to the point
where it's hard to go out and face the world. We feel inadequate. We
question our worth. We wonder if anyone wants us now.
Depressed and overwhelmed, we can forget about what we can do. We can
forget that we have many skills. We have to rediscover our strengths.
At the Job Club, people learn to:
- honestly assess what they can and cannot do
- face internal and external barriers to getting hired
To be successful in finding a job, people need to be in the right job
for their skills and abilities. If someone hasn't been able to survive
more than a couple of days in temporary jobs, he or she might not be
ready for full-time, competitive employment.
To become more competitive in the marketplace, Job Club members are
encouraged to do volunteer work for a while and then take temporary
positions to gain confidence and build recent work history.
Getting accommodations for disabilities
Under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees
with disabilities may ask for and obtain certain accommodations so they
can work safely and effectively.
How do you frame a request t to accommodate your disabilities to a
potential employer? Dr. Bob Fraser, director of Vocational Services,
"Present your epilepsy in functional terms. Talk about how it affects
you on the job. If you have an aura and can move to a safe and quiet
place when you feel a seizure coming on, that can be reassuring to an
employer. If you have complex partial seizures that occur several times a
week and are short, like daydreams, make that clear. You are telling an
employer that you know how to take care of yourself and that safety
will not be an issue."
Employers can make use of hiring incentives when they hire Job Club
members. These incentives stem from the Project with Industry grant that
helps fund Vocational Services programs. Three main incentives exist:
- A tax credit for employers who hire disabled workers
- A free job-tryout period, which reduces the employer's hiring
risk and pays for the employee's industrial insurance during the tryout
- Payment to employers for the cost of on-the-job training for up to three months
Hiring people with disabilities can be a win-win situation for everyone.
If you are having trouble finding or keeping a job, our vocational
counselors can help. Our services are free to anyone who has been
diagnosed with a neurological disability. Call 206.744.9130.
Job Club meets twice weekly, at 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Orientation sessions are Tuesday mornings at 10:30.