We are confident in employing people with disabilities

employment firstI Want To Work
We support the Pennsylvania Employment First initiative as well as the #IWantToWork initiative.

We support the Employment First Principles

Underlying Principles

  • The current low participation rate of citizens with disabilities in the workforce is unacceptable.
  • Access to “real jobs with real wages” is essential if citizens with disabilities are to avoid lives of poverty, dependence, and isolation.
  • It is presumed that all working age adults and youths with disabilities can work in jobs fully integrated within the general workforce, working side-by-side with co-workers without disabilities, earning minimum wage or higher.
  • As with all other individuals, employees with disabilities require assistance and support to ensure job success and should have access to those supports necessary to succeed in the workplace.
  • All citizens, regardless of disability, have the right to pursue the full range of available employment opportunities, and to earn a living wage in a job of their choosing, based on their talents, skills, and interests.
  • Implementation of Employment First principles must be based on clear public policies and practices that ensure employment of citizens with disabilities within the general workforce is the priority for public funding and service delivery.
  • Inclusion or exclusion of the specific term “Employment First” does not determine whether a public system or agency has adopted Employment First principles. Such a determination can only be made in examining whether the underlying policies, procedures and infrastructure are designed for and ultimately result in increased integrated employment in the general workforce for citizens with disabilities.

Characteristics of Successful Implementation of Employment First

  • There are measurable increases in employment of citizens with disabilities within the general workforce, earning minimum wage or higher with benefits.
  • Greater opportunities exist for citizens with disabilities to pursue self-employment and the development of microenterprises.
  • Employment is the first and preferred option when exploring goals and a life path for citizens with disabilities.
  • Citizens with disabilities are employed within the general workforce, regardless of the severity of disability and assistance required.
  • Young people with disabilities have work experiences that are typical of other teenagers and young adults.
  • Employers universally value individuals with disabilities as an integral part of their workforce, and include people with disabilities within general recruitment and hiring efforts as standard practice.
  • Individuals with disabilities have increased incomes, financial assets, and economic wealth.
  • Citizens with disabilities have greater opportunities to advance in their careers, by taking full advantage of their individual strengths and talents.
  • Funding is sufficient so that quality services and supports are available as needed for long-term employment success.
  • A decision not to consider employment in the community for an individual is re-evaluated on a regular basis; the reasons and rationale for this decision are fully documented and addressed in service provision.

The Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) developed a top-ten tip list for serving customers with disabilities. These tips can apply to any customer-service industry not just hospitality.

The PA BLN has enhanced the TIPS provided (below) by Marian Vessels with direct links for further information.

TIP #1 – Train staff in disability etiquette. This includes communicating with and assisting people with disabilities and using people-first language. The DBTAC provides an excellent online, self paced web course called…. REACHING OUT TO CUSTOMERS WITH DISABILITIES.  To access this free course, go to … http://www.ada.gov/reachingout/intro1.htm . For more info about using people- first language, contact the PA Business Leadership Network or visit the following web link … http://www.asha.org/about/publications/journal-abstracts/submissions/person_first.htm

TIP #2Communicate effectively.  For example, give a person who is Deaf a paper and pen for communication. The computer, a TTY, telephone relay systems and texting may also be useful tools for communication with those that are Deaf , Hard of Hearing, or Speech Disabled.  For more information about the PA Relay System, visit http://www.parelay.net/whatis.asp .  The following links will also take you to helpful brochures that touch on effective communication and other disability etiquette… http://www.adainfo.org/hospitality/hotels-brochure.pdf , http://www.adainfo.org/hospitality/restaurants-brochure.pdf

TIP #3 – Welcome Service Animals. People with various types of disabilities use service animals – not just people who are blind. Service animals are being used in many different ways by people with disabilities. According to the Department of Justice, an animal must be trained to provide a specific service to be considered a “service animal”. Merely providing emotional support is not enough. Animals other than dogs are being used as service animals, like miniature horses. The following links will take you more info that defines service animals, gives you guidance on your responsibilities as an employer/public accommodation, provides you with examples, and more….  http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/servanim.html , http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/animal.htm , http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/svcanimb.htm . The California Hotel and Lodging Association has an initiative, We Welcome Service Animals (http://www.calodging.com/products/service_animals.shtml ), that offers several publications, as well as online staff training videos in both English and Spanish.

TIP #4 – Train staff in facility accessibility, particularly “frontline” (front desk) staff. Staff should know about location of accessible bathrooms, material in Braille/large print, TTY availability, etc.. Frontline staff are sometimes the least trained, but are the most important because they are the person a customer with a disability meets when he/she first walks through the door.

TIP #5 – Never say “NO”. Before saying no to a disability related inquiry/ accommodation, consider all options/resources available. For assistance you can contact the PA Business Leadership Network or the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).  You can contact an employer friendly JAN consultant for free at 800-526-7234 (V) or you can search their online accommodation resource at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/soar/index.htm .

TIP #6 – Staff should know who to contact when something breaks.

TIP #7 – Include customers/staff with disabilities in emergency evacuation plan. Look at accessible entrances. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides great guidance on this issue…….to view their EMPLOYERS’ GUIDE TO INCLUDING EMPLOYEES WITH DISABILITIES IN EMERGENCY EVACUATION PLANS, visit http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/emergency.html . For information about emergency preparedness and people with disabilities, visit http://www.dol.gov/odep/programs/emergency.htm

TIP #8 – Ensure that you have an accessible website. Run your website through tools like LIFT or Bobby (no longer provided)  to check if a website is accessible for people with disabilities. The Worldwide Web Consortium has developed standards on website accessibility.  An example of a simple rule that should be followed…..Use Alt Tags as descriptors of pictures and symbols within your website.  This Alt Tags will allow people who are blind to know what is in your site.

Part of this discussion referenced the recent law suit against Target. Marian mentioned that the department store, Target, is fighting to not make their website accessible. Not making their site accessible doesn’t make sense because people with visual impairments and aging baby boomers won’t be able to shop on the Target site. This eliminates a large customer base.

For an introduction to web accessibility, visit http://webaim.org/intro/ .  Other web accessibility resources, including software that can check for accessibility errors, can be found at …http://www.adagreatlakes.org/Resources/Default.asp?category=32

TIP #9 – Tax credits and incentives for small businesses that make their facility accessible or provide transportation accommodations. There are also tax deductions, credits and training grants for hiring people with disabilities.  More information about these financial incentives is available within the DBTAC site at http://www.adainfo.org/business/#tax .  A PA BLN member, The Sierra Group, also maintains the following site through their Workplace Foundation …www.employmentincentives.com .  This site enables you to connect to all current information and required forms.

TIP #10 – Be knowledgeable about disability/ADA experts and resources in the community. Use them when issues and questions come up.  There are a multitude of wonderful resources for business.  Feel free to contact the PA BLN with your questions and concerns.  The PA BLN can save you time and confusion by providing you with the necessary information or directing you to the appropriate resource.