The [AT] Connects Blog

#RespectTheAbility Campaign Launched

Posted By Anne Long | Aug 26, 2014

Media Contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi or (202) 365-0787

Won Shin, senior manager in transaction advisory services at EY, speaks with coworkers Alejandra Preciat and Frances Smith (Photo Credit: Rick Guidotti of POSITIVE EXPOSURE)

#RespectTheAbility Campaign Launched to Focus on How Hiring Workers with Disabilities Benefits the Employer, the Employee and Society

Campaign spotlights model employers that demonstrate inclusive hiring can help their bottom line and starts by featuring Ernst & Young LLP

NEW YORK – RespectAbilityUSA and POSITIVE EXPOSURE, two non-profits working to change how people see disabilities, have joined forces to create #RespectTheAbility, a campaign to focus on how hiring people with disabilities can make organizations stronger and more successful. The campaign highlights the benefits to employers that look beyond the disability and imagine the possibility when hiring talented employees with disabilities. 

The campaign kicks off on August 27th at 2 PM with a free conference call/webinar with Lori Golden, Abilities Strategy Leader from Ernst & Young LLP (EY), on "Disabilities to Diverse Abilities: Changing the Workplace Paradigm: EY as a Case Study". The call is at 2 PM ET, 12 PM MT and 11AM PT and you can RSVP HERE.

“Our goal is to educate and inform employers of the benefits of hiring employees with disabilities,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbilityUSA. “EY hires the best talent out there, no matter what package that talent comes in. Their only focus is on their business, and what prospective employees can bring to the table to better the organization. It is time for other employers to look beyond the disability, and understand the true value of these employees.”

EY has focused on the benefits of a diverse staff since its beginning. Founding partner Arthur Young was deaf with low vision, and by example, he instilled in the organization the notion that talented, differently-abled employees can bring a multitude of benefits to the workplace. 

POSITIVE EXPOSURE photographer and founder, Rick Guidotti, captured the new campaign with photos to link real life images and people with the facts. His motto in the work is, “Change how you see. See how you change.”

Using the hashtag #RespectTheAbility, RespectAbilityUSA and POSITIVE EXPOSURE hope to spread the word through their collaborative series, and to ultimately erase negative stigmas associated with disabilities.

A second spotlight on success, showcases Project SEARCH, a program that allows young adults with developmental disabilities to cultivate a set of skills that they can use in the workforce by providing them with a series of internships in order to achieve competitive employment. The third success story centers around young adults on the autism spectrum working on an organic farm in California. 

Click the link below to view photos and more information tied to these success stories. 

Young people with disabilities help senior citizens: Provide excellent workforce for the future
Workers with disabilities help hospitals help patients
Youth with disabilities help make government work better
Autistic man on path to become an organic farmer
If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere: Inclusion at EY

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About RespectAbilityUSA
RespectAbilityUSA is a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to reshape the attitudes of American society so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in and contribute to society, and empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit.

POSITIVE EXPOSRURE, founded in 1998 by award winning fashion photographer, Rick Guidotti, utilizes photography, video and narratives to present the humanity and dignity of individuals living with genetic, physical, behavioral and cognitive differences. The POSITIVE EXPOSURE global footprint promotes a more inclusive and compassionate world where all differences are celebrated.

4340 East-West Hwy, Suite 350
Bethesda, MD 20814


Posted By Anne Long | Aug 18, 2014
Written by Louis E. Orslene, MPIA, MSW, Co-Director - JAN (Job Accommodation Network)  

BYOD! (Bring Your Own Device)

There is much discussion in the workplace about “Bring Your Own Device to Work” or “BYOD,” as it is now more commonly known. Employers increasingly find themselves under pressure to allow employees to bring their own assistive devices to work. Employers typically refer to cell phones and tablets in their discussion of BYOD. However, an informal poll of JAN Consultants suggests BYOD has much broader application in the workplace than just cell phones and tablets.

Cell phones and tablets often provide the best solution for receiving and conveying information for today’s mobile workforce. With the proliferation of apps, particularly those used to accommodate workers, employers have become perplexed about developing and administering BYOD policies.

Primary to employer’s concerns is safeguarding corporate data. A recent article in suggests that developing a policy on how employees are allowed to access corporate information “is an important initial step to keeping an organization’s data safe" (June 23, 2014). This dilemma is of course not a new one. Many employers have firewalls that prevent employees from viewing third party webcast training, using video phones, or making specific assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) operate with legacy information systems. While the corporate data safety concern and the tactics to protect that data are not new, the use of mobile devices and the proliferation of assistive technologies in the workplace is more recent.

Security was also of concern to JAN Consultants following a quick, unscientific poll regarding BYOD. A JAN Consultant reported:

“Sometimes employers do not feel able to allow employees to bring devices from home. For example, employees in classified settings and other security sensitive settings may be restricted in the types of devices that they can use at work, leading the employer to purchase a different type of device for use at work. Devices with wireless functionality may be restricted, or magnifiers with freeze frame or image storage capabilities may be restricted.”

JAN Consultants serving on the Motor, Sensory, Mental Health, Cognitive, and ADA Team conduct more than 42,000 consultations per year. In the ad hoc poll, the Sensory and Motor Teams reported receiving BYOD inquiries “fairly often.” This is no doubt because many of the accommodations suggested by the teams are product-based solutions. Below is a list of assistive technologies most often discussed with JAN employer customers. Note that many of the devices employees have asked to bring into and use in the workplace are not necessarily assistive technology in the strictest sense.

A list of technologies reported by JAN Consultants include:

*       magnifiers,

*       augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) or hearing related device such as the UbiDuo,

*       assistive listening devices,

*       Bluetooth streaming devices needed to access a phone with Bluetooth enabled hearing aid,

*       humidifiers for respiratory conditions,

*       heaters, fans, warming devices (heated mice/keyboards),

*       anti-fatigue matting for shoes,

*       mobility devices (that they do not use at home),

*       masks,

*       personal air purifier,

*       alternative soaps and cleaning supplies,

*       color overlays, and

*       exercise balls.

Excerpts from the Consultant feedback received during this poll was instructive. These excerpts included information about how the assistive technology was provided to the employee:

"Through insurance, private pay, or vocational rehabilitation rather than requested as accommodations. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are almost always brought from home in work settings. Sometimes the individual has had the device customized to meet physical access or other needs or they may have difficulty adjusting to a different type of device. "

JAN Consultants reported that some Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors think it is better for devices to be acquired through VR to simplify the accommodation process or to ensure access to the application process. For example, in Virginia there is a pilot program to purchase iPods and apps for individuals to use at work and home with apps customized to their particular challenges. Ownership is transferred to the individual users and they are responsible for replacements and upgrades if needed. Typical uses include time manage/organization, stress management, and customized video modeling of workplace tasks and appropriate social interactions.

JAN Consultants also report employers have asked employees to bring in their own devices. For instance, an employer requested that an employee bring in his personal portable digital magnifier rather than the employer providing one. Or an employer requested an employee who uses a Bluetooth hearing aid bring in her own Bluetooth streamers needed to access a phone communication at work. Interestingly enough, one Consultant reported a situation where one employer attempted to restrict employees with Bluetooth hearing aids from wearing them at work. However, the employer revoked this restriction when the possibility of having to purchase alternate hearing aids was raised.

The staff of write, “BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) promises many benefits such as greater innovation, better work-life balance and improved productivity, but it also increases pressure on IT to manage and secure devices and data.” In the new mobile workplace where a multitude of overlapping technologies are being used, one can only expect that BYOD challenges will continue to increase. This is particularly true in light of the use of tablets and apps to accommodate employees with disabilities. Thus, it behooves employers to begin to develop clear policies and practices governing assistive technologies including cell phones and tablets.

- Louis E. Orslene, MPIA, MSW, Co-Director