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December 2007 Issue:

Managing the Stress of Unemployment

Submitted by Sheila Cuomo

The "How to Manage the Stress of Being Unemployed" pilot training program was launched at MontgomeryWorks by their DPN. This one day training was targeted to unemployed customers who may be experiencing stress as a result of their circumstances and the strain of conducting job search activities on a daily basis. 

The training consisted of providing knowledge on the signs and causes of stress, the physical and mental repercussions and practical solutions on how to manage it.

The training provided opportunitiy for the:

  • exhange of humor,
  • interactions between peers,
  • practical exercises (i.e. drawing),
  • a stress quiz and
  • relaxation skills training to relieve anxiety.

Participants stated they felt better equipped to handle their current stress and developed the skills, knowledge and tools to manage future stress. Due to the success of the pilot training, it will be offered on a monthly basis. For information on how to receive this training in your workforce area, contact Maggie Leedy.

Putting Ability to Work

Submitted by Jackie Gast

Things are not always as we assume. Assume. That word can get us into trouble. Just ask my husband.

Many people assume people with disabilities cannot do the same work as someone without a disability; after all they have a disability which means "can't". Or does it mean to do equal work but differently or more creatively?

Last fall, I had a conversation with Robin Hall, Senior Human Resource manager at K & L Microwave, who is a great believer in recruiting and hiring job seekers with disabilities. Robin talked about the frequent demand among the six or so companies in the Salisbury area for assemblers/solderers. Although, the work is different from company to company, the skills transfer. Those transferable skills include assembling elctronic boards, working under a microscope, work with small parts and soldering.

Having an idea of what the job of soldering/assembly entailed, I asked Maria Waller, President of Quality Staffing Services (QSS) in Salisbury, if she would host a group of local job coaches/counselors who work to find job seekerswith disabilities employment observe the process. When the need arises, QSS will recuit, interview and train selected individuals for employment with their clients. Although these individuals begin as QSS temporary employees, the goal is always permanent placement. This, by the way, is a great way for companies to try out an employee, as well as for an employee to see if they like the company. Without hesitation, Maria agreed to host our group.

Following the demonstration, the counselors were asked to identify job seekers from their case loads. Those job seekers were assessed for having an aptitude for this type of work by the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). The testing resulted in the recommendation of three job seekers.

Usually, job candidates recruited by QSS for their clients are interviewed and then recommended for training, but under the Ability Matters - Soldering Program, the individuals were pre-assessed by DORS and were placed into the training without a prior interview. The staff then decides if the work is satisfactory and if the person can handle the job.

The training typically takes three days, but since we were not sure what accommodations the job seekers may need, it was decided to allow an extra day. As it turned out, the job seekers learned so quickly, the training lasted two days with one person finishing in one and half. The trainer said this was the best group of students she had worked with in a long time and is looking forward to training the next group.

As of this writing, two of the three candidiates were recommended for employment and have been hired. Soon after the training, one of the students arrived at his DORS counselor's office with two friends who wanted to be trained.

Think about high demand jobs in your area where training can be developed and call us to help get the ball rolling.

January 2008 Issue:

Employment Awareness Tours

Submitted by Leigh Jones

On October 19, 2007, Frederick County Workforce Services (FCWS) and the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) hosted a Mentoring Day for seven transitioning age students. The goal of the day was to provide the students with insight as to what the skills and abilities were are needed to work in specific industries in Frederick County. Tours were arranged at three businesses, Courtyard by Marriott, Roy Rogers and Sandy Spring Bank.

In the morning the students broke up into two groups and toured either Roy Rogers or Sandy Spring Bank. The two groups met and received a tour of the Courtyard by Marriott. When the students returned to the Business and Employment Center (BEC), a volunteer from each group reported out about what had been observed and learned.

After lunch, the students listened to a panel discussion on what needed to be done now to better prepare for the world of work after school. The members of the panel were representatives from DORS, FCWS Youth Team, and Frederick County Public Schools. Each panel member explained what services the students could take advantage of, gave suggestions on activities students could be engaging in to better prepare for work (i.e. volunteering, obtaining a part-time job, etc.).

The day was a huge success and staff are looking forward to doing the activity again in 2008! Some of the comments received by participants were:

I also enjoyed learning more about the “next course of action” – shadowing sounds absolutely AMAZING and something I’ve never considered.

I liked how the people at these places explained each job and the peoples’ expectations for the job.

I learned that there was a lot of career opportunity in banking and all other types of jobs.

Although I’ve heard things today that I’ve known for a long time, I appreciate hearing them again. Sometimes it’s nice to hear something again because occasionally we so often forget.  I wouldn’t have changed anything about today!  Thank you!

Partnership in Action

Submitted by Shelia Little

Jason Smith (not his real name) graduated college with a degree in computer science. He loved working with computers and as with most college graduates, he expected his degree to be the key to a new job and bright future. After all, his degree was in demand. After searching on and off for ten years, he was frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to find a "good" job. Sometimes it seemed that his mother was the only person who believed that he could do more than his current janitorial job required.  The "good" job he had dreamed of was still a dream. He put in applications, submitted resumes and on occasion landed an interview. But, the results were always the same and he knew why. He had struggled for many years to overcome the label and stigma that had been attached to him. He is a person with a disability. Jason has Asberger's Disorder.

Upon a suggestion from his mother, he visited one of the Mid-Maryland One-Stop Career Centers to ask for assistance with his job search. He met with the Core services staff and discussed ways to increase his employment opportunities. His skills were outdated. He worked part-time as a janitor and most of his work experience has been in maintenance or food service. It was determined that Jason needed more intensive service based on his goals and lack of significant work history.

He met with an Intensive services counselor, disclosed that he had a disability and that he had worked with the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) in the past. He brought a copy of his DORS evaluation with him and shared the findings with his counselor. Jason and his counselor discussed all the services available to him including the possibility of partnering with DORS. Jason indicated that he would talk with DORS, but did not want that to be his only option. The counselor scheduled a joint meeting with a DORS counselor and Jason to discuss his employment goals, and how they might partner to help Jason achieve his goal of working in the computer field.

Jason and his counselors developed a joint plan that included the provision of computer training that would lead to an entry level position as a Help Desk Support Specialist. In addition, he would receive additional aid with his speech, interviewing skills and job development assistance. Job coaching would be made available, if needed. Training costs were shared by both organizations. To accommodate Jason’s learning style, a training vendor that provided one-on-one training and training in a small group setting was selected. The counselors worked together to provide seamless service to insure a positive outcome for Jason.

After completing his classes he tested and received his A+ certification. His instructor was so impressed with Jason’s knowledge and dedication that he offered him a position working as a paid intern at the training institute with a possibility of the position becoming permanent in the future.

Jason’s story illustrates how One-Stop staff focused on an individual’s employment goals instead of his disability. Jason benefited from the expertise of One-Stop staff and the One-Stop’s partnership with DORS.  He received the training that was necessary to update his skills and to land a paid internship in his dream profession.   

February 2008 Issue:

Success for Youth

Submitted by Jackie Angerhofer

Sara (name has been changed) is a recent high school graduate who received transitioning services through the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). She was referred to the Susquehanna Workforce Network for help with her job search and for WIA training. After meeting with her WIA counselor she was referred to the Vocational Foundations (VFT) program at Harford Community College. This program is a joint effort between the Susquehanna Workforce Network, Harford Community College and DORS to provide job readiness, career exploration, job search and basic skills remediation to individuals with disabilities.

While in high school, Sara had completed the 90 hour child care certification program but was still unable to get a job. After completing the VFT program, she became employed at a day care center and loves her job. She also met the WIA youth goal of increasing her math functioning level from beginning literacy grade 3 to beginning basic skill level grade 5.

Business Interview:  Overcoming Perceived Barriers

Submitted by Jackie Gast

As Director of the Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network (ESBLN), I am frequently asked by supported employment agencies how to find businesses that are willing to hire people with disabilities. Some arguments that have been offered to explain why it is difficult to find placements for their job candidates are the pool of job candidates are not job-ready, adequate supports are not in place, and/or employers are hesitant to hire people with disabilities.  Since ESBLN is an employer network, we decided to invite employers to a Business Roundtable to discuss the latter.

The Business Roundtable included companies in manufacturing, bottling, staffing, recycling, engineering and architecture, and government representing both large and small business.  In addition to employing adults, many of these companies hire students with disabilities as interns both paid and unpaid.

Exploring corporate culture and company motivation, we asked, Why do you hire students? A long time manufacturing entrepreneur began by saying that his companies have always tried to help people with disabilities. They began contracting assembly work with a sheltered workshop in the 1970’s and found working with this agency had proven results. In working with students in his current company, he said he had a good working relationship with their teacher because her follow-up after the placement was effective in ensuring success. Employers found the work experience is a maturing process for the students as well. Other questions were as follows:

Will I get stuck with the employee if it doesn’t work out?  The employers agreed that this was not an issue. While extra help and training may be necessary, the employees who do not work out must go. The teacher, also at the meeting, said, she has had to “fire” students and pull them from the job on occasion.  She said they must learn that their behavior effects their employment and that they are accountable for their behavior. The teacher is very aware that the image of the program is at stake so troubled students must be pulled back if necessary.

Have you ever resisted having a job coach on the job site?  The answer was no.  Actually, it is reassuring to have a job coach and is very helpful in the communication process.

Will my insurance rates increase? None of the employers experienced insurance rate increases due to hiring an individual with a disability. One employer said he had received the available tax breaks. He also said he wished his employee could work more hours but he is limited by his disability benefits. It was noted that most people with disabilities are afraid to lose medical benefits. Although, since April 2006 Maryland has had the Employed Individuals with Disabilities (EID) program, which allows eligible Maryland citizens with disabilities who are employed to pay a small fee and receive health care coverage, not many individuals with disabilities and/or employers know about this work incentive.
  
Our recruiting process looks for candidates without broken work histories. The bottling company employer said they will ask for explanations and this is typically not a problem.  The staffing agency noted that they review candidates’ circumstances.  However, their screening process does eliminate some candidates with gaps in employment for whatever reason.  She wondered if they do indeed miss some qualified individuals because they do not disclose their disability and it just appears that they cannot keep a job.  If the staffing agency knows the situation, they will work with the job candidate to get them job ready.

Should job candidates disclose their disability?  The employers were unsure.  One employer with a disability noted it was difficult for her to find a job because she disclosed her disability in each interview.  The overall consensus was “It depends…”

Part-time/flex-time is a problem for some employers. One employer felt that managers might use that as an excuse not to hire.  Others felt part-time was less of a problem than flextime.   Some companies working on strict schedules outside their control felt flextime would be unrealistic for them. It really depends upon the business as to whether part-time/flextime would work.

Accommodations are costly. None of the employers present had costs associated with making accommodations. 

People with disabilities make me uncomfortable. One employer said it is important to prepare and educate other employees. He shared that one employee asked the employee with a disability a how-to question, jokingly. The employee with the disability took him literally and began to explain every step in minute detail to the long time employee. The non-disabled employee did not know about the disability and became irritated. Once he learned the co-worker had a disability, all was fine. Other employers described situations where they had been in similar situations but through having an open mind and education, the results ended positively. 

Productivity will go down When students with disabilities are first hired, the manufacturer said they slow down the line for learning purposes. The employer is able to pick up the time later on in the manufacturing process. Another employer said there is a learning curve for everyone whether you have a disability or not.

Will hiring people with disabilities hurt my company’s reputation?  The answer was “no” and that, if anything, it is a plus. Another employer said it shows the company has heart.

While this roundtable represents a small number of employers, we believe their responses were representative of many businesses who hire people with disabilities.  It would be great to have a roundtable to ask the same questions to businesses who do not actively recruit people with disabilities.  It is our job to seek the latter type businesses and share with them these results.

Ask the Navigator

Q: I have had few instances when I thought the jobseeker I was working with could benefit from disability services or some type of accommodation. I am reluctant to ask, because I know it is against the law. Any suggestions?

A:  Actually, as a service provider, One-Stops are allowed to ask disability-related questions. The following are some guidelines in doing so.

  • When asking, be clear as to why the information is being requested (i.e. in providing this information the customer may be eligible for services for which he or she may not otherwise be entitled)
  • You must have a specific reason for asking (i.e. to determine eligibility for other services or funding, to ensure accommodation so the individual can fully benefit from your services).
  • Information requested should be limited to that which would impact the customer’s ability to obtain and maintain employment.

Be aware that if you are going to ask questions about disability to one customer, you must ask all of your customers. 

  • A yes/no check box on your One-Stop’s initial registration or intake form covers that stipulation. See that one is there!
    • If your customer has disclosed a disability on this form, you may ask employment-related questions, discuss accommodations, and provide information regarding additional services or funding opportunities for customers with disabilities.
  • Indicate on seminar / workshop registration forms or sign-up sheets that reasonable accommodations will be provided upon request. Be sure to include how one would go about making that request.
    • Also post that statement on your calendar of events, your website, and all marketing materials.
  • In one-on-one sessions, review all of the services the One-Stop has to offer, including accessible equipment / workstations, resources, and services your partners offer.  Provide written information so your customer does not have to disclose if he or she chooses not to. Review this information with everyone, not just those who you think might need additional services.   
  • In a workshop or other group setting that is already underway, you could say something to the effect of “We want everyone to be able to fully participate in and benefit from this workshop. If there is anything we can do or provide for you to ensure this, please see me at the break.”

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits One-Stops to ask disability-related questions*, answering the questions is purely voluntary on the part of the customer. 

*Note that this is quite different from employers, who are not allowed to ask prior to an employment offer. Title I of the ADA covers employment provisions.Title II Part A covers public entities, state and local government programs and activities.  As a provider of services, where your customers are concerned, One-Stops fall under Title II Part A. You are not allowed to share disability-related information with businesses without prior consent from your customer.

Some of the content for this topic was adapted from the National Center on Workforce and Disability publication entitled Asking About Disability and Respecting Confidentiality in One-Stop Service Delivery.

March 2008 Issue:

Renewing Resources

Submitted by Jackie Gast

I am not sure what we hear more about in the news lately, the 2008 presidential race or the need to be “green". In the whole scheme of life, one is much more long term than the other. So that is why I have been thinking a lot lately about being “greener.” Our family has been recycling for years but recently I have gone a little farther by replacing most (not just one or two) of our light bulbs with fluorescent and started to use reusable bags at the grocery store. We have gone green with some of our major appliances, too. All this “green” thinking is about Renewing Resources. Then I had a big thought!  Employing people with disabilities is about renewing resources!

People with cognitive disabilities are thought to be very limited in their abilities. Project SEARCH, a program that trains individuals with cognitive disabilities for work in financial and hospital settings, has transformed perceptions about the extent of the abilities of these individuals. The renewal happens within the individual as the result of being challenged and also within the employers and co-workers through positively changed perceptions.

People who have been in accidents are renewed through rehabilitation and retraining programs. How many of us know co-workers whose jobs have been revamped after an accident. Or maybe, they lost their jobs but are now working somewhere else doing something else. They’re the same people, transformed but still productive. Maybe because of their traumatic experience, the renewing process has changed them for the better giving them a more focused purpose in life and in the workplace.

People with mental disabilities go through a process that involves diagnosis and treatment.  There are hundreds of employees, professionals, and entrepreneurs in our area who are leading very productive and successful lives that are also taking medication to control their mental disability. By the way, despite what we see in the news, did you know statistics show overwhelmingly that people with mental disabilities are more likely to be victims than to be the aggressor? By altering or “recycling” the way the chemicals in the brain work via medication and therapy, we have valuable people in our community that make our world a better place.

People who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind can do so much more than many people might realize. There are so many technological advances in the workplace with more being developed everyday that enable these individuals to complete job assignments. Their jobs may be accessed or processed slightly differently but the outcomes are the same. 

Renewing existing resources is not only the right thing to do but it is the smart thing to do. Employing a person with a disability brings a different and most times, a refreshing perspective to the workplace.  I challenge you to think greener when working with jobseekers with disabilities!

Transitioning Youth Expo

Submitted by Jackie Angerhofer

More than 200 transitioning youth with special needs and their family members attended the Expo for Transitioning Youth held Saturday, March 8 in Joppa. “We were overwhelmed by the response to the Expo”, said Debbie Braam, chair of the planning committee. “We planned workshops and invited exhibitors to provide information on transition and the attendance indicates how important the information is to young people with special needs moving from high school to the adult world.” 

Students and their parents had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with representatives of thirty-eight service provider agencies.  An inter-agency summer jobs project for teens with disabilities took 82 applications. “Now we are looking for area employers to provide opportunities for these young people,” added Braam. Interested employers are invited to call Jan Stauffer, Job Developer with the Arc Northern Chesapeake Region, at 410-836-7177, extension 374 to discuss employment opportunities for youth with special needs.

Workshops were presented on topics including the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s New Directions Waiver, disability support services at Harford Community College, Social Security benefits and work incentives, and recreation and leisure opportunities after high school. Harford County Public Schools alumni shared their experiences as they made the transition to higher education, employment and independent living and Division of Rehabilitation Services staff discussed the Workforce Technology Center and programs and services for job seekers with disabilities.

The Expo was sponsored by the Harford County Commission on Disabilities, the Harford County Public Schools Office of Special Education, the Arc Northern Chesapeake Region, the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services, Abilities Network, the Office of Mental Health, and the Harford County Local Management Board.

Ask the Navigator

Q: I work with businesses and want to be able to talk to them about jobseekers and employees with disabilities.  Do you have any quick tips for me? 

A: First off, become knowledgeable about this untapped workforce.  According to Worksupport.com:

  • One in nearly five Americans is affected by a disability.
  • Almost 500,000 students with disabilities attend two- or four-year colleges and universities.
  • 72% of adults with disabilities want to work.
  • Studies indicate that workers with disabilities rate average or above average in performance, attendance and work safety.
  • According to research, workers with disabilities are more inclined to stay in jobs longer, reducing high turnover costs.

If your business customer has questions about the interview process, offer these tips: 

  • Hold the interview in an accessible environment that can be navigated by someone who uses a wheel chair, is blind, is deaf, or has any other type of disability.
  • Don’t focus on the disability; rather recognize the individual's abilities and work experiences and how these match your business needs.
  • Under the ADA, businesses cannot ask about a potential employee’s disability, nor can a business require a medical examination prior to a conditional job offer.
  • If the interviewee has an obvious disability (i.e. uses a wheelchair or is blind) or the applicant has voluntarily disclosed a disability, it is OK to ask him to show or describe how he would perform essential functions of the job – with or without a reasonable accommodation.
  • An applicant may request a job coach or other support person accompany him on the interview (this is a form of reasonable accommodation).  Direct questions to the interviewee, not to the third party.
  • Relax and conduct the interview in the same manner as any other interview, including holding individuals with disabilities to the same standards as all applicants.

Share these tips regarding reasonable accommodations:

  • Providing reasonable accommodations ensures that the employee can perform the essential functions of the job, and allows him to fully understand, participate in and have equal access to all aspects of work.
  • According to the Job Accommodation Network, 50% of accommodations cost less than $500, 19% cost nothing at all, and more than 80% cost less than $1000.
  • Accommodations may be required for staff meetings, company-sponsored events such as picnics and parties, and company-sponsored seminars or workshops.  It is up to the employee to request the accommodation.
  • The employee should be actively engaged in the accommodation process.  Each individual is unique; the need for accommodations and what type will vary from person to person. 
  • Not all employees with disabilities require accommodations.  If there is a request for accommodations, check out the Work Matters fact sheets “Accommodations” and “Resources for Reasonable Accommodation Requests” at www.mdworkforcepromise.org/businesses.html.   

There are many resources out there for you and your business customer.  Here are a few of our favorites:

April/May 2008 Issue:

Perseverance has no age limit

Submitted by: Sheila Cuomo

In October 2007, a 60 year old woman came to Montgomery Works because she had been terminated from her job. For the past 4 years she had been working in a medical office as a medical assistant.  She was told she was being let go based on her inability to learn a new computer software program and the inability to speak Spanish. As a result she was very anxious and fearful that she would not be able to get another job because of her age and the fact that she was not bilingual. She became depressed due to the extreme financial hardship she may face in the future. Her self-esteem was also compromised and therefore lacked the confidence to find another job.

She was referred to the Intensive Service Division because she was looking to upgrade her skills in the area of medical assistance. Her ISU counselor and the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) worked together to provide the customer with access to interventions to help her cope with the stress of being unemployed. She was also referred to a phlebotomy program and was able to learn and practice her new skills in a hospital setting. She continued to call and come into the One-Stop for support and encouragement.

Once her certification was completed, she diligently looked for a position and applied to several job leads provided by her ISU counselor and the DPN. As a result she secured a full-time position as a medical assistant working for a weight management program. One evening this customer came into the One-Stop to inform the DPN of her new job and to express how much she liked it.  It was apparent that she was no longer experiencing depression or anxiety and actually waltzed to the door saying: “Well I’m off to Bally’s to make sure I keep my girlish figure and uh, oh let me know if your interested in signing up for the program.”

Autism Awareness
The Autism Society of America has been awarded, from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark for the Puzzle Ribbon logo as a result of its years of use, work and investment. The autism awareness ribbon puzzle piece pattern is said to symbolize the mystery and complexity of autism. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of people and families living with this developmental disorder. The brightness of this awareness ribbon signals hope. Hope that through research we will soon identify the causes and a cure for autism. And hope that through increasing awareness of autism, persons with the disorder will lead fuller and more complete lives.

Mental Health Month
For more than 50 years, May has been Mental Health Month. The reason for having a month dedicated to mental health is to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all. This year's theme is focused on an essential component of maintaining and protecting mental health and wellness: social connectedness. The tagline is "Get Connected."

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I understand that people learn differently. How can I accommodate different learning styles when I provide trainings at my One-Stop?

A:  You are correct; everyone has a learning-style preference. I read a good example of this in Info-Line “How to Accommodate Different Learning Styles” (Issue 9604, a publication of the American Society for Training and Development). The article started with this:  “Ask a group of people how to spell a difficult word. Watch what they do: some close their eyes and whisper to themselves; some appear to be writing with an invisible pen; some hunt around for paper so they can write with a real pen or pencil.” Isn’t that interesting?  These actions demonstrate different learning styles, as the individuals hear, feel, or see the word they are trying to spell. People don’t necessarily think about learning styles and which suits them, but they are aware of what types of learning activities they enjoy. That’s a good indicator of learning style preference. You can accommodate all learners by providing written handouts and instructions, incorporating colorful graphics in your presentations, offering hands on / interactive lessons, and giving detailed verbal descriptions. The University of South Dakota provides the following identifiers for the three most common learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Visual Learners

  • take numerous detailed notes
  • tend to sit in the front
  • are usually neat and clean
  • often close their eyes to visualize or remember something
  • find something to watch if they are bored
  • like to see what they are learning
  • benefit from illustrations and presentations that use color
  • are attracted to written or spoken language rich in imagery
  • prefer stimuli to be isolated from auditory and kinesthetic distraction
  • find passive surroundings ideal

Auditory Learners

  • sit where they can hear but needn't pay attention to what is happening in front
  • may not coordinate colors or clothes, but can explain why they are wearing what they are wearing and why
  • hum or talk to themselves or others when bored
  • acquire knowledge by reading aloud
  • remember by verbalizing lessons to themselves (if they don't, they have difficulty reading maps or diagrams or handling conceptual assignments like mathematics).

Kinesthetic Learners

  • need to be active and take frequent breaks
  • speak with their hands and with gestures
  • remember what was done, but have difficulty recalling what was said or seen
  • find reasons to tinker or move when bored
  • rely on what they can directly experience or perform
  • activities such as cooking, construction, engineering and art help them perceive and learn
  • enjoy field trips and tasks that involve manipulating materials
  • sit near the door or someplace else where they can easily get up and move around
  • are uncomfortable in classrooms where they lack opportunities for hands-on experience
  • communicate by touching and appreciate physically expressed encouragement, such as a pat on the back

You can assess your own learning style preference at http://www.usd.edu/trio/tut/ts/stylest.html

June 2008 Issue:

Diversity at Work Summit

Submitted by Jackie Gast

The Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network, along with the Eastern Shore Society for Human Resource Management and the Maryland Department of Disabilities recently held a Regional Summit in Ocean City on April 18th, called Diversity at Work, Gaining the Competitive advantage.  Although diversity was discussed as a whole in a couple of the breakout sessions, the Summit primarily focused on employment of people with disabilities.  Even though people with disabilities are a protected class under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), many times when companies list their diversity efforts or statistics, they do not mention people with disabilities.  One of the goals of the Summit was to raise awareness that people with disabilities are people who can, do and want to work.

No event is complete without evaluations, and this summit was no exception.  In addition to asking the usual session, presenter and facility questions, all of which were rated quite high by the way, we asked our participants questions about their general employment practices.  When asked if the participants’ companies had a diversity policy that included people with disabilities, we were pleased that 54% responded Yes but disappointed that 46% responded No.  Without a policy, how does a company handle the requirements of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the EEOC with consistency?  It is important to note that the ADA applies to companies with 15 or more employees.  As a good employer realizes, no matter what their size, being consistent and fair with all employees is good business practice. 

When asked if participants currently recruit qualified job candidates with disabilities, 64% responded, No, with 36% responding Yes.  When participants were asked that in the future, how likely were they to specifically recruit qualified job candidates with disabilities, 93% responded that they were Likely to recruit from this pool of labor.  However, when asked about their hiring experience, 74% indicated they had limited experience in hiring people with disabilities.  Two of the breakout sessions were about non-traditional recruitment strategies and accommodations.  I am hoping most of the above 74% attended those sessions.

Many participants felt the biggest barriers to employing people with disabilities included management, business’ poor understanding of people with disabilities, educating hiring supervisors, making accommodations and old facilities and mindsets.  In a nutshell, most responses were about education and awareness. The ESBLN is not asking companies for preferential treatment for this group, but for equal opportunity.

In my experience, it seems the companies that are more likely to include recruitment of qualified job candidates with disabilities in their overall recruitment strategies, tend to be successful companies that experience low overall employee turnover.   The successful companies tend to withhold judging the ability of a candidate and also allow the candidate to be part of the solution to successful placement.  Keep in mind, people with disabilities live with their disability every day.  They have most likely gotten quite good at accomplishing life’s challenges long before they came knocking on your door looking for work.

Regional Trainings

In April and May, in response to a survey completed by One-Stop Career Center staff, the State Disability Program Navigator Team held two regional trainings: Community Connections and Assistive Technology and Accommodations. Both trainings were well attended and received positive feedback.

Raising the Bar 2008

The State Disability Program Navigator presented at two of the breakout session during the 2008 Raising the Bar conference.

Community Connections: Strategies for Building Relationships with Employers, Service Providers, Schools and Other Local Organizations - With the advances in technology, the way businesses recruit has changed drastically. By developing and maintaining relationships with local employers you will be able to facilitate important connections for candidates who have barriers to employment.

Confidentiality, Disclosure and Case Notes - Topics of discussion include maintaining the confidentiality of your customers' medical information, adherence to rules and regulations set forth by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how to use appropriate terminology in documenting case notes.

Ask the Navigator

Q: During the Access & Accommodation workshop, the speaker mentioned website accessibility. Do you have some tips to ensure our site meets accessibility standards?

A: When is comes to websites, there are a host of accessibility barriers for individuals with disabilities. The good news is that planning and logical consideration allows for easy implementation of many accessibility features. Here are a few steps you can take to start you on your way to providing equal access to all customers.

  • When creating hyperlinks, select text that indicates the target.  For example, use “See our June Calendar of Events for upcoming workshops”, rather than “Click here for our June Calendar of Events”. Individuals who use screen readers (i.e. JAWS) often tab through webpages “reading” all the links on a page, or, they use a feature that provides a list of available links on a page. You can see that using “click here” as a hyperlink does not provide users with any information as to where the link will lead.
  • Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (i.e. graphics, photographs, symbols, navigation buttons, animations). For example, if your site has the Maryland logo on it, use the “alt” attribute to describe the graphic as Maryland Crown Logo. Screen readers, such as JAWS, will first indicate to the user that there is a graphic; it will then read the text that describes it. 
  • If you incorporate audio or video features on your website, be sure to include transcripts and/or captions for the audio components, and audio descriptions for the video components.
  • Lay out web pages so they can be navigated using key strokes, instead of a mouse. Tab through a representative sample page of your site and watch the path the cursor takes (Shift + Tab will move you backwards). Does it make sense? Does it flow properly? Are drop down lists functional using the down arrow key? Are fill-in fields highlighted so the user can just start typing?
  • If a link takes the user away from your website, or opens a new window, indicate that is going to happen. 
  • Using a chart or graph? Include a summary below or beside it. Also provide non-color descriptors for data that is conveyed by color.
  • Tables should include both column and row headers. Tab through your table (instead of using the mouse) to ensure proper flow and clear readability – the data should make sense even if it cannot be seen by the user. Including a summary of the table provides an alternative equivalent of the information.

Here are some non-technical tips:

  • Include people with disabilities in accessibility evaluation of your site.  Users experience a wide array of barriers and can offer suggestions on how to make your website easier to navigate and understand.
  • Provide alternate formats of documents that users download from your site. Large print (minimum 18 point font), all text (no graphics), and .pdf are the standards. 
  • If your site provides driving directions to your One-Stop Career Center, include public transportation directions, and/or other transportation options for individuals who do not drive.
  • When providing a phone number for contact via telephone, also include at least one alternative contact number for reaching that same person or office via TTY and/or relay service. 
  • Use your site to advertise everything your Center has to offer your customers with disabilities, including accessible work stations, TTY, specialized programs and services, and resources and alternate formats.  Frederick provides a good example at http://www.frederickworks.com/disabilities.html.
  • Include a reasonable accommodation statement or policy on your home page and all pages that feature workshops, job fairs, recruitment events, etc.

The Web Accessibility Initiative "develops guidelines widely regarded as the international standard for Web accessibility, as well as support materials to help understand and implement Web accessibility.”  Visit this site, or direct your webmaster to it, for more detailed information regarding website accessibility. 

July 2008 Issue:

Accommodations and Blindness

Submitted by Jackie Gast

I was talking to a business woman recently who works for Bank of America.  She is a customer service auditor in their credit card division.  She is the one who may listen in on your conversations when you have to call your credit card company for whatever reason.  You know the drill, “This call may be monitored or recorded for customer service purposes.”  She actually does listen in.  Anyway, as you can imagine, she’s on her computer a lot.  One day she was having computer problems so she called her information technology support person.  He proceeded to try to fix the problem over the phone.  She was frustrated, tried to answer the questions but finally said, “Look, you will just have to come over and see for yourself.”  Again, the IT person wanted to try to resolve the problem over the phone with a few more questions to which she responded, “I really cannot tell you anymore.  Can you just come over and look at it? You really need to see what it is doing.”  The IT person, realizing her frustration, agreed to go to her office.  After about 15 minutes or so, the IT person shows up at my acquaintance’s station.  He arrives using a walking stick that is used by people who are blind.  Yes, the IT guy was blind.  You can imagine my acquaintance’s surprise and embarrassment, especially after using all those sight words.  After a good laugh, I asked if he solved her problem.  With a big smile, she said, “Yes, he did!”

How is it that a person who is blind can utilize a computer?  Thanks to screen readers or text-to-speech voice synthesizers, software programs, screen magnifiers (there are different degrees of blindness) and internet based software, those who are blind or have low vision can use computers at work and home.  Quoting WebAnywhere, it is “possible for people who are blind to access information over the Internet from almost any computer. All they have to do is visit www.webanywhere.cs.washington.edu, which provides a screen-reader interface that translates Web-based text to speech and reads the content aloud.”

Another friend, who works for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Texas, and I were discussing a lawyer who I have been emailing. The lawyer happens to be blind.  She was very surprised that he could use a computer.  This friend has been in the insurance business for about 25 years and has approximately 100 people who work for her.  Although she is not in human resources (she actually is a customer service auditor), she was unaware a person who is blind was capable of using the computer, internet, etc.

I told her about the above resources and about the One-Stop Career Centers located around the country from which to recruit employees.  Even though there are at least five One-Stop Career Centers in her area, she was not aware of them. I mentioned that One-Stops typically have or have access to the following resources for individuals who have low vision or are blind:

  • Braille printer
  • Large monitors (19” or larger)
  • Cassette recorder (for recording trainings/meetings, etc)
  • CCTV (if a document is not available electronically, it can be put on this machine and it will magnify it)
  • Zoom text (magnification software)
  • JAWS (reads text on the screen)
  • Word Prediction software

Remember when assisting job seekers with disabilities to focus on their skills, talents and abilities and not on what you think the person can and can not do. As the above conversations reveal, we are not always aware of the available technology or what accommodations the individual uses.

Rite Aid Reaches Out!

Submitted by Maggie Leedy

For years, organizations providing employment services have been reaching out to businesses about the benefits of hiring candidates with disabilities.  Last month the tables turned.  Rite Aid hosted a meeting focused on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.  The speakers weren’t from vocational rehabilitation, a disability advocacy group, the special education department or any of the usual cast of “hire from this incredible talent pool” characters.  The speakers included the Vice President of Logistic Services, the General Manager, and the Senior Operations Manager of Rite Aid Distribution Center, the Vice President of Acadia Mfg., a Window and Door Company, and a representative from Harford County Libraries.  The Employment Summit conceived and hosted by Rite Aid was their initial attempt at getting businesses who have not hired qualified people with disabilities to realize the benefits of doing so.  The purpose of the meeting was to “link businesses and agencies to help facilitate processes that will increase the number of employed people with disabilities in our community.”  There were approximately 9 companies and more than 20 disability service provider organizations represented at the meeting.  

The VP of Logistics began the meeting by describing an early experience he’d had with hiring a woman who had one arm for a “picker” job in a distribution center.  He took a lot of heat from other managers, but over time she became the best picker in the plant and he proved that his style of hiring, which is based on “commitment to work” not physical characteristics, was the way to hire the best.  That experience sparked his interest in hiring people with disabilities. 

The speakers all began by sharing their initial hesitation of hiring people who had disabilities.  Some of their concerns were:

  • Safety
  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Transportation
  • Co-worker reaction
  • Accessibility/Ergonomics
  • Shift and Schedules

Rite Aid has had no injuries, equal quality, no drop in production, transportation is provided by an agency (the ARC of Harford Co.)  Discussion of these concerns was important for getting in the door, but only experience was able to completely alleviate them. 

All the speakers acknowledged having these concerns, agreed that they were soon abated and focused on the unanticipated benefits.  These included:

  • Staff becoming more comfortable working with and serving people/customers with disabilities.
  • Increasing services for customers with disabilities based on staff input.
  • Improved team atmosphere “we’ve worked together like we never had before, it made us stronger, a better team, gave us a heart and improved our corporate culture.”

There were two messages from Rite Aid management, one intended for business and the other for service providers. 

The business message was:  This is a catalyst meeting and Harford County can become a national model in hiring people with disabilities.  “Corporate leadership needs to take the lead, this will not only give your company an economic advantage, it also makes you a community citizen.” 

The message to service providers was:  When you meet with companies about hiring from your applicant pool, sell only the economic advantages, do not tug on heart strings.  Get your candidate in the door.  Companies will realize the other benefits later. 

The overall message from this Employment Summit is that businesses should be ready to recruit, hire and accommodate qualified job seekers who also happen to have a disability.  This is coming from businesses that are successfully employing candidates with disabilities and want to share their good fortune and experiences.  Finally the tables have turned. 

New Resources

Disability specific fact sheets have been developed to serve as quick reference guides on the following disabilities: Alcoholism and Drug Addicition, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Down Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, and Mental Illness.

Each fact sheet gives a brief description of the disability, accommodations, and resources.

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I think we have the physical access down (automatic door opener, accessible work stations, parking spaces, 36” wide paths of travel…).  Now I want to look at how things are done – what do you recommend?

A:  Yes, accessibility at our One-Stops means more than getting in and out of the building, or being able to use the computer lab.  We also need to look at the way we do things – how we provide our services, how we deliver our programs.  I am borrowing the following suggestions from “Access for All”, developed by the National Center on Workforce and Disability.  You can access the complete manual at www.onestops.info

Outreach and Marketing

  • Ensure that all of the materials, including your website, provide directions to your facility, programs, or activities via public transportation (or, include information about other transportation options for customers who do not drive).
  • Wherever there is a phone number, include at least one alternative contact number for reaching that same person or office via TTY and/or relay service.
  • Mention in marketing and recruitment materials (as well as other materials describing the programs and activities that the One-Stops/other workforce organizations offer) that people of diverse backgrounds and physical, mental/cognitive, and sensory disabilities are eligible for services. Include positive images of such diversity in the materials.

Registration and Orientation

  • Ask all customers if they would like help with filling out forms or other aspects of the application or registration process.
  • Offer to provide assistance in a private room, where the job seeker's responses will not be overheard so as to respect and preserve confidentiality.
  • Offer a welcome packet of information to all new customers that includes information on core and intensive services and specialized services, such as customized employment. The packet should also inform customers that people of all abilities are welcome and that individual customers may receive specialized services and supports to help them fully participate in the One-Stop’s programs and activities.
  • If the One-Stop has specific programs for customers with disabilities, provide information about these programs to all customers so an individual customer does not have to disclose the fact that he or she has a disability in order to learn about these programs.

Service Delivery

  • Make staff roles flexible enough to allow employees to individualize the way they provide services in response to customers' needs.
  • Provide appropriate assistance and support services so that customers can effectively benefit from services in the most integrated setting appropriate (e.g., education and training opportunities, labor market information, job listing and job search assistance, resume and cover letter preparation).
  • Review all programs and activities that provide separate or different services for certain categories of job seekers (such as individuals with disabilities) to ensure that such separate or different services are administered in compliance with legal requirements, and that the ultimate decision whether to participate in the segregated program or activity is left up to the customer.
  • Explore and use a range of funding sources that both includes mandated partners and goes beyond mandated partners (e.g., Individual Development Accounts and employer contributions).
  • Assess the resource library, job seeker workshops, and other core services to ensure that information and materials are presented in a way that recognizes the full range of communication and learning styles of all customers while ensuring confidentiality and privacy.
  • Train staff members to proactively offer assistance to clients who appear to be having difficulty using services (i.e., providing appropriate assistance to customers who need it to access core, self-directed services, including assistance using computers and other forms of technology).
  • Use multi-modal presentation strategies (e.g., verbal, visual, role-play) in all workshops, which would benefit a variety of learning styles.
  • Ensure that all videos and DVDs used by the One-Stop Centers are captioned (either with open or closed-captioning).
  • Provide resume-writing workshops that include the option of alternative tools, such as portfolios, for job seekers to use (instead of or in additional to traditional resumes) when representing themselves to employers.

These are but a few examples of how to improve programmatic access for your customers with disabilities.  Read “Access for All” at www.onestops.info for more recommendations.

August 2008 Issue:

Accessibility Features on Your Own Computer

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

At a recent training event, staff from the Maryland Technology Assistance Program (www.mdtap.org) quoted IBM’s 1991 training manual:

“For people without disabilities,
technology makes things easier.
For people with disabilities,
technology makes things possible.”

As we grow older, many of us will find size 8 or 10 font just too small to read and will find ourselves saying, “Now, where did I put my reading glasses?”  Zooming in on a document or increasing the text size on a webpage sure has made it easier for us and reduces stress on our aging eyes.  For people with a wide array of disabilities (including cognitive, hearing, vision, and physical), assistive technology means more than making life easier, it provides life opportunities.  IT companies are well aware of this and are constantly improving the accessibility of their products.  Listed below are but a few of the many built-in accessibility features in the Windows XP operating system.  Most folks are probably not aware that these features are readily available and are quite easy to use.  Microsoft’s Accessibility page (www.microsoft.com/enable/), from which the following information was garnered, is a great place to learn more, as it provides demos, tutorials, case studies, and business resources.  The page also provides information on the accessibility features for the Vista operating system, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Outlook.

Display and Readability

  • Icon size – make icons larger for visibility, or smaller for increased screen space.
  • Screen resolution – change pixel count to enlarge objects on the screen.
  • High contrast schemes – select color combinations that are easier to see.
  • Cursor width and blink rate – make the cursor easier to locate, or eliminate the distraction of its blinking.
  • Microsoft Magnifier – enlarge a portion of the screen for better visibility.

Sounds and Speech

  • Sound Schemes – associate computer sounds with particular system events (i.e. close program, low battery, exit Windows, log on, log off, etc.).
  • ShowSounds – display captions for speech and sounds.
  • SoundSentry – display visual warnings (i.e. blinking title bar or a flashing border) for system sounds.
  • Notification – get sound or visual cues when accessibility features are turned on or off.
  • Text-to-Speech – hear window command options and text read aloud.

Mouse

  • Double-Click Speed – choose how fast to click the mouse button to make a selection.
  • ClickLock – highlight or drag without holding down the mouse button.
  • Pointer Speed – set how fast the mouse pointer moves on screen.
  • SnapTo – move the pointer to the default button in a dialog box.
  • Cursor Blink Rate – choose how fast the cursor blinks – or, if it blinks at all.
  • Pointer Trails – follow the pointer motion on screen.
  • Hide Pointer While Typing – keep pointer from hiding text while typing.
  • Show Location of Pointer – quickly reveal the pointer on screen.
  • Reverse the function of the right and left mouse buttons – reverse actions controlled by the right and left mouse buttons.
  • Pointer schemes – choose size and color options for better visibility.

Keyboard

  • Character Repeat Rate – set how quickly a character repeats when a key is struck.
  • Dvorak Keyboard Layout – choose alternative keyboard layouts for people who type with one hand or finger.
  • StickyKeys – allow pressing one key at a time (rather than simultaneously) for key combinations.
  • FilterKeys – ignore brief or repeated keystrokes and slow down the repeat rate.
  • ToggleKeys – hear tones when pressing certain keys.
  • MouseKeys – move the mouse pointer using the numerical keypad.

From the Accessibility Wizard, Windows users can configure groups of accessibility options that address visual, hearing and dexterity needs all in one place.  Some of these options are:

  • Magnifier: a display utility that makes the computer screen more readable by creating a separate window that displays a magnified portion of the screen.
  • Narrator: a text-to-speech utility that reads what is displayed on the screen – the contents of the active window, menu options, or text that has been typed.
  • On-Screen Keyboard: displays a virtual keyboard on the computer screen that allows people to type data by using a pointing device or joystick.(1)

Of course, Microsoft is not the only company to incorporate accessibility features in their operating systems – it’s just the one I am most familiar with.  According to the Apple website (www.apple.com/accessibility/), accessibility features in the Mac OS X operating system include zoom, full keyboard navigation, sticky keys and slow keys, mouse keys, closed-captioning in QuickTime, visual alert, spoken items, talking alerts, speech recognition, display adjustment.  From this webpage, you can also link to information on Section 508 and additional accessibility solutions at the Mac Products Guide.

The results of a 2003 study by Microsoft indicate “the growing use of computers for work, information, and communication”, and “…future computer users will demand and expect greater accessibility in computers – regardless of their abilities.”(2)  What should we expect in the future?  It’s a given that what we have now will be replaced by even greater technology that evens out the playing field for all users.  “In the next decade, the lines between mainstream expectations for technology and what we now call ‘accessible technology’ will continue to blur significantly. More and more, computers will adjust to a person rather than the person adjusting to the computer.” (3)

1 Windows XP Accessibility Tutorials. Retrieved August 4, 2008, from Microsoft Corporation website:  http://www.microsoft.com/enable/training/windowsxp/default.aspx
2 The Market for Accessible Technology—The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact on Computer Use. Retrieved August 4, 2008, from Microsoft Corporation website:  http://www.microsoft.com/enable/research/phase1.aspx.
3 The Future of Accessible Technology.  Retrieved August 4, 2008, from Microsoft Corporation website:  http://www.microsoft.com/enable/business/future.aspx.

2008 Presidential Election Voter Forums

The Maryland Disability Law Center is sponsoring four voter forums for individuals with disabilities. The forums will be held in Salisbury, Frederick, Greenbelt and Baltimore City. At the forums individuals will have the opportunity to:

  • Register to vote
  • Test voting machines
  • Learn the Democratic and Repulican candidates views related to disability issues
  • Become visible to the campaigns
  • Get informed, energized and motivated to go to the polls

The forums will be held on:

Salisbury ~ Thursday, September 18, 2008 from 1:00 - 3:00 at Dove Pointe (1225 Mt. Hermon Rd. Salisbury, MD 21801).

Frederick ~ Monday, September 22, 2008 from 1:30 - 3:30 in the Community Room at C. Burr Artz Public Library (110 East Patrick Street Frederick, MD 21701).

Greenbelt ~ Tuesday, September 23, 2008 from 4:00 - 6:00 in the Multipurpose Room at Greenbelt Community Center (15 Crescent Rd. Greenbelt, MD 20770).

Baltimore City ~ Wednesday, October 1, 2008 from 1:00 - 3:00 in the Meyerhoff Multipurpose Room at The League for People with Disabilities (1111 E. Cold Spring Lane Baltimore, MD 21239).

Sign Language Interpreters will be available at all locations. Questions or requests for reasonable accommodations should be directed to Kim Berney, 410-727-6352 ext. 2492, or KimB@mdlclaw.org. TTY: 410-727-6387.

Download Voter Forum Flyer and Directions.

The Employed Individuals with Disabilities (EID) Program: Work and Get Low-Cost Health Insurance

Submitted by Michael Dalto

The EID program allows eligible Maryland citizens with disabilities to pay a small fee and get or keep Medicaid health benefits.

EID provides full fee-for-service Medicaid for employed individuals with disabilities who have no other insurance, and wrap-around services for those individuals with employer-sponsored health insurance or Medicare.

Current regulations require an individual to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Have or have had a Social Security determined disability and
  • Be employed or self-employed, and
  • Be 18-64 years of age, and
  • Meet income limits (as high as $63,420 per year for an individual, or $85,020 per year for a married couple), and
  • Have resources (assets) below $10,000 (not all assets are counted, including the home in which you live, motor vehicles and the first $4,000 in certain retirement accounts).

To apply and/or for more information contact the EID Intern Coordinator at the Maryland Department of Disabilities:

Phone: (443) 514-5034
TTY/Toll free: (800) 637-4113
Email: eid@mdod.state.md.us

New regulations pending, stay tuned to Work Matters: Navigator News for updates.

LD OnLine

Submitted by Sara Meumpfer

LD OnLine, one of WETA Learning Media's educational websites, provides accurate information about learning disabilities and ADHD to over 200,000 people each month. The site features hundreds of helpful articles, multimedia, products, resources, professionals and schools. Monthly advice columns by noted experts, active forums, a comprehensive resource directory, and a Yellow Pages referral directory help parents, teachers, and people with learning disabilities decide what to do. Visit LD OnLine.  

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I know there are some health issues that often go with being a little person, but is the condition itself considered a disability?

A:  FAQs at www.lpaonline.org confirmed my initial thoughts – it depends upon the person and the circumstances.  Here’s what they have to say:
-----
Q: Is dwarfism considered a disability?

A: Opinions vary within the dwarf community about whether or not this term applies to us. Certainly many short-statured people could be considered disabled as a result of conditions, mainly orthopedic, related to their type of dwarfism. In addition, access issues and problems exist even for healthy LPs. Consider, for example, the simple fact that most achondroplastic adults cannot reach an automated teller machine. LPA is working to make common activities easily reachable by people with dwarfism - including gas pumps, pay phones, and ATM's.  Dwarfism is a recognized condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Information on the ADA is also available directly from the US Department of Justice, which administers the law."
-----
Remember the ADA definition of individual with a disability: “...considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”  So, it really depends upon the person and whether he or she is limited in participating in major life activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, working.  Ideas for reasonable accommodations are on the Job Accommodation Network webpage http://www.jan.wvu.edu/soar/littleperson/littleperson.html

September 2008 Issue:

The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), with the assistance of DLLR, is hosting a series of four no-cost, one day workshops to job seekers with disabilities around the State. The first workshop will be held at the Washington County One-Stop Job Center on October 20, 2008, the second at the Eastside Career Center on December 10, 2008. Two more will be scheduled in the Spring of 2009.

The No Spare Marylander workshops will provide information related to employment and disability. Activities that will be covered include resume and cover letter review, benefits counseling, and mock interviews. For registration information, visit our What's New page.

Labor Month Celebration

Submitted by Jackie Angerhofer

On September 25, 2008, in celebration of Labor Month the Aberdeen Workforce Center will conduct a workshop for teachers who work with transitioning youth with disabilities. The workshop will demonstrate internet tools that can be used to assist students with career exploration, job search and resume preparation. This workshop was developed in response to a teacher asking "How can you help someone with very limited language skills prepare a resume and learn about jobs?" The workshop will take a hands on approach and will be conducted in the Workforce Center computer lab. Websites that will be demonstrated include CareerOneStop, Maryland Workforce Exchange, Career Voyages and Maryland WorkFORCE Promise. The teachers will be encouraged to share the career videos (which are captioned) on the website with students as well as using the job description KSAs and task lists to assist with resume development and interview preparation skills.

At a future date, the students will visit the Workforce Center in small groups for an orientation and hands on assistance with using the Maryland Workforce Exchange. For more information on this workshop, contact Jackie Angerhofer at (410) 272-5400.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced that "America's People, America's Talent... America's Strength!" will be the official 2008 theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) leads the nation's activities and produces materials to increase the public's awareness of the contributions and skills of American workers with disabilities. Typically, private sector; federal, state and local government; and advocacy organizations piggyback on the same theme to plan events and programs that showcase the abilities of employees and job candidates with disabilities.

Help spread the message!  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has copies of the 2008 National Disability Employment Awareness Month poster available depicting this year’s theme, America’s People…America’s Talent…America’s Strength!, which is emblazoned on an image of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  The print copy of this poster is available in either a 20" x 30" and/or a 10" x 15" size. Requests can be sent to NDEAM@dol.gov.  To download the poster, visit ODEP's website. A link to the PDF version is near the bottom of the page.

What's Age Got To Do With It?

Submitted by Sheila Cuomo

Discrimination against someone with a disability is tragic enough but how about when an employer refuses to hire someone for both their physical disability and age?  We’ve heard of age discrimination of course and we advocate for customers with disabilities often.  This was a double whammy for Walter, an elderly gentleman who came to my office to receive counseling on how to address the issue of age and disability when he interviews with employers. 

Walter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth and does have some difficulty with his speech.  He looks older then his stated age and walks with a limp.  However, Walter has worked for the federal government for years and has acquired very marketable skills that make him qualified for several jobs.  Walter expressed a strong desire to continue working instead of being forced to retire. A year ago, he was laid-off from his last job and has been actively pursuing employment since.  When I first met him, it was apparent that Walter was depressed about his circumstances and needed support to continue his job search.  He discussed the age issue quite often. So one day I said: “Walter, what’s age got to do with it, if I were an employer I’d hire you in a minute based on your experience and your level of motivation to work”. 

I encouraged him to continue looking for a job and provided some assistance with interviewing, cover letters and resume development.  I coached him on what to say in his interviews especially when age became an issue.  He had several interviews and finally secured a full-time job.  He was very happy and I was very proud of him and made sure he knew it.  Now I have to make sure I practice what I preach when I grow up to be 65.

Focus on Anne Arundel

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we are adding a new monthly feature, called Focus On. This month we are focusing on Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation.

Anne Arundel One-Stop Career Centers: Available Assistive Technology
Anne Arundel County has three full-service One-Stop Career Centers. Due to previous investments from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation and the Division of Rehabilitation Services, the three centers offer a variety of assistive technology:

Annapolis and Arundel Mills One-Stop Career Centers

  • Large, flat-screen computer monitors
  • Word Prediction Software
  • Screen Reader Software
  • Screen Magnification Software
  • Headsets
  • Trackball Mouse
  • Large Print Labels with Braille for a computer keyboard

 Glen Burnie One-Stop Career Center

  • Large, flat-screen computer monitors
  • Word Prediction Software
  • Screen Reader Software
  • Screen Magnification Software
  • Voice Recognition Software
  • Headsets
  • Trackball Mouse
  • Large Print Labels with Braille for a computer keyboard
  • TTY
  • Height adjustable computer table

For more information about the Anne Arundel One-Stop Career Centers, visit www.aawdc.org or www.dllr.state.md.us.

Spotlight on the Step Up To Success Program!

The Step Up To Success Program, a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth program, is funded by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation and operated by the Anne Arundel Community College.  Since FY06, Step Up to Success has served over 80 Anne Arundel County eligible residents, between the ages of 16-21, who need GED preparation, career preparation and career exploration.  Program staff recently enrolled an additional 18 students for their first cycle in FY09. Each year, the program serves at least 30 students.

At no cost to the student, GED Preparation and Career Preparation/Exploration classes are held at the Arundel Mills campus of Anne Arundel Community College.  Step Up To Success students benefit from the program’s unique design that includes a small classroom setting (15-18 students), individualized case management, learning and general disability support, and a motivational and supportive environment.  Within the GED Preparation portion of the program, students receive customized GED instruction, assistance with the GED application process (including assistance with completion of GED special accommodations request forms), payment of the GED testing fee, GED tutoring, and online instructional components.

Within the Career Preparation and Exploration portion of the program, students receive customer service training (to include National Retail Federation Customer Service Testing and testing fee payment), career development, resume writing, interviewing and job search assistance, job readiness skills, transition guidance and assistance (further education, external diploma program information, apprenticeships, military, etc.), educational fieldtrip opportunities, and a “Day of Health” component.  During the “Day of Health” component, representatives from a variety of community organizations (i.e. Anne Arundel County’s Healthy Start and General Teen Health Programs, Mediation and Anger Management, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Young Fathers & Responsible Parents, Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, Drug & Alcohol Prevention, and Healthcare Resources) present a multitude of information and resources.  Subsequently, Step Up to Success staff assist students with navigating and connecting to the resources that they need. 

Program staff is co-located in the Arundel Mills One-Stop Career Center.  Students use the Center to not only go through the program eligibility, assessment, testing, orientation, and case management processes; but, to access information about job fairs, job opportunities, and One-Stop Career Center workshops.  In addition, students use the One-Stop Career Center computer lab, register in the Maryland Workforce Exchange, and get hot job leads from the business resource representative on staff. 

Since FY06, the program has accomplished many successes including:

  • 46 GED’s
  • 51 National Retail Federation certificates
  • 57 job placements
  • 2 military placements
  • 24 post-secondary education placements
  • 4 occupational training placements
  • 37 reading and language gains, according to CASAS testing
  • 47 math gains, according to CASAS testing
  • 16 scholarship awards to attend AACC (worth $19,500)

Over the past few years, due to the customized nature and design of the Step Up To Success Program as well as the program’s proven track record of successes, the number of students with disabilities participating in the program has increased from 46% in FY06 to 84% in FY09.  In order to assist with the growing number of students with disabilities, Step Up To Success staff have proactively developed strong partnerships with the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Anne Arundel County’s Special Education Department, and other disability-focused organizations to bring in more resources, staff training, and helpful information.  Staff receives many referrals, each year, from these resources.  Additionally, students who complete the program often tell other students about Step Up To Success, and how much they gained from the program.

For more information about Step Up To Success, contact Jules Johnson at jajohnson10@aacc.edu or 410-777-1830.

Veteran with Disability Success Story

In 2005, Anne Arundel County Local Veterans' Employment and Training Representative (LVER) worked with a 40 year-old disabled military retiree to find a job that matched her skills as well as her degree. Due to the LVER's connection to the Social Security Administration (SSA), he was able to assist her with obtaining employment as a Human Resources Assistant. In addition, she was able to obtain this position due to the Veterans Recruitment Act, an Act that allows federal agencies, if they wish, to appoint eligible veterans without competition.  Because she met the basic qualification requirements of the position, the SSA hired her to be a Human Resources Assistant with a starting salary of $48,000.  Now, she has been promoted to a Human Resources Lead Team position making $60,000.

United States Postal Service Recruitment Program for Veterans with Disabilities

Anne Arundel County's Local Veterans' Employment and Training Representative (LVER) is Maryland's Coordinator for the United States Postal Service (USPS) recruitment of veterans with disabilities and those returning from active duty.  Since 2004, quarterly recruitment workshops have been held to assist the USPS with recruiting for several different jobs, set-aside for veterans based on transferrable skills from the military. Jobs include carriers, a variety of clerk positions, mail handlers, motor vehicle/tractor trailer operators, auto mechanics, garage men, custodial laborers, mail processing equipment mechanics, electronic technicians, and building equipment/maintenance mechanics. 

During the workshops, interested veterans are thoroughly briefed by the Anne Arundel County LVER about the different jobs.  Veterans can access these jobs up to 120 days post active duty however, these jobs remain open to disabled veterans after the 120 days post active duty are up. 

The next Veterans’ Recruitment for Maryland is December 5, 2008, at 8:30 am in Baltimore, MD.  For more information, contact Jay McLeod, LVER at gmcleod@dllr.state.md.us. 

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I would like to develop some trainings that are specific for our customers with disabilities.  Is it OK to do that?

A:  Were you thinking along the lines of a workshop on disclosure? Or perhaps, interviewing techniques for handling inappropriate questions? Or, maybe, addressing physical or attitudinal barriers in the workplace?  These are all good examples of workshops or trainings that would provide helpful information to your customers with disabilities.  Certainly, these are fine to develop and provide.  What you cannot do is exclude or segregate your customers with disabilities, say, by having a “regular” MS Word Basics class and another, separate one for your jobseekers with disabilities. It is best to incorporate disability-related content into all workshops, and to accommodate all learners by using the tips shared in the April/May 2008 Work Matters issue that talked about different learning styles. 

I applaud your thinking and desire to reach out to your customers with disabilities.  A word of caution, though.  Make sure that you do not steer them to these workshops; advertise these offerings as you would all workshops, letting each individual decide for him or herself whether to attend.  Do not “insist that qualified people with disabilities receive aid, benefits, services, or training through these separate programs or activities. Rather, give people with disabilities the option of participating in the same programs or activities that are offered to people without disabilities.”  WIA’s nondiscrimination regulations “preclude recipients of Federal financial assistance under WIA from providing ‘different, segregated, or separate aid, benefits, services, or training’ to people with disabilities, or to any group(s) of people with disabilities… Instead, the regulations place upon recipients the specific obligation to administer programs and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of people with disabilities.” (Strategies and Practices for Effectively Serving All One-Stop Customers: A Framework for Systems Change)  

October 2008 Issue:

The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), with the assistance of DLLR, is hosting a series of four no-cost, one day workshops to job seekers with disabilities around the State. The first workshop was held on October 20, 2008 at the Washington County One-Stop Job Center. The next workshop will be held at the Eastside Career Center on December 10, 2008. Two more will be scheduled in the Spring of 2009.

The No Spare Marylander workshops will provide information related to employment and disability. Activities that will be covered include resume and cover letter review, benefits counseling, and mock interviews. For registration information, visit our What's New page.

Summer Youth Programs on the Shore

Submitted by Jackie Gast

This summer, thirty-four students went to work for seventeen different employers in Wicomico County through summer youth programs coordinated by Salisbury University intern, Andrea Coughlin.  The programs were funded by grants awarded to The Wicomico County Board of Education focusing on students with disabilities in Career and Technology Education, to Telamon Corporation focusing on out-of-school youth and to The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

Since October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and since nine of the thirty-four students had disabilities, highlighting this program was a must. Summer youth employment programs are not new in our area, however, when Bryan Ashby, Supervisor of Career and Technology Education (CTE), wrote this grant, he was very specific about the population he felt may have a tougher time getting on-the-job training opportunities. The students had to be in a CTE program and had to have a disability. The student’s selected had disabilities such as autism, deaf/hard of hearing and various learning disabilities. 

Shortly before Andrea Coughlin met the students, she was told that one quarter of the group had disabilities therefore qualifying them as having barriers to employment. She admitted that, inwardly, she pre-judged the group as many of us would tend to do. What she found by the end of the program was that the students with disabilities had better attitudes than their counterparts, wanted to learn and were interested in the job, not just the paycheck. Andrea also found she had developed a close bond to those same individuals by summer’s end. 

Andrea talked about one student who had a low score on a standardized test for math and reading. The student was interested in accounting so Andrea placed him with an employer who needed someone with office skills.  Although the student may have been pre-judged to not do very well, he actually excelled with his employer.  He was able to prepare spreadsheets as well as other work requiring computer skills in a timely manner. His employer loved him.

Another employer hired two individuals with disabilities and never knew the students had disabilities. The disability did not matter. The work from the individuals was very good and the employer had two successful placements.

Out of the thirty-four students hired, ten had difficulty at the job site.  Of those ten, only one had a disability. In other words, eight out of the nine students with disabilities in the program were successful, a much higher rate than those without disabilities.

As an employer, be sure to watch for this opportunity next summer!

Resources for Businesses

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) Webcast Series

Don't miss the chance to have JAN training delivered to your computer. These one-hour training opportunities bring expertise from JAN staff and other national experts to your computer for no charge! Space is limited, so register early. The webcasts are on the following days:

  • November 5, 2008 - America's Heros at Work: Hire Vets First
  • December 9, 2008 - Web Accessibility Issues for Your Companies On-line Application Process
  • January 13, 2009 - Conduct and Performance Issues in the Workplace
  • February 10, 2009 - Current Events in Accommodation
  • March 10, 2009 - Accommodation Options for Employees with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder
  • April 14, 2009 - Accommodation Issues for Employees with Diabetes
  • May 12, 2009 - Accommodation Issues for Employees with Hidden Disabilities
  • June 9, 2009 - Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace
  • July 14, 2009 - ADA Tricky Issues
  • August 11, 2009 - Telework and Work from Home

All webcast begin at 2:00 pm EST. For more information and/or to register, visit JAN's website.

Employer’s Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, from Forward Motion Coaching. Today the prevalence of Asperger’s Syndrome is estimated to be as high as 1 in every 250 people in the United States. Chances are you’re working with or have worked with people who have Asperger’s Syndrome. This guide is divided into three parts. The first explains what Asperger’s Syndrome is and the specific strengths of “the Asperger mind.” The second explores common challenges that these individuals face in the workplace, while the third section explains what employers can do to create work environments that are conducive to success. www.forwardmotion.info.

Focus On Baltimore County

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we are adding a new monthly feature, called Focus On. This month we are focusing on Baltimore County.

Veteran Success Stories

Networking with other staff members of the Baltimore County Workforce Development System, the Veterans staff assisted and provided training and employment information to a male veteran with a disability.  This assistance ultimately resulted in him applying for a position with the Baltimore County Workforce Development System as a Business Services Specialist. He was referred for additional advanced training through the Community College of Baltimore County where he obtained a training certificate.  Veterans staff remained in constant communication with him to keep him well informed about the job market. A strong relationship was developed during his employment search that culminated in the application to a county position as a Business Services Specialist. After the application process and two thorough interviews, he was selected for the position. On behalf of our Baltimore County office of Workforce Development Team, we filled another position with a strong professional disabled veteran.

A male veteran with a disability separated from the United States Marine Corps in 1970.  Despite his disability, he was able to retire from Local Union 486 as a pipe fitter in September of 2007. He visited a Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development One-Stop Career Center seeking employment the same month. Despite the fact that he had a good work history and excellent skills, suitable opportunities in the local area were slim. Therefore, his job search extended outside of Baltimore County and found a potential opportunity in Montgomery County. Working with him on a targeted resume, he forwarded his resume to John C Grimberg Co Inc, in Rockville, MD. The resume resulted in an interview and he was hired for a pipe fitter position in October of 2007 with starting wages of $20/hour.

Disability and Disclosure Training

On September 30th and October 3rd, over 30 One-Stop Career Center staff in Baltimore County received “Disability and Disclosure” training.  Two members of the Disability Program Navigator team provided the training that covered many different aspects of disability and disclosure in a One-Stop Career Center setting. 

The training began with a general overview of disability facts and statistics as well as an awareness activity about the presence of disability in our own lives; not only professionally but personally. 

The training continued with discussions about what disability-related information can be asked dependent upon what service they are receiving (Core, Intensive, Training or Business Services) and what One-Stop Center staff can and cannot do with this information. 

Finally, the training ended with a disclosure discussion regarding the many different considerations when deciding to disclose or not disclose disability to an employer. Attendees of this training also received a variety of helpful resources and tools.

If you would like to have this training offered in your One-Stop Career Center, contact your local Disability Program Navigator.

Baltimore Regional Employers Institute

The Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development and the Baltimore Mayor's Office of Employment Development recognize that a well-qualified, stable workforce forms the foundation of a strong regional business community. The two agencies partnered in September 2007 to honor five regional employers for the innovative recruitment and retention programs they successfully developed and implemented within their organizations. Winners were selected from five categories, including “Looking Beyond Barriers and Hiring Smart.”

In September of 2007, Acadia Windows and Doors, a manufacturing company in Baltimore County, was given the “Looking Beyond Barriers and Hiring Smart" for implementing safety modifications to hire individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, which resulted in a reliable workforce AND a much safer workplace for all employees. Acadia employs 63 manufacturing team members who produce over 35,000 windows and 5,000 doors each year. 

About 5 years ago, the Arc-Northern Chesapeake Region, a non-profit agency dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, provided Acadia with a powerful workforce solution.  The Arc worked with Acadia to analyze the different jobs within the company and suggested re-allocating specific job duties to Arc workers.  By doing this, Acadia will be able to speed up productivity and efficiency.  At first, Acadia was reluctant because of safety and management concerns.  However, Acadia made their first hire from the Arc, which was a tremendous success.  In fact, the employee thoroughly excelled in his job that he was soon promoted.  As a result of this experience, Acadia continued to hire from the Arc.  Five years later, Acadia has employed nine Arc workers and currently, employs five Arc workers who function as important contributors to the Acadia team.

Neill Christopher, VP of Manufacturing, stated “Many employers pay Arc employees minimum wage, but at Acadia we pay them exactly the same as everyone else on the floor.  The truth is, we don’t hire them to be altruistic: they are good, hardworking, and reliable employees.  They have quotas just like everyone else, and they’re good at meeting those quotas.” 

For more information about Acadia’s success with hiring job seekers with disabilities, access the manual entitled, “Acadia Windows and Doors: New Opportunities”.

Last September, The Baltimore County Workforce Development system nominated Software Decision Inc. (SDI) for the “Looking Beyond Barriers and Hiring Smart” category.  SDI, a company headquartered in Houston, TX, provides software and professional services to commercial and government clients.  Because of their significant investment in expansion and growth, the Maryland State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service contracted SDI to digitize the fingerprinting system at the Maryland State Police barracks.  SDI requested the assistance of the Baltimore County Workforce Development Systems Business Service Team to assist them in recruiting one hundred and twenty Baltimore County job seekers for their new location in Maryland.

During this recruitment effort, staff at Baltimore County’s Hunt Valley Workforce Development Center identified two potential candidates who had excellent qualifications for the SDI job opportunities. Both of these candidates were deaf/hard of hearing.  To ensure the best possible accommodations for the job candidates during the provision of One-Stop Career Center services and SDI job interviews, the business services team arranged for interpreter services.  SDI made the decision to hire one of the two candidates in the position of Segmentation Operator.  After he was hired, representatives from SDI shared that this employee is extremely productive and has become a valuable asset to their team.

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I am charged with reviewing our emergency plans.  Tips, please!

A: In planning for workplace emergency services, be sure to consider the needs of employees and customers who use mobility aids (wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches), or people who have limited stamina.  Also consider people who are blind or who have low vision, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who have cognitive disabilities, people with mental illness, and those with other types of disabilities.  Plans need to ensure that people with disabilities who use service animals are not separated from them during emergency evacuation.  The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) recommends holding… “mock evacuation drills to help identify needs that employees are unaware of; conduct hazard analyses to help identify hazards specific to the workplace; develop a method to identify visitors with special needs; and contact local fire, police, and HazMat departments for guidance.”  (Employers’ Guide to Including Employees with Disabilities in Emergency Evacuation Plans). 

JAN provides these additional tips for planning for emergency evacuation:

  • Have emergency alarms and signs showing the emergency exit routes.
  • Implement a "buddy system" for all employees. A buddy system involves employees working in teams so they can locate and assist each other in emergencies.
  • Designate areas of rescue assistance.  If these areas do not have escape routes, they should have 1) an operating phone, cell-phone, TTY, and two-way radio so that emergency services can be contacted; 2) a closing door; 3) supplies that enable individuals to block smoke from entering the room from under the door; 4) a window and something to write with (lipstick, marker) or a "help" sign to alert rescuers that people are in this location; and respirator masks.

Mobility

  • Remove any physical barriers (boxes, supplies, furniture) to insure a barrier-free route of travel out of the building.
  • Provide heavy gloves to protect individuals' hands from debris when pushing their manual wheelchairs, a patch kit to repair flat tires, and extra batteries for those who use motorized wheelchairs or scooters.
  • Arrangements should also be made to make wheelchairs available after evacuation.

Sensory Impairments

  • Install lighted fire strobes and other visual or vibrating alerting devices to supplement audible alarms. Lighted strobes should not exceed five flashes per second due to risk of triggering seizures in some individuals.
  • Provide alerting devices, vibrating paging devices, wireless communicators, or two-way paging systems to alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing of the need to evacuate.
  • Install tactile signage and maps for employees who are blind or have low vision. Braille signage, audible directional signage, and pedestrian systems are also available. These products may benefit other people who must navigate smoke-filled exit routes.

Cognitive/Psychiatric Impairments

  • Some individuals may benefit from pictures of buddies, color coding of escape doors and areas of rescue assistance, and information on tape or CD.
  • Consider the effects of training for emergency evacuation. Some individuals with psychiatric impairments benefit from frequent emergency drills, but for others, practice drills may trigger anxiety. Notifying employees of upcoming practice drills and allowing them to opt out of participation may be a reasonable accommodation. In this case, another form of training for emergency evacuation procedures may be needed, for example providing detailed written instructions.

If possible, involve a variety of people with disabilities in your planning and review. Each will have specific input regarding his or her disability, but remember that disability is not “one size fits all.”  Other people with the same disabilities may not have the same needs.  In the event of a real emergency, ask the person if he or she wants or needs your help.  Listen for an answer / instructions, and then do as he or she asks.   

Visit Maryland’s Department of Disabilities website for additional resources and educational materials on emergency preparedness.  Materials include American Sign Language videos, Emergency Preparedness Trainers Guide, Emergency Preparedness Path to Disaster Booklet, Family Emergency Communication Cards, Emergency and Disaster Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities Brochure, Prepare Yourself: Disaster Readiness Tips for Owners of Pets or Service Animals.

November/December 2008 Issue:

No Spare Marylander: Intensive Workshop for Job Seekers with Disabilities

The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), with the assistance of DLLR, is hosting a series of four no-cost, one day workshops to job seekers with disabilities around the State. The first workshop was held on October 20, 2008 at the Washington County One-Stop Job Center. The second workshop was held at the Eastside Career Center on December 10, 2008. The next workshop will be held in Salisbury at the Lower Shore One-Stop Job Market on Friday, March 27, 2009.

The No Spare Marylander workshops will provide information related to employment and disability. Activities that will be covered include resume and cover letter review, benefits counseling, and mock interviews. For registration information, visit our What's New page.

ADA Amendments Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law by President Bush on September 25, 2008 and will become effective January 1, 2009. The ADAAA, which overwhelmingly passed in both the House and Senate, expands civil rights to Americans with disabilities in the workplace and overturns several Supreme Court decisions that have reduced protections for certain people who were originally intended to be covered by the ADA. The following is directly quoted or paraphrased from the U. S. House of Representatives website.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was intended to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Just as other civil rights laws prohibit entities from basing decisions on characteristics like race or sex, Congress wanted the ADA to stop employers from making decisions based on disability. Unfortunately, U.S. Supreme Court decisions have narrowed the definition of disability so much that people with serious conditions such as epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, cancer, and diabetes have been determined to not meet the definition of disability under the ADA. The result: In 2004, plaintiffs lost 97% of ADA employment discrimination claims that went to trial, often due to the interpretation of definition of disability. People who are not hired or are fired because an employer mistakenly believes they cannot perform the job “or because the employer does not want people like that in the workplace” have been denied protection from employment discrimination due to these court decisions. The ADAAA of 2008 overturns the erroneous Supreme Court decisions that have eroded the protections for people with disabilities under the ADA, restoring original Congressional intent.

This new law is supported by a broad coalition of civil rights groups, disability advocates, and employer trade organizations including The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), who were also instrumental in the negotiating the content in the law.

Briefly, the law rejects strict interpretation of the definition of disability, and makes it absolutely clear that the ADA is intended to provide broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of disability.  It strikes a balance between employer and employee interests. It prohibits the consideration of mitigating measures such as medication, prosthetics, and assistive technology, in determining whether an individual has a disability. It covers people who experience discrimination based on a perception of impairment regardless of whether the individual experiences disability.   It provides that reasonable accommodations are only required for individuals who can demonstrate they have an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or a record of such impairment. Accommodations need not be provided to an individual who is only regarded as having an impairment. 

I recently attended the U.S. Business Leadership Conference in which there was a panel discussion on the ADAAA.  Panelists included representatives from SHRM and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Many are looking at the law as a much needed clarification of disability in the workplace.  There was an emphasis made that if a person is qualified, discrimination is prohibited.  The law will expand the number of individuals covered. 

It is important businesses review or create diversity policy for inclusion.  For more information, visit the EEOC's website.

Resources for Job Seekers

CareerOneStop was developed and is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provided free tools and resources to a variety of audiences on many topics. One of the resources for job seekers are the videos. The videos provide additional information about careers, career clusters, industries, work options and abilities. The videos are captioned and are available in Spanish.

For more information or to watch the videos, visit the CareerOneStop website.

Ask the Navigator

Q:  I would like to outreach to jobseekers with disabilities.  What are your recommendations for doing so?

A:  NDI Consulting, Inc., the National Technical Assistance and Training Provider for the Disability Program Navigator Initiative, compiled the following recommendations for marketing One-Stops to individuals with disabilities and community service providers.

  • Marketing materials: Create a title that addresses a broad range of individuals - not just individuals with disabilities (i.e. One-Stop Career Centers: Serving a Diverse Population of Job Seekers; One-Stop Career Centers: How can they be a Resource to me?; One-Stop Career Centers: A Universally Accessible System).
  •  If your marketing materials have pictures, include pictures of people with disabilities alongside people without disabilities.
  • Use accessibility symbols to promote the accessibility of your One-Stop’s physical location, programs and services. You can download the following symbols, and others like them, at no charge from the Graphic Artists Guild website (http://www.gag.org/resources/das.php).

  • Include your One-Stop Career Center’s TTY number along with the voice phone number and website. 
  • Be sure to note that your publication is available in alternate formats upon request.
  • Consider including an overview of the Workforce Investment Act
    • WIA Passed in August 1998; implemented by July 2000
    • WIA Governs One-Stop System
    • Key Principles of WIA
      • Streamlining services
      • Empowering individuals
      • Universal access
      • Increased accountability
      • State and local flexibility
      • Improved youth programs
  • Provide an overview of the One-Stop concept and approach.
    • States and communities integrate multiple workforce development programs and resources for individuals at the street level through a user-friendly One-Stop Career Center delivery system.
    • The One-Stop approach offers customers information and access to a wide array of job training, education, and employment services available at a single neighborhood location.
    • Customers have choices in deciding the services and/or training programs that best fit their needs, as well as the organizations that will provide that service.
  • Provide an overview of the three tiers of WIA One-Stop services: Core, Intensive, Training.
  • List the adaptive equipment and technology available in your One-Stop (i.e. JAWS, ZoomText, Kurzweil, adjustable work stations, alternative keyboard and mouse, TTY, etc.).
  • Provide information on issues of disclosure
    • Under the ADA, One-Stop Career Centers can ask jobseekers if they have a disability to determine eligibility for certain services. However, disclosing disability and information about it, is strictly voluntary.
    • There may be advantages and disadvantages to disclosing.
    • Disclosing disability is necessary for the jobseeker to receive accommodations in order to fully benefit from the services of the One-Stop Career Center.
  • State your One-Stop Career Center’s policy and procedure for providing reasonable accommodations. Include examples.
    • Help with filling out enrollment forms or job applications.
    • Providing a one-on-one meeting rather than a group orientation or workshop.
    • Written information provided in alternate formats (i.e. large print, Braille, electronic version, etc.)
    • Extra time using the resource room computers
    • Auxiliary aids and services (i.e. sign language interpreters, readers)

January/February 2009 Issue

Ask the Navigator

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

Q: Is work too stressful for jobseekers with mental illness and/or a history of substance abuse? Will it cause a relapse?

A: Work is actually beneficial for people who fall into these categories; it aids in the recovery process. Just like for everyone else, work helps to improve our self-esteem, provides life satisfaction, and offers a sense of purpose and direction. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "consumers who are employed for a meaningful length of time demonstrate significant improvements in self-esteem and symptom management compared with clients who do not work." (1) The Johnson & Johnson - Dartmouth Community Mental Health Program is nationally recognized for its work in this area and offers the following:

  • The best predictors of work success for persons with mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse are 1) a client's expressed interest in working and 2) previous employment history. Substance abuse is not a consistent predictor of work success or failure.
  • Many clients with substance abuse are interested in working and find work to be a good reason to cut back or stop their substance abuse.
  • Many clients with substance abuse have a variety of interests, employment histories and job skills that are valuable on the job.
  • Relapse of a substance use disorder is always a possibility, but employment may protect clients from relapse. Employment is associated with continued recovery; relapse is associated with unemployment, housing instability, and loss of social supports. (2)

If you find yourself working with a customer who needs those additional supports to avoid relapse and to improve his or her life situation, check out the followings sites:

"The only way you get well is by working. That's the only way.
My job helps." (3)

(1) NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness - Supported Employment
(2)
Dartmouth Evidence-Based Practices Center - Information Sheet Employment Supports for Clients with Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
(3) Dartmouth Supported Employment Center

Have a question for the Navigator?  Submit it to navigator@mdworkforcepromise.org.
Please reference “Ask the Navigator” in the subject line.

Stress and Unemployment

Being unemployed is a very stressful time for customers, the following are resources that provide tips on how to manage the stress of being unemployed.  

Coping with the Stress of Layoff and Unemployment - this article discusses the grieiving process and ways to manage the stress of a job loss.

Managing Unemployment Stress - this article provides tips to assist job seekers manage unemployment stress and "take control" with a proactive strategy for this time of transition.

Tips for Surviving a Layoff: Managing the Emotional Roller Coaster - this article can be found on a website called The Layoff Survival Guide. It provides steps a person can take to better manage his/her reaction to the peaks and valleys he/she will inevitably experience on this emotional roller coaster.

Unemployment and Job Loss Support - this article provides tips for perserving self-esteem and self-respect during unemployment.

Resources for Youth

School To Work Fact Sheet (pdf or text)
This fact sheet explains the various programs and opportunities that are available as youth make the transition from school to work. 

The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth (NCLD/Y)
NCLD/Y serves as a national youth-led information, training, and resource center. NCLD/Y focuses primarily on issues of youth development and leadership for youth with disabilities. For more information, visit NCLD/Y's website.

Youth @ Work: Real World, Real Rights
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) designed this site to teach youth about some of their rights and responsibilities as an employee. Some of the resources available are:

  • Youth@Work fact sheet - this fact sheet explains a young worker's employment rights and responsibilities under the laws enforced by EEOC.

  • Youth@Work brochure - The brochure contains information about the mission of the EEOC, the types of employment discrimination prohibited by federal law, the rights and responsibilities of young workers, and the process for filing a complaint of discrimination.

  • Youth@Work bookmark - The bookmark explains the mission of the EEOC and how to file a complaint of discrimination.
    For more information, visit the Youth @ Work website.

Youth with Disabilities
Developed by the D.B.T.A.C.: Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, this site provides resources for youth with disabilities in the following areas: Advocacy/Leadership Development, Disability History, Arts, Education/Transition, Bullying, Employment, Health/Recreation, Specific Disabilities, and Technology. Visit the Youth with Disabilities website

Focus on Baltimore City

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we have a feature called Focus On. In this newsletter, we are focusing on Baltimore City. 

Baltimore City Career Development Facilitator: A Success Story
Earl Cooper, a Career Development Facilitator for the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, acquired a disability in July of 1993 due to a work related injury.  After several years of requiring medical attention to include multiple surgeries, years of physical therapy and many years of using a wheelchair, he had plenty of time and support to explore his options in becoming self sufficient and reenter the workforce.  Despite the limitations he was forced to embrace, he was determined to carve out an enjoyable and rewarding career. 

Earl decided to seek a career in the human services profession. However, he discovered that he lacked the necessary educational qualifications. Therefore, he embarked on pursuing his education and attended Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) in the summer of 2000. While studying at BCCC, he was forced to take medical leave for a couple of semesters. Despite these medical setbacks, he maintained his focus and determination to continue his education. In 2004, he received two Associate’s Degrees- one as a Human Services Assistant and in Mental Health Technology.
In the fall of 2005, Earl furthered his education at the University of Baltimore (UB) and earned his B.A. in Human Services Administration in May of 2007. While a student at UB, he became an active member of the Disability Club (UB ABLE) and served as President for several semesters.

Towards the end of September 2007, he began his employment quest and submitted a number of applications and resumes to government agencies and private businesses. During his job search, he decided to write Mayor Sheila Dixon expressing his desire to reenter the workforce and requested her assistance.
Upon review of Earl’s letter and resume, Mayor Dixon forwarded his information to various city government department heads and was quickly contacted by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development/One-Stop Career Center.  Earl received an orientation to One-Stop Career Center services and registered himself in the Maryland Workforce Exchange to continue his job search. In addition, he met with a Business Service Representative (BSR) for individualized job search assistance. During a meeting, the BSR encouraged Earl to apply for an open Career Development Facilitator position at the One-Stop Career Center. 

In November of 2007, Earl accepted a temporary, full-time position as a Career Development Facilitator at the Northwest One-Stop Career Center. He quickly learned how to provide case management services to job seekers including career assessments, testing, job readiness and career counseling, and data entry. In February of 2008, Earl’s employment status changed from temporary to permanent.

In June 2008, Earl was given the opportunity to accept a position as the Career Development Facilitator for a new program called Your CHOICE (a Food Stamp Employment and Training program) housed in the Eastside One-Stop Career Center.  This new position allows Earl to use his creativity and continually enhance his skills as a Career Development Facilitator. 

Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities Career Fair
On November 19, 2008, the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities sponsored a Career Fair focused on connecting job seekers with disabilities to employment opportunities in the Baltimore City region.  The Commission, in partnership the Maryland State Department of Education-Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and local community service providers, held the Career Fair at the C.C. Jackson Recreation Center located in the Park Heights community of Baltimore City.

Prior to the Career Fair, local community service providers offered workshops, activities, and coaching to provide job seekers with job readiness and Career Fair assistance. 

The Career Fair was well attended by 155 job seekers who had access to 25 employers with various employment opportunities.  Employers ranged from the Social Security Administration to Port Discovery to Goodwill Industries.  In addition to gaining direct access to employers, computers were available for job seekers to complete job applications online. 

Career Fair was funded through Medicaid Infrastructure Grant funding from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare CFDA 93.768 and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“No Spare Marylander”: Statewide Series of Workshops for
Job Seekers with Disabilities

The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), with assistance from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, is hosting a series of no-cost, one day intensive workshops for job seekers with disabilities around the State.  Workshops will cover a wide variety of topics including an informational session about employment and disability, State and local employment resources and services, and job-seeking sessions about cover letters, resumes, job applications, interviewing and benefits counseling.

The first workshop was held on October 20, 2008 at the Washington County One-Stop Job Center in Hagerstown, MD.  This workshop was attended by fifteen participants and to date, one individual has received employment as a result of the workshop.  Participants overwhelmingly responded that this intensive employment workshop provided them with new information about programs available to them as well as helping them be better prepared for their job searches.  Highlights of this workshop included an interactive activity about our country’s disability and employment timeline. Participants toured the Washington County One-Stop Job Center and attended small break-out sessions focused on one-on-one resume critique, job interviewing techniques, job application and cover letter assistance and SSI/SSDI guidance.  One participant commented that the workshop assisted with “gaining the confidence to return to the workforce and not lose my benefits.”

The second workshop was held on December 10, 2008 at the Eastside Career Center in Baltimore, MD.  Seventeen people attended this workshop and like the Hagerstown attendees, participants felt, they had obtained a variety of helpful information about services for job seekers with disabilities during the workshop and as a result, they also felt better prepared for their job searches.  Workshop highlights included listening to three successfully employed individuals with disabilities share their personal journeys; touring the Eastside Career Center; participating in four small job readiness breakout sessions; and receiving a personalized flashdrive with job search materials, resources and an updated resume.  After the workshop, a participant shared that “the workshop was a blessing because I learned so much and it fueled my motivation again to look for a position as well as boosted my self-esteem because I've been looking for so long…I now know that I'm not the only person with a disability that is having a tough time landing a position.” 

The last two workshops will be held in Salisbury at the Lower Shore One-Stop Job Market on Friday, March 27, 2009 and in Prince George’s County on May 15, 2009.

The Maryland Disability Program Navigators would like to thank all of the staff and partners who participated in the activities prior to and the day of the workshops, we couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you.

Workshops are funded through Medicaid Infrastructure Grant funding from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare CFDA 93.768 and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

March/April 2009

Ask the Navigator

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

Q:  I am spring-cleaning my work area and found some disability symbols I printed out a while ago.  One is a wheel chair, another has two hands on it, and the last one looks like a phone.  I think I got the idea from one of your previous newsletters, but I don’t recall what I am supposed to do with them! 

A:  You are probably referring to the accessibility symbols I mentioned in the November / December issue.  You should use them to promote the accessibility of your One-Stop’s physical location, programs and services.  Place the signs next to the relevant equipment, location, or resources. For example, the wheelchair symbol (the universal symbol for accessibility) can be posted at the accessible entrance, bathroom, or to note a phone that is lowered to wheelchair height.  This symbol indicates access for individuals with limited mobility, not only for those who use wheelchairs.  For doors, hang the sign 60” from the floor to the center point of the sign, on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door.  The symbol with two hands indicates that sign language interpretation is available for the event you are advertising.  The third one you mentioned is either for a Volume Control Telephone, or for a TTY.  If it has a picture of a handset with sound waves, then it is for the volume control phone.  The TTY sign looks like a handset above a keyboard.  You probably have one or both of these in your resource room for your customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Best to post those signs where your customers can clearly see them from a distance – on the wall, above the equipment is a good location. 

Other symbols include:

  • A person using a cane: indicates physical access for individuals who are blind or have low vision.
  • The letters AD with sound waves: indicates audio description for persons who are blind or have low vision.  Used for television, video, film, performing arts, etc.
  • An ear with dots going in and sound waves coming out: indicates assisted listening system available.  Infrared, loop, or fm systems transmit amplified sounds.
  • The words Large Print: indicates materials available in large print.  This is a minimum of 18 point font, sans serif, left aligned, at least 1.25 spacing.  
  • The letters CC or OC: indicates closed caption and open caption, respectively; used in video, movies, television.
  • Two columns / three rows of dots: indicates printed material is available in Braille. 

So, go take a tour of your One-Stop!  Where do your signs need to be posted?  Make sure your customers with disabilities know that you have services, equipment, and resources available for them!  Proper signage throughout your center allows your customers to help themselves.

You can print the accessibility symbols in-house, or purchase them in plastic or metal.  Search “accessibility symbol signage” on the web, or ask at your local trophy and engraving store.  Download twelve accessibility symbols at no charge from the Graphic Artists Guild website.   

For rules and regs on posting accessibility signage, visit the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG) website.  Scroll down to Section 4.3 Signage. 

Have a question for the Navigator?  Submit it to navigator@mdworkforcepromise.org.
Please reference “Ask the Navigator” in the subject line.

Inclusive Emergency Planning

Submitted by Jackie Gast

All businesses have emergency plans for their employees. All businesses practice fire or disaster drills with their employees regularly. Sure. Of course many businesses do have plans but too many do not. Or perhaps their plans are incomplete. Having a plan, and practicing it, is essential to employee safety. 
 
According to the 2007 Disability Status Report for the United States, Cornell University, for Maryland, 25.9% of the workforce working full-time/full-year has one or more disability. Nationally, 1 in 3 people ages 65 to 74 have a disability. For those over 75, the number is 1 in 2 people. Based on this information it is important to have emergency plans that are inclusive of all people in the workplace, including people with disabilities and older workers.

I recently spoke with an employer who has an individual with a physical disability who is unable to walk at a quick pace.  He is mobile and does not use a wheelchair.  However, when practicing their evacuation drill, this employee was unable to evacuate within the required time.  A fellow employee volunteered to bring in a wheelchair from her home to be placed near the employee’s workstation.  In addition, since the employee is not used to a wheelchair, fellow employees made a plan as to who would help guide him if the need arose.  That plan was given to and accepted by management. The accommodation to ensure this employee's safety cost the employer $0.  Also, consider the positive corporate culture in this company as these plans were employee driven.

The above noted employee is not elderly, however, many elderly may not move as quickly as they used to.  Also think about employees who have temporary disabilities such as a broken leg, recent ankle surgery, etc.  While your company may not employ anyone currently with a disability, it could happen in the future, it could be you, and you need to be ready.

According to the Center for Disability and Special Needs Preparedness, your emergency plan should include

  • establishing two evacuation routes as one may be blocked,
  • determining “safe areas” in case of a tornado or air raid.  Include the fire marshal in designating those areas and ask if they have a register for people with disabilities at the station,
  • determine relevant needs for all employees including those with disabilities,
  • emphasize to the employees that they need to be as self-reliant as possible and to assume responsibility for their own safety. One never knows what events can transpire in the event of a real emergency,
  • make sure all employees are familiar with the company’s emergency warning system.  Be sure it is both visual and audio; most cell phones have GPS.  In case of a building collapse, this could be critical in finding an employee’s location,
  • employees may want to consider keeping a kit of necessary supplies like insulin or other medications and
  • consider language barriers including for deaf and hard of hearing.

Schedule the time this month to (re)develop a plan.  It is well worth it. Visit the Maryland Department of Disabilities website for more information on the emergency preparedness initiative in Maryland and for resources. Additional State and National resources can be found on the emergency preparedness section of this site as well.

Focus on Frederick County

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we have a feature called Focus On. In this newsletter, we are focusing on Frederick County Workforce Services.

Essential Disclosure Sheet in Orientation Materials
At Frederick County Workforce Services, it is mandatory for all job seekers to attend an orientation session. Orientations are held two times a week, for two hours per orientation session. These sessions provide job seekers with a comprehensive overview of the services offered at Frederick County Workforce Services, a tour of the Center including the accessible work stations, and an orientation packet full of helpful resources, information and job-seeking tools. At the end of orientation, job seekers are offered the opportunity to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a Frederick County Workforce Services Counselor.
 
Recently, the Frederick County Disability Program Navigators recommended the inclusion of an essential information sheet about disclosure of disability.  Patterned after an information sheet that Sacramento Works (California) produced, this sheet communicates a crucial message: Whether or not to disclose you are a person with a disability is your personal choice! Furthermore, this sheet states:

  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), One-Stop Career Centers may ask if you have a disability to determine if you are eligible for additional supports and services.
  • Your answer will help us to help you.
  • Visit our Services for Persons with Disabilities webpage at www.frederickworks.com/disabilities.html.
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to disclosing your disability.  Ask the staff person at the resource desk for the Work Matters fact sheet entitled “Disclosure”.  You can also access this and other fact sheets online at www.mdworkforcepromise.org/iwd.html.

By including this information sheet about disclosure, individuals with disabilities can make more informed choices about whether disclosing disability is the right decision for them!  For more information about this sheet, contact Margaret Mulligan (301-662-0099, x1294- mmulligan@waystationinc.org) or Leigh Jones (301-662-0099, x1292- ljones@waystationinc.org). 

A Great Way to Discover New Career Possibilities! 
April 27, 2009 through May 1, 2009, Frederick County Workforce Services will offer a new workshop series for job seekers interested in discovering their strengths and finding how these strengths can translate into better career matches.   This workshop series uses the Dependable Strengths Articulation Process©; a process that helps participants shift their thinking- to find out what they did right so they can be sure to do it again - by using evidence from their own lives.  Thus begins the process of uncovering their personal dependable strengths. 

The Dependable Strengths workshop is an intensive, non-traditional job search seminar that helps participants identify their core talents, skills, and abilities (pattern of dependable strengths).  Participants will learn how to talk about these strengths, develop techniques that will get them noticed and referred, to become a job magnet by making contacts, and to articulate how their strengths play an important role in the business for which they are interviewing. 

Ultimately, this workshop shows participants how to get in touch with their best selves and thereby unlock their hidden potential. This potential can be identified and brought to awareness, enabling people to do their best work and experience their greatest satisfaction and effectiveness in life.  Participants can discover career possibilities they may not have previously considered for themselves.

For more information, visit the Frederick County Workforce Services' website. The workshop flyer is posted In the Spotlight section of the website, at the link for “A great way to discover new career possibilities!”      

Resources for Troubled Times: A Panel Presentation for Frederick County Job Seekers
The staff at Frederick County Workforce Services took note of the overwhelmed expressions on their customers’ faces. At their February staff meeting, discussion centered on what more staff could do to help their customers through these difficult economic times. Janet Flanagan proposed inviting community partners in for a panel discussion on the services they could provide to FCWS customers. Janet took the ball and ran with it. By Monday, March 23, 2009, she had arranged for a special two-hour event to occur at the One-Stop Career Center for job seekers. The event, entitled “Resources for Troubled Times,” included representatives from Frederick County Department of Social Services, Frederick County Health Department, The Mental Health Association of Frederick County, and Community Action Agency Accredited Housing Counselors. Each representative gave a brief presentation about agency supportive services available to community members during times of unemployment.  In addition, attendees were able to participate in a dedicated Question & Answer session where attendees inquired about assistance with everything from medical bills to foreclosure avoidance to mental health counseling.The feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, e.g. “I’m so glad I came!” The presenters even remarked that they learned something new, and some were able to follow up on individual customers’ concerns that very day.

This panel presentation will be offered again from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm on April 24, 2009 at the Frederick County Workforce Services One-Stop Career Center; interested persons may register by calling 301-600-2255 (voice), 301-600-1862 (TTY), or visit their website.

Veteran Success Story

Mario Quilici, Frederick County Workforce Services (FCWS) Local Veteran Employment Representative (LVER), shared a success story about a male in his late 30’s, a veteran with a disability, medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 1990.  Since 1990, he worked in a variety of jobs, including an IT Technician and customer service representative. However, he was in search of a meaningful career, one that will utilize his transferable skills and abilities as well as his interests. 

In 2007, he began receiving vocational rehabilitation services, to include vocational and personal counseling, education and training, financial aid, and job assistance, through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Simultaneously, in order to access as many resources as possible, he participated in the Veterans Employment Services available through FCWS.   As he continued to move through the vocational rehabilitation process, he needed a work study site.  Because of his connectivity and familiarity with the FCWS and his growing interest in assisting disabled veterans with employment and training, he chose the FCWS as his work study site.  For the past 18 months, he works under the guidance of the Mr. Quilici to provide other disabled veterans with employment services 25 hours a week.  Because of his involvement with the VA, he is able to earn a monthly stipend.   In addition, he is working towards earning an AA Degree in Business Administration at Frederick Community College where he currently holds a 3.3 GPA.  His monthly stipend also includes money for tuition, books and other fee assistance.

In 6 months time, he will successfully earn his AA Degree.  He would like to continue his education and eventually, earn a Bachelor’s Degree in one or more of these areas of interest: Business, Veterans Employment Services and Counseling. 

Meeting the Needs of Customers with Mental Health Disabilities

Submitted by Dr. Sheila Cuomo

Customers who access the One-Stop Career Centers as their primary employment resource often have barriers related to stress and diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health problems.  This has been a challenge that is all too common among One-Stop Career Centers across the country. In an effort to enhance the level of accessibility to all individuals with mental health and psychiatric disabilities, MontgomeryWorks has sought to address this issue in a unique but effective way.  In the fall of 2008, an internship program was established, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, to focus on the mental health needs of customers by offering counseling services. These services are provided by graduate level students.

Three graduate level students have been assigned to the Intensive Services Unit (ISU) of MontgomeryWorks to provide rehabilitation counseling to customers. To fulfill a training requirement for their graduate program, students are required to complete a 100-hour practicum at a qualified training site and provide direct services to clients.  MontgomeryWorks become an eligible intern site for these students and has licensed clinical professional counselor on site who is providing the required supervision of the students.  The supervisor is available to offer students advice and expertise on addressing the needs of customers.  The students help to augment the current vocational services that are provided by ISU which in turn provides a more holistic level of service to customers with mental health problems that have been a pediment to vocational success in the past.

For more information on this program, contact Dr. Sheila Cuomo at scuomo@montgomeryworks.com.

May/June 2009 Issue

Ask the Navigator

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

Q:  I’ve noticed that people around me (jobseekers and co-workers) seem more stressed out these days.  Me, too, actually!   What can I do to help myself and others get through these tough times?

A:  Your question is so relevant to the times, and I am sure you are not the only one noticing the increased stress level at our One-Stops.  The American Psychiatric Association manages a website called “Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives.” The following material is taken directly from this site. 

Keeping your mental health in balance during times of increased stress – such as the current economic crisis – is an important part of your overall health and well-being. The challenge is to find effective ways to cope with this stress.  The American Psychiatric Association offers the following tips:

Balance Your Needs:  Mental health is essential to overall health. Recognize that stress affects your entire body. Physical activity, diet, sleep and stress management all play a part in having a healthy mind and a healthy life. Taking care of your own needs will help you remain healthy and able to respond to the needs of your family.

Surround Yourself with Supportive People: Look to family and friends for support when facing an emotionally stressful situation. Surround yourself with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind. Their encouragement and feedback will help you think positively.

Focus on the Positive: Avoid activities that cause you to dwell on why you’re stressed. Amid the steady drumbeat of negative economic news, limit your news consumption and make time for other activities, such as listening to music or reading a book. Make sure conversations with friends, family or co-workers do not dwell too long on stressful or negative topics.

Socialize and Have Fun: Invite friends and family for low cost and fun activities – watch a movie or play a game at home, take a hike or a walk, and/or arrange a neighborhood cookout. Inexpensive social activities can help keep you and your family healthy and focused on the positive.

Know When to Get Additional Support: Stay in tune with how you are feeling. Even when you are taking positive steps to manage stress, you can get to a point where you need additional help. If you notice that stress is interfering with your daily life, there are many places you can turn to for support – including your family doctor, religious or spiritual advisor, or a mental health professional.

Need help in locating mental health providers and resources for your local area?  Try the Mental Health Services Locator to find a mental health services directory, suicide prevention programs, youth violence prevention services, substance abuse treatment facilities, etc. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has its own facility locator for information about local VA Medical Centers, community out-patient clinics, Vet Centers, and Veterans Benefits Administration.

Have a question for the Navigator?  Submit it to navigator@mdworkforcepromise.org.
Please reference “Ask the Navigator” in the subject line.

Focus on the Lower Shore

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we have a feature called Focus On. In this newsletter, we are focusing on the Lower Shore.

Summer Teacher Institute for Transition Planning
Wicomico County Public Schools Transitioning Youth Coordinator, Barbara Bell along with Special Education teachers, Steve Bullock and Jeremy Wolfe are offering the Summer Teacher Institute for Transition Planning on June 12 and June 15, 2009.  The Institute will focus on providing up to 35 teachers with information, resources and tools to assist with transitioning students from high school to the world of higher education, training and work. 

Teachers will begin Day 1 by riding the local public transit system, Shore Transit.  After experiencing the challenges of the much needed public transit system, the teachers will meet at the One-Stop Job Market in Salisbury, MD to hear presentations by Jackie Gast, Director of the Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network and Disability Program Navigator followed by a panel discussion of local employers.  Day 1 will end with a tour of the One-Stop Job Market and the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance’s Mobile Unit One-Stop.  Day 2 will include a visit to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Wor-Wic Community College, several community service providers including Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, Lower Shore Enterprises, Dove Pointe and others.  Finally, teachers will end Day 2 learning about Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), work incentives, benefits counseling and other resources available to students.

Making the Connection Between Business and Job Seekers with Disabilities
Over the years, everyone has heard about the many barriers to employment for people with disabilities from both job candidates and employers.  This past year, two events were held, one for human resource managers and one for job candidates with disabilities.  Comparing the answers from groups’ evaluation results, very interesting challenges and questions are raised. 

In April of 2009 at the ESBLN Business to Business Employer Summit, Diversity at Work, in Ocean City Maryland, participants filled out evaluations asking what they perceived to be the most prevalent barrier to employment for people with disabilities.  The top three answers given in order of frequency were lack of management support or education; lack of knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act; and lack of knowledge about how to provide an accommodation.

In April 2009, a No Spare Marylander Workshop for job seekers with disabilities was held at the One-Stop Job Market in Salisbury, MD.  The participants were also asked about what they perceived to be the greatest barrier to employment.  Their answers were lack of self-confidence or fear of rejection; the appearance of the disability; and inadequate communication and awareness. 

Now put these two groups together and what do you get?   People without confidence trying to sell their skills and strengths to a non-accepting, unsure, wary management.  Pretty tough scenario. 

So what do we do about it?   Educate, educate, educate.  If the person can’t do the job, don’t hire them.  If they can do the job with a REASONABLE accommodation, HIRE them.  If you go the extra mile to accommodate, your new or retained employee will be likely to go the extra mile for you.

Good news.  At the time of the summit, only 36% of managers actively included people with disabilities into their recruitment strategies.  At the conclusion of the ESBLN Employer Summit, 93% of respondents said they were very likely or somewhat likely to include people with disabilities into their recruitment strategies.  As a result of the No Spare Marylander Workshop for job candidates, 100% of the participants who responded to the evaluations said that they felt better prepared for their job search.  Even better news, a participant in the No Spare Marylander workshop, has found part-time employment though the ESBLN/Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce/One-Stop Job-Market network.

The ESBLN is a resource for the nine eastern shore counties of Maryland and Virginia and Delaware.  There is no charge, only a wealth of information and support for business- visit ESBLN's website for more information. .

Disclaimer, these results are from a small sampling.

No Spare Marylander: Salisbury, MD
On March 27, 2009, the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) held the next “No Spare Marylander” Workshop at the One-Stop Job Market in Salisbury, MD.   

This full day Workshop was a collaborative effort between the staff of the One-Stop Job Market, the Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network, Maryland’s Disability Program Navigators, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, Telamon, and other agencies within the One-Stop.  In addition, several business professionals from K & L Microwave, PRMC, TTY Mobility Products, Mimir Marketing and Quality Staffing Services participated during the afternoon break-out sessions.

MDOD Secretary Catherine Raggio presented during the morning session, including personal discussions with each of the Workshop participants.  Jade Gingerich, Director of Employment Policy for MDOD, led an interactive discussion about the history of disability law.  A panel consisting of local agency leaders talked about services for people with disabilities within their agencies as well as a local and regional economic employment outlook.  Following the panel, three employed individuals with disabilities shared their personal success stories (see the Success Story highlighted below).

The afternoon activities consisted of break-out sessions to include a “ready-to-go” resume, job application education and tips, mock interviews and benefits counseling for job seekers wanting to work while maintaining health benefits.

To date, as a result of the NSM Workshop and networking with the ESBLN/DPN and Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, one of the attendees obtained a part-time job with Nick, Inc., a transcription and document scanning company in Salisbury. 

Success Story
A little over a year ago, Jackie Gast, Director of the Eastern Shore Business Leadership Network (ESBLN), received a call from Renee Stephens, Eastern Shore Regional Manager for the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, referring NSite’s President Tom Cropper who was in need of recruitment assistance.  NSite, a software development company, was in search of a customer service tech support person and a programmer.  As a result of these business relationships and a variety of community resources, Dave Roberts gained employment with NSite as a customer service tech support representative.  Jackie Gast also works as the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) for the upper and lower eastern shore, coordinating the lower shore No Spare Marylander (NSM) Workshop in March.  Ms. Gast asked Mr. Roberts if he would to talk to workshop participants about how he overcame adversity leading to his employment success to which he gladly agreed.  After his presentation, he shared these comments with Ms. Gast:

…The ESBLN and Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) have made such a huge difference in my quality of life that I would like to avail myself to your workshops in the future should you need someone to share a positive experience. Please call upon me at anytime!" 

I personally enjoyed learning more about the history of all the effort and legalities it has taken over the past 40 years or so for me to even be part of such a workshop. I cannot say enough about Bob Fairbank (DORS Counselor), he truly is a gem - he helped me start thinking positively about my own future instead of wallowing in self-pity…My father used to teach me "Son you gotta want it" ....I remember those words when I was changing my first tire and he knew I could break those lug nuts loose if I really went after it with 110% effort, and he was right - that is one aspect I hope the attendees got from me. 

Those of us coming through your wonderful system need to put forth at LEAST as much effort as those who have had the vision to create the ESBLN, DORS, Lower Shore Enterprises (et.al.) and those who currently make "The Network"  the outstanding success that it is today.  You all make people's lives better - there's no greater good in this world!”

Attendees of the NSM Workshop enjoyed hearing about Dave’s success and all of the incredible resources he used in order to achieve his success.  Thanks Dave for your participation!

Business Network Forum Training

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

The Business Network Forum: “Bottom Line Solutions for Hiring Workers with Disabilities” was an excellent opportunity for businesses in the Baltimore region to learn about the benefits associated with hiring persons with a disability.  The Business Network Forum took place on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 from 8:30 AM – 12:00 Noon at the Workforce & Technology Center (WTC) in Baltimore, MD. 

Businesses heard information about:

  • Employment Resources for Businesses that Hire People with Disabilities (One Stop Career Center and Division of Rehabilitation Business/Employment Services)
  • Rite Aid Best Practice: “Why We Make It Our Business to Hire People with Disabilities”
  • ADA Employment Laws, ADA Amendments Act, Business Concerns about Health Insurance and Worker’s Compensation, and Tax Credits/Incentives
  • Assistive Technology Demonstrations
  • Disability Etiquette in the Workplace

In addition to the sessions, there was an opportunity for forum participants to tour the Workforce & Technology Center.  The Workforce & Technology Center is Maryland’s workforce development center for people with disabilities.  The forum was sponsored in partnership with the Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development, Disability & Business Technical Assistance Center, Division of Rehabilitation Services; and Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. 

National Naval Medical Center Training

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

As part of the Veteran Speakers Network and the Disabled American Veteran Roundtable group, a training to educate employers entitled, “Ready, Willing and Able: Hiring and Accommodating Veterans” was held at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD on May 7th, 2009 from 8:00 am - 12:00 noon.  The training included speakers talking about the neuropsychological impact of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress on veterans returning to work (Dr. Maria Mouratidis, Neuropsychologist), how to recruit and hire veterans (Maggie Leedy, Maryland Lead Disability Program Navigator and Sara Muempfer, Disability Program Navigator), and accommodations for veterans returning to work (Leonard McPherson, Assistive Technology Consultant).  The training concluded with a panel of veterans and employers who shared their personal experiences with returning to work.  To read more about this training, visit the National Naval Medical Center website. To view the training, visit the US Navy - US Marine Corps VideoTeletraining Streaming Site and select “View Archived Class.”

July/August 2009

Ask the Navigator

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

Q:  What’s the best type of job for someone with a developmental disability?

A:How about a professional puppeteer?  Or, a hotel maintenance man?  Or, working in a day care center, or with the elderly population, or at a local rec center or YMCA?  Probably not the answers you were expecting…  But, really, every person is different, and each brings his or her own unique skill set and lifetime experiences.  The best type of job?  I say it would be whatever best matches the individual’s interests and strengths.  Really, it’s what we all want, isn’t it?  Our dream job.  A job we love because we love what we do.  People with developmental disabilities are no different.  They have dreams and aspirations.  They have talents and skills and favorite things to do.  They have goals like working, getting married, or living independently.  There are things that bring out the best in them and things that bring out the worst.  Just like you and me.  A difference could be that some might need help with identifying and achieving their goals.  Person-centered planning, interagency collaboration, job coaching, job negotiation and job creation are all best practices that ensure these individuals find employment that matches who they are at their very best.  Read about these best practices and the people they have helped at Real People, Real Jobs.  You’ll be surprised, inspired, and ready to learn more about what you can do to help other jobseekers just like them! 

Have a question for the Navigator?  Submit it to navigator@mdworkforcepromise.org.
Please reference “Ask the Navigator” in the subject line.

Focus on Montgomery County

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

In order to highlight best practices occurring in One-Stop Career Centers around the State of Maryland, we have a feature called Focus On. In this newsletter, we are focusing on MontgomeryWorks.

Corporate Immersion Event: Career Fair and Training Event for Veterans with Disabilities
On Friday, July 17, 2009, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, the 3rd Corporate Immersion event took place at the MontgomeryWorks Sales and Service Learning Center in Wheaton, MD.  Corporate Immersion, a collaborative effort of several national and statewide veteran-service and disability-oriented organizations , as well as private, non-profit, federal, state and local employers and education institutions, is a Career and Training event targeted to assisting wounded warriors and veterans with disabilities.  The event serves two customers: veterans transitioning back into the workforce and employers interested in providing veterans with employment opportunities.

For veterans, this event provided a “safe” environment to learn about transitioning into civilian life.  In a Career Fair setup, 25 veterans had the opportunity to connect with them, learn about job opportunities and receive feedback about their resumes, presentation and interview skills.  Additionally, several of the veterans participated in one on one resume assistance and mock interviews with employers.  Overall, the event provided transitioning veterans with disabilities valuable information about how to achieve their transition goals.

On the other hand, for employers, this event provided them with the opportunity to connect with skilled veteran job candidates as well as to better understand the process veterans undergo when transitioning into civilian employment.  Over 10 employers participated in the Career Fair portion of the event and several of the attending employers volunteered their time to provide resume critique as well as participate in mock interviews.  Employers were able to give the veteran attendees precious feedback and advice about how to truly showcase their innumerable skills and abilities. 
This dedicated group of veteran and disability-related professionals continue to improve and plan future Corporate Immersion events; always with the common mission of connecting veterans with disabilities to employment.  If you are interested in learning more, contact Billy Wright at 703-448-6155, x244 or bwright@cessi.net.

MontgomeryWorks Internship Program
In October 2008, through an agreement between the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work and MontgomeryWorks (MW), an internship program was developed in order to serve the needs of customers experiencing significant barriers to employment as a result of mental health issues and the stress of unemployment.  Social Work graduate students were given the opportunity to participate in this unique internship program in order to complete their 100 hour practicum. 

Last fall, this program began with one intern who provided counseling services to Intensive Services job seekers at the MW One-Stop Career Center in Wheaton, MD.  Job seekers were selected based on their need for more intensive and additional counseling services.  The intern worked with these job seekers to prepare them for job readiness, make referrals to outside mental health agencies, offer resources to augment counseling services onsite and assist them with managing their stress of unemployment.

This student intern was supervised by the Montgomery County Disability Program Navigator, Dr. Sheila Cuomo, ED.d, a Maryland licensed mental health therapist qualified to supervise students.  Having a counseling intern onsite, at the One-Stop Career Center, proved to be very beneficial for the Center as well as the job seekers because it provided more individualized services and assistance with mental health issues, vocational counseling and case management services.

As a result of this successful, pilot internship program, MW welcomed 2 more interns in January 2009 from the same University of Maryland School of Social Work program.  These interns also successfully completed their 100-hour practicum at MW and as a result of their valuable experience of working with a diverse group of job seekers at MW; both interns requested the opportunity to complete their 600-hour practicum at MW.  The request was granted and both students will begin their internship in the fall of 2009.  Both student interns will carry a caseload of job seekers and provide individual counseling to these job seekers in the area of mental health counseling, vocational counseling and case management services.  In addition, these interns will work in conjunction with workforce development specialists to develop employment goal plans for job seekers and continue to receive weekly supervision by the licensed DPN onsite.

WISE Event at MontgomeryWorks
On July 17, 2009, MontgomeryWorks sponsored and facilitated a Workforce Incentive Seminar Event (WISE), a free community event sponsored by the Social Security Administration.  This event was held at the Wheaton, MD One-Stop Career Center and training was provided by a Community Workforce Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) from Independence Now, Inc., a Center for Independent Living.  CWIC’s provide assistance and training to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries about going back to work and accessing work incentives to do so.

As a result of the WISE, 13 beneficiaries attended and received detailed information about the benefits of returning to work.  Detailed questions and concerns were addressed in this venue to specific beneficiaries who were initially reluctant to return to work for fear of losing their benefits.  In addition, beneficiaries heard about employment services, resources and local training opportunities offered by the MontgomeryWorks One-Stop Career Center.

Business Case for Hiring Individuals with Disabilities

Submitted by Jackie Gast

Did you know that many of today's hottest technologies were first developed for people with disabilities? Take text messaging. Long used by the deaf community, it’s an increasingly popular communication tool for everyone. Similarly, the technology used to improve wheelchairs now powers people on Segways® up and down city streets.

What powered these ideas was innovative thinking—the same kind of thinking that drives business success. To effectively compete, businesses of all sizes need employees who can think outside of the proverbial box, especially in today's difficult economic environment. And more and more employers are discovering a ready source for such talent—people with disabilities. On a daily basis, people with disabilities must think divergently about how to tackle challenges and get things done. At work, this translates into innovation.

For this reason, innovation is one of the key themes highlighted in the Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities, an online, multi-media resource that illustrates how people with disabilities add value to America's businesses across six key concerns common to all employers, regardless of size or industry. In addition to innovation, the Business Case addresses return on investment, human capital, marketing, diversity and social responsibility.

A few years ago, when Walgreens Co. adjusted the technology used in one of its distribution centers to make it easier to use for employees with disabilities, it quickly found that the change actually made everyone more productive. "We got rid of the keyboards. Replaced those with touch screens," a company representative said. "And guess what we discovered? This makes it better for everyone."

Of course, innovation isn’t always about technology. When Michigan-based A & F Wood Products, Inc. worked with an employee with a visual impairment to reorganize a workstation for optimal productivity, the company found that the new layout made more sense for all employees. Sometimes the most innovative ideas are the simplest—all that’s needed is a fresh perspective.

The Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities, which includes Frequently Asked Questions on disability employment, is one of many resources available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to help America's businesses implement policies and programs that foster more inclusive workplaces. View the Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities.

Publications of Interest

Access for All Customers: Universal Strategies for One-Stop Career Centers
By:David Hoff, Elena Varney, Lara Enein-Donovan, Cindy Thomas & Sheila Lynch Fesko 

One-Stop Career Centers serve a diverse range of customers. These include individuals with a variety of educational and work backgrounds, people from diverse racial, linguistic and ethnic cultures, as well as individuals with a wide range of disabilities and support needs. One way of addressing the needs of this diverse customer base is to develop services and systems that respond to the needs of each of these groups. However, this can be expensive and labor-intensive. A more effective way to serve this broad customer pool is to provide One-Stop services according to the principles of what is known as "universal design," using common strategies that benefit many groups and that reinforce the concept of an inclusive setting that welcomes and celebrates diversity. For more information on Universal Design, visit the Institute for Community Inclusion's website.

Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently published new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidance on conducting accessible and inclusive meetings. This guide covers access to meeting sites as well as presentations, printed materials and other forms of communication. Information is provided on how to evaluate the accessibility of meeting rooms, parking, routes and entrances and restrooms. This guidance covers the layout of meeting spaces, accessible circulation and seating, provision of printed materials in accessible formats and making audible communication accessible through assistive listening systems, real-time captioning and sign language intepretation. To access this guide, visit DOJ's website.

2009 NDEAM Theme Announced

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has announced "Expectation + Opportunity = Full Participation" as the official them for October 2009's National Disability employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It is intended to urge employers, as they seek to fill positions, to embrace the richness of America's diversity by considering the talents of all workers, including workers with disabilities. For more information, visit ODEP's website.

September/October 2009 Issue

Join Us At Raising the Bar

Submitted by Leigh Jones

On November 5 – 6, 2009, the Raising the Bar conference is being held at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City, MD. Come join Dr. Sheila Cuomo and I at our Stress, Yours, Mine and Theirs workshop. One of the most common comments we are hearing from One-Stop Career Center Staff has been that they are seeing many more customers experiencing stress during these tough economic times. Our workshop will provide attendees with practical tips and tools for sharing and working with jobseekers who are experiencing increased levels of stress due to unemployment. This workshop touches on how to identify when jobseekers might be experiencing something more than stress (i.e. mental health issues) and what do to in this situation. Furthermore, this workshop equips attendees with tools, resources and practical ways to better manage and cope with their own stress due to the increase of jobseekers needing services as well as jobseekers. We hope to see you at our workshop!

Raising the Bar provides workforce development professionals from numerous fields with the opportunity to enrich their knowledge and skills, and network with others in the workforce. Topics that will be addressed at this year’s conference include, but are not limited to, the economy....Assisting job seekers....Removing barriers....
Innovative programs....Green jobs.... Technology....American Recovery and Reinvestment Act... Serving Businesses....
Leadership....Networking... Rediscovering the passion for work.
If any of these topics strike a chord, you need to be at Raising the Bar 2009. For more information and/or to register for Raising the Bar, visit the conference website.

See you in November!

Ask the Navigator

Submitted by Margaret Mulligan

Q:  I heard something about disability month and am interested in learning more.  What’s the scoop?  (btw, I love this newsletter – it always has such interesting articles!) 

A: Great question and perfect timing!  Every October, we recognize the contributions and skills of employees with disabilities as the U.S. celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).  According to U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), NDEAM began in 1945 as an “effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment…”  (There have been many changes and improvements over the years.  I’ve posted a little history at the end of this article.)  This year’s theme is ‘Expectation + Opportunity = Full Participation’.  Do you want to celebrate NDEAM at your One Stop?  You can start off by visiting the ODEP website learn more and to order free posters.  Then, pick a day or a week, or whatever works best for your One-Stop and plan a disability awareness event.  Possibilities include bringing in guest speakers for your customers or for your October staff meeting (or, both!).  Another possibility is to hold an open house for community service providers in your area.  You can also order free publications to distribute to your business customers.  Find free pubs at the Maryland Department of Disabilities and ODEP websites.  Both sites offer brochures and fact sheets on a variety of topics including reasonable accommodations, business tax incentives and credits, disability and workplace culture, emergency preparedness, employment laws, and recruitment and retention.  These are just a few ideas for NDEAM events. I’m sure you will think of the perfect event for your One-Stop.  Get creative and have fun with it!  Oh, and thanks for the compliment!  We work hard on this newsletter to make sure we provide you with relevant and interesting information. 

NDEAM history:  In 1945, Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October of each year National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word ‘physically’ was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Have a question for the Navigator?  Submit it to navigator@mdworkforcepromise.org.
Please reference “Ask the Navigator” in the subject line.

Youth Employment on the Shore

Submitted by Jackie Gast

Most students have been back to school for a month or more, but for many students on the Shore, school never really ended.  There were hundreds of students in the tri-county area involved in summer employment that also included an academic piece.  

Over the past twelve months, fourteen students successfully finished a program designed to prepare them for the workforce.  These high school students from throughout Wicomico County were recruited from Career and Technology Education located at Parkside High School.  The students accepted into the program participated in workforce training beginning in September of 2008.  Each month they met for two hours learning about customer service, ethics in the workplace, expectations of employers, expectation of employees, and other work related subjects.  By the end of the school year, the students and instructors had developed a student handbook designed to help them to be successful employees.  As you guessed it, the next step was to gain summer employment. 

Partnering with the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, all fourteen students found employment with twelve different employers in industries such as construction, landscaping, office work, custodial, horticulture, and hospitality.  The term of employment was for six weeks and wages were paid by a grant from the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance - a nice benefit to employers particularly in this economy.  It is important to note that none of the students replaced displaced workers.   A handbook was also developed for participating employers to ensure that the student was getting a good job experience and to be clear about expectations. 

One of the male students in the program was very quiet, did not care much for classroom learning and had long hair that was a little concerning to the instructor when it came to interviewing time.   The day before this student was to interview for a construction job, he showed up with his hair neatly cut.  When the surprised instructor asked why, he said he wanted to look good to his employer.  After starting his job, the employer commented that the student has a wonderful personality, is a hands-on learner, appreciates everything anyone does for him and is a hard worker.

This Wicomico County program concentrates only on students with disabilities.  Even with students with a variety of disabilities no accommodations were necessary on the job. Accommodations were necessary for the training prior to being placed on the job and a Deaf student was placed in a workplace that had employees who knew how to sign, but that was all that was necessary.  Every student successfully completed this program and work experience.  Several employers asked to have the six week term extended and some are hoping to hire on a permanent basis. 

Fortunately, this program will begin again this year.  If you have any questions regarding this program or know of a company that would like to participate next summer, contact the Chamber at (410) 749-0144.

Southern Maryland Workforce Services: Collaborative Team Meeting

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

On September 17, 2009, at the Prince Frederick campus of the College of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland Workforce Services (comprised of both Wagner Peyser and WIA staff) had a collaborative meeting with Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) staff to facilitate communication and a stronger working relationship between all involved agencies. 

The meeting began with an interactive game that looked at the myths and facts about each agency’s services.  Staff learned a great deal about what each agency can and cannot do but even more so, spurred discussion, ideas and thoughts about how to collaborate for the best job seeker outcomes.

The next portion of the meeting was a short learning session about disability awareness and etiquette.  Meeting attendees took a short quiz about using people-first language, communicating with individuals in the most effective matter, and busting common myths about individuals with disabilities.

Ellen Flowers-Fields, the Director of Economic Development for the Southern Maryland Tri-County Council, ended the day with a summary of the pre-meeting survey responses that cross-agency staff completed and shared her hope that what attendees learned clarified correct and perhaps, incorrect perceptions.  Finally, she asked meeting attendees to write on display paper the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats they feel Southern Maryland faces as a collaborative delivery system.  Ellen made a few immediate suggestions for collaboration after looking at the activity results.  Furthermore, she stated that this analysis will be used by the collaborative leadership to develop action plans around addressing the challenges, maximizing the opportunities and minimizing the threats. 

Staff left the meeting, commenting that they learned new information, met new staff in other agencies, and hope to collaborate on a couple of immediate job seeker cases.

More No Spare Marylander Workshops in 2009!

Submitted by Sara Muempfer

During the Fall and Winter of 2009, the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) will continue their ongoing partnership by hosting two “No Spare Marylander” workshops in the Harford and Anne Arundel County regions for job seekers with disabilities.  These regions will be targeted due to the expected influx of employment opportunities due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). 

This full day workshop will remain a collaborative effort between the combined expertise of the One-Stop Career Center and Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) staff, Maryland’s Disability Program Navigators, other community agency staff, and the local/regional business communities. 

These intensive job seeking workshops will provide a variety of employment resources, services and tools to assist job seekers with disabilities during their employment search.  Workshop sessions will include an interactive discussion about how recent disability employment legislation impacts individual employment situations, a panel of local agency leaders sharing information about employment services for people with disabilities, and personal success stories from three employed individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, job seekers will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of businesses about the qualities of a great employee as well as expectations within the workplace.  To complete the workshop, job seekers will rotate between four break-out sessions: writing a “winning” resume, participating in mock interviews, learning how to apply for federal jobs and receiving benefits counseling for job seekers wanting to work while maintaining health benefits.

For more information regarding these upcoming “No Spare Marylander” workshops, contact Sara Muempfer at smuempfer@dllr.state.md.us.  

 

 
 

 
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