The blog this week was written by George T. Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. This country needs new approaches, and the large population of people with disabilities provides a pool of talent to draw from. We cannot afford to throw people away because they require us to make changes in order to include them.
Let’s consider some changes in the marketplace that could shift our thinking about what people can do and may well result in an economic landscape that is not only more equitable but more viable as well.
In this time of significant unemployment for far too many people, we need to ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to welcome everyone into the workplace. Yes, we are talking about everyone, including people with disabilities. The fact that others without disabilities are struggling to find jobs cannot be an excuse for making people with disabilities ‘wait until the economy improves’.
We need to stop wasting the time and the talent of so many of our citizens, when we know enough to make alternations and accommodations in the marketplace for all who want to work.
The focus of many job training programs has been on preparing the individual for work. Certainly these efforts are needed. People need to learn job-specific competencies, as well as job-related skills like good hygiene practices and appropriate social interactions.
It also makes sense for employers to make changes in their environments and their ways of doing business to welcome people who are different. Let us consider a person on the autism spectrum, who may behave in ways that are not typical but who has specialized skills that a business needs. It is time for the business to change itself to include this worker, rather than place all the burden on that person to fit in. This approach makes good business sense in an age when businesses are crying for people with certain skills and need creative approaches to problems.
Consider some of our very successful entrepreneurs in recent years. Some of them would not have ‘fit in’ to many typical business environments, because of their social skills, or lack thereof. This is a time to embrace the nonconformist, the one with highly idiosyncratic behavior.