The Americans With Disabilities Act that was put into effect 20 years ago has both pros and con for people with disabilities. In a recent article by Joe Entwisle, Senior Policy Analyst for Healthy & Disability Advocates, titled “ No Special Treatment for Workers with Disabilities, Please” he discusses how the ADA can hinder and help workers with disabilities.
He states in the article, “The ADA clearly states that individuals, disability or not, must be able to fulfill the core functions of the job for which they are applying. The law is crystal clear: Either you have the requisite skills to perform the essential functions or you do not. There’s no gray area: no special treatment is required.” I feel like this is so important to remember. As a person with a disability I know that there are jobs that I cannot do because of my disabilities, and that is something I had to come to terms with. I want to be able to work in place where I can do a great job and bring something to the table. People have asked me, “Whose responsibility is it to know what a person with a disability can and can’t do?” I believe it is the responsibility of the individual with the disability. Just like everybody else looking for a job, you look for what you are qualified for.
One of the most important things Mr. Entwisle brings up is how important it is for an individual with a disability to have performance reviews and to be held to the same standards as everyone else. He states he wants to be treated like everyone else and to know what he can do better at his job.
In the article, Mr. Entwisle highlights where the ADA can backfire. When he worked on a project with Bill Russel, an individual with a disability, he was shocked that Russel’s skills were rusty. Russel holds two Master’s degrees, however, he has worked in a job for 20 years and still struggles with basic tasks. Mr. Entwisle states that is because Russel never had a boss to mentor him. Mr. Entwisle states, Russel didn’t know he was doing a bad job because no one ever told him.
As a person with a disability, I would like people to be straight with me even if it’s hard for me to hear. When my boss or manager critizes my work I feel like it is a positive thing, which I think, can never be a bad thing. It means that they believe I can do better and they have high expectations for me. Even in school, I appreciated the teachers who were hard on me and who pushed me to reach my potential.
I agree with Mr. Entwisle, “The ADA is not just about hiring – though that’s a big part. The ADA is about consistently nurturing and developing a worker’s abilities and holding their skills and talents to the standards of everyone else, while providing needed accommodations where feasible for the employer.” Mr. Entwisle wrote the article because he wants to change Corporate America’s mind, to see workers with disabilities as an assets.
I believe Mr. Entwisle advice to businesses are great, “Don’t be nervous about hiring someone with disability. Lawsuits are few and far between, and the ADA is on your side. Hold us to your highest standard and we’ll aim to be your best workers.”
jjslist.com, where I work, has the same philosophy. When jjslist.com merged with Search, Inc. and started the NO BOUNDARIES – Train for Work, Train for Life program we decided to focus on teaching people with disabilities work skill readiness skills. We believe people with disabilities can be in a competitive work environment, and should be held to the same standards. I believe those standards can be met if it is expected.
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About the Author:
Sarah Armour is the Business Assistant at jjslist.com. She enjoys managing the website, bookkeeping, coordinating the Disability-Awareness Trainings and organizing the Hop on the Bus to Independence Program. She graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, IA, in 2008 with a BA in Sociology. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.