Beyond we go!

By , August 26, 2010

I’m really excited to be a guest blogger for Think Beyond the Label. I’ve been following this campaign since it started making waves in January on news programs and business newspapers — places you don’t expect to see disability stand up for itself. Over and over I’ve been impressed with the campaign’s message and mission: Employing people with disabilities yields a significant return on investment for companies of all shapes and sizes.

I’m not the only one who has recognized the creative, humorous work behind the campaign ads. Stuart Elliot of The New York Times gave it props, as did The Today Show, in a segment celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

HDA on The Today Show
Ann Curry, host of NBC’s The Today Show, talks with disability advocate Bonnie St. John and Alana Wallace, a wheelchair dancer who appeared in a Think Beyond the Label T.V. commercial.
Image: Todayshow.com

What makes the Think Beyond the Label campaign different is that it doesn’t sing the same song about the less-than-ideal hiring landscape for the working-age disability population. (The statistics, in reality, are grim, with less than a 30% employment rate for people with disabilities.) Instead, the campaign uses humor to debunk the myths about hiring people with disabilities. It challenges businesses to look at their current workforce and ask: Do I have a plan … to grow revenue … attract new customers … and reduce hiring costs?

(For solutions to these needs, check out the new brochure: The Field Guide to Evolving Your Workforce.)

The humor part of Think Beyond the Label comes with a chuckle. Every company has a worker who is known for his or her um, unique behavior, such as being a terrible dresser (“pattern-impaired”) or being unable to brew a decent pot of coffee (“coffee-impaired). But these folks weren’t hired for their shortcomings – they were hired for the value they can bring to the business, and the same holds true for people with disabilities.

I share the perspective that people with disabilities should be known for their can-do, even if it’s done different. On my website, abledbody.com, I write about employment, technology and health, among other issues, all through the prism of disability. I truly believe that companies that are constantly looking to evolve their workforce will succeed by hiring people with disabilities.

Think about it. Here’s an untapped group that excels at adapting new technology, are creative problem solvers, and are far more likely to spend their working hours proving to an employer why they were the right hire in the first place. Now do a mental scroll of your workforce — do you employ these types of workers? Now you’ve got all the more reason to.

As a guest blogger, my job is to keep you informed (and entertained!) on disability employment news and the great work coming out of the Think Beyond the Label collaborative. Keep a lookout for my next post, where I’ll discuss using assistive technology in your business. In coming months, I’ll square off on important workforce topics like tax credits for hiring, Ticket to Work programs, recruiting strategies and making your marketing materials accessible and appropriate to people with disabilities.

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Author: Suzanne Robitaille

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of abledbody.com, a website on disability issues. She is the former assistive technology columnist for BusinessWeek.com, giving rise to her fascination with technology that helps people with disabilities surmount barriers in the workplace and life space. She is also the author of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices. As a writer and blogger, Suzanne is a trusted source of disability information for The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, HealthDay, Media Post, Ability Magazine, Disaboom and more. Suzanne lost her hearing at age four and grew up profoundly deaf. In 2002 she received a cochlear implant, which she credits as "the ultimate assistive technology."