Lynn Stevens from Goodwill Industries of Northern Louisiana gave a superb webinar sharing much valuable information for anyone with a disability about resources to help people find and keep gainful employment. For anyone living with FSH muscular dystrophy, having this information handy can bring much peace of mind in planning the future.
Noting that the unemployment rate for disabled individuals is twice that of general population, Stevens says, “All of us on this journey have to think about what’s going to happen to our bodies and plan ahead. I was less proactive than I could have been. For those in their 20s and 30s, my advice is to be proactive.”
In her talk, Stevens discusses some common fallacies that employers have about disabled employee. For example, she says it is not true that a disabled worker will cost a company more in worker’s compensation. She also thinks that the post-COVID world offers a more level playing field for disable individuals. It has become easier to get an interview, and it is easier to negotiate flexible hours, she says. “We’re also seeing more flexibility about equipment and technology requests, because companies are seeing that it saves them costs in the long run.”
Resources to help find employment
All states get federal money to help people with disabilities. The funds are disbursed through Vocational Rehabilitation programs, and help individuals with education, adaptations, etc. “It’s slow but worth it,” says Stevens. “They helped renovate my van. Just call every 10 days and keep hammering to get what you need.” These programs will cover the cost of computers, wheelchairs, phone equipment, assistive devices, home renovations, and other expenses to help people stay in their jobs.
The American Job Center has “people who will hold your hand through the whole process,” Stevens says. Ability One and Ticket to Work also provide this help. “They have smaller case loads than state agencies, so maybe you’d get less lost” working with one of these organizations, Stevens suggests. Organizations like Goodwill, The ARC, and EARN “will work to help place you in a job,” Stevens explains. “They only get reimbursed when they successfully place you in a job.”
Not sure how to find the agencies where you live? Dial 211 anywhere in the country to find what service organizations exist in your community.
Stevens offered a wealth of observations, ideas and tips. Here are some:
- The Apple iPhone has fall detection so if I fall, my husband is notified.
- Read your job description carefully.
If you decide to apply for SSDI, keep a journal and document everything. Doctor visits, falls, etc. It typically takes longer than 12 months to get consideration for SSDI benefits.
- If there’s ever a time to get a new job, now’s the time. Employers have such a need for workers.
- Vocational Rehab will pay for adaptive tools so you can continue with your job.
- Vocational Rehab will pay to send you back to school to learn a new trade.
- Indeed.com may be launching a service for work-from-home professional jobs.
And perhaps the most important piece of advice, because the gears of state agencies turn slowly: “If you plan ahead, you can have the things you need at the point that you need it.”
Download Lynn Stevens The Job Talk (slides).