Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Disability at Work: How to Ask for Accommodations

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans live with some type of disability and asking for accommodations or disclosing your disability is a unique situation in the workplace.  This is great advice from the job searching website, on just that topic!

Talking About your Disability at Work: How to Ask for Accommodations
By Dan Woog

When it comes to communicating about disabilities in the workplace, the best approach depends on your particular disability, job, supervisor, and personality.

Peter Blanck, chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, says such discussions are tricky, because how and when you disclose a disability at work can have significant career repercussions. This is particularly true if the disability is hidden, such as a mental illness, or has no visible physical symptoms.

So should you tell? And if so, how do you conduct the conversation so you get the accommodations you need? Read this expert advice.

Considerations Before Disclosing Your Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits you to disclose your disability at any time. Blanck says disclosure should be done "very strategically." For example, if you're a young, high-powered employee with a slowly progressing disease, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or HIV/AIDS, you may want to wait.

However, "every decision has implications for the employee and the employer," Blanck explains. "If you tell and then suffer subtle discrimination, that's bad. But it's also bad if you don't tell and spend every workday feeling pressured and frustrated." And your employer may use nondisclosure against you if you later try to argue you've been discriminated against or unfairly terminated.

Blanck advises employees to undergo an independent medical evaluation before disclosure. If you use your employer's doctor, study the company's confidentiality policy. "(The doctor's) job is to maintain a safe and appropriate workplace," he says. "If you've got a communicable disease or a psychological issue, the company physician may be forced to disclose your condition, whether you want to or not."

Other considerations before disclosure:

What's your job status? A longtime, highly valued employee may have different reasons to disclose -- or not -- than a new hire.

Who should you tell? Your relationship with your immediate supervisor may determine who you target for initial disclosure.

Is disclosure necessary to continuing in your job or maintaining a safe workplace? Will you request an accommodation? What kind?

"Good-faith disclosure should be the norm," Blanck says. "But the world is not always a clean place. Think disclosure through very carefully." Top executives who fear losing their jobs should seek outside counsel first.

How to Disclose Your Disability

Writing out disclosure can prevent misunderstandings. But consider your words carefully. "Do not put something in writing that could be prejudicial," Blanck stresses. "Don't say, 'I really can't do this job anymore.' People under pressure may be vulnerable and say things that will hurt them later on. Instead, say, 'I may request an accommodation that will enable me to perform at my current excellent level.'"

After initial disclosure, continue to communicate with your employer, he says. Also, keep your expectations of accommodations in check, based on how reasonable they are under the law.

Oce Harrison, program director for the New England ADA Center, says the person with the disability must determine how much to reveal and what he needs. Usually a supervisor needs enough information to provide reasonable accommodations. A typical request may be: "I have a neuromotor disease. The functioning in my hands is decreasing. I can no longer answer the phone, so I need a headset."

The stakes are higher for new employees. "If you don't disclose in an interview, there may be consequences," Blanck says. "It may be too late later on. If you're interviewing for work in a nuclear power plant and you don't disclose alcoholism, you may subject yourself to termination."

Still, every situation is different. "If I was young and just diagnosed with a disease like MS, I'm not sure I'd tell my employer right away," Blanck says. "I would probably want to make my own way and not be put into a 'disability box.' Still, I realize that disclosure is a very individual decision."

Harrison agrees that individual needs should drive disclosure decisions: "A new hire may want to start off on the right foot, yet need an accommodation to do the job right. It's your right to ask for an accommodation, and it's also OK not to disclose in an interview. It all depends on your comfort level and personality."

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

30 Innovative Organizations Awarded Grants to Improve Accessibility through Technology

Many recent news articles are pointing toward the future of technology when it comes to making the world more accessible to those who have disabilities.  Lots of billion dollar corporations are spending large amounts of money on research and development in this arena.  That is great news!  At The Choice Group, we utilize all of the current technology we have available when it comes to assisting our clients such as training clients on apps that help them stay organized with their schedules, contacts, and transportation!

Google Challenge Initiative: Disability, has awarded millions of dollars in grants to these 30 organizations to innovate a more accessible world.  From 3-D printed prosthetics to mapping accessible locations to interactive job interview training, many of these non-profits are looking to make a huge difference.

Here's the latest article we've come across from

(Photo from

Google Awards Millions For Disability Initiative
By Shaun Heasley

Google is doling out millions of dollars all with an eye toward using technology to increase independence for the world’s billion people with disabilities.

The company’s charitable arm,, said this week that it has selected 30 organizations to receive grants through its “Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities” initiative.

All told, Google is distributing more than $20 million to groups located in 13 different countries through the effort.

The largest grant of $1.4 million will go to The Arc to create an online tool to help people with cognitive disabilities find the right apps and other assistive technologies to meet goals based on their profile.

Other groups receiving funds include the Dan Marino Foundation, which will develop an interactive job training program for people with autism, and APAE Brasil, which will use SMS messaging to share information and improve monitoring and evaluation for families who have children with developmental disabilities.

While GPS helps those with visual impairments find their destination, the technology doesn't lead to specific spots like doors or bus stops. Using a $750,000 grant from Google, the Perkins School for the Blind plans to crowdsource data to help bridge that gap in directions. (
While GPS helps those with visual impairments find their destination, the technology doesn’t lead to specific spots like doors or bus stops. Using a $750,000 grant from Google, the Perkins School for the Blind plans to crowdsource data to help bridge that gap in directions. (

“The organizations we’re supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale,” Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, project lead for the initiative, said in a blog post.

“Each organization has also committed to open sourcing their technology — which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed,” she indicated.

Google said it received more than 1,000 applications from 88 countries after announcing the funding availability last May.

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Congrats Patrick Dunbar on Your Success

A great story from one of our counselors, David, about a most recent success working with a talented individual such as Patrick Dunbar.

Patrick Dunbar is currently working for the Clean Machine in Charlottesville where he washes, dries, vacuums, and details all types  of vehicles.  I started supporting Patrick on January 21st.  Patrick was  diagnosed with ADHD, and he had an extremely limited work history.   In a way, the Clean Machine is his first official job.  When reaching out  to other employers, some of the challenges that Patrick faced were not  having a driver’s license, living an hour away from where he wanted to  work which was Charlottesville, lack of work experience and limited  education.  It was my job to  assist Patrick with obtaining his driver’s license, finding a job, and  moving into his own place closer to town.  Shortly after working with  Patrick, I supported him with getting his driver’s license.  This was a  most joyous occasion for him.  Patrick wanted to work outside, around  cars, and with his hands.  With these interests in mind, I spoke to the  GM at the Clean Machine who ended up interviewing him and hiring him  on the spot.  The last piece of the puzzle will be to help him find his  own place.  Patrick is currently saving money from his new job so that  this goal can come to fruition very soon.

The myriad of strengths that Patrick possesses contributed immensely  to his success.  He is a clean cut individual with a calming effect on  people around him.  Patrick loves animals and has a dog named Poopsy  that is the world to him.  He said he will not move if his dog cannot  come with him.  Patrick has an innate drive to succeed.  He follows  through on all of his commitments, works quickly and efficiently, never  complains, and feels that no task is beneath him.  He is a very honest  and kind young man who has a pep in his step.  Patrick said that he owes  it all to his late grandfather who taught him from a young age to give it  his all no matter what he did.  His grandfather also taught him how to  work on cars and live off of the land.

April 15th will mark one month that he has been at the Clean Machine.   The General Manager, supervisors, and co-workers are all impressed  with how quickly he learned the job and the level of excellence that he  delivers every second of the day.  The General Manager commented,  “Patrick is awesome!  I feel like he is an old soul.”  Being successful at  this job has given Patrick more confidence and a beaming sense of  accomplishment.  He realizes that there is nothing he cannot achieve if  he works hard and puts his mind to it.  It has been my privilege and pleasure to work with such an incredible talent.  Patrick Dunbar is one of a kind!

David Terrell

Vocational Counselor with the Choice Group.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

How Michael and Son Changed My Life

One of our clients, Kimberly, found fulfilling employment with Michael & Son after much trial and tribulation.  She has an amazing and persevering spirit and wanted to share her story!

My name is Kimberly Martin and I work as a Customer Service Representative at Michael and Son Services. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be in this place right now. A place where I can help others and also help myself. At one point I could only imagine this, looking back over my life and hearing people say “Kim, you can’t work anymore” and doctors saying “your health is not good anymore”, as this was being told to me, my mind was saying “God, you got this and I can’t just stop living”.

For seven years my mind was so congested because all I knew was how to get up and go to work. I didn’t know how to just sit and do nothing. As my mind wandered, I went into a deep depression. I would not leave the house unless I needed to go to the store or pay bills. Life for me was over. One day I was sitting on the side of the bed and it hit me, I can’t do this anymore, I had to make a change for myself. I had to do better for me and my family. As I was sitting, my mind was racing, I knew my life was about to change for the better. I knew God was about to open up doors, that I knew could be but always wondered how.

So I started with the Yellow Book. Being labeled as “disabled” for so long, I knew there had to be some kind of services out there to help people like me. At first, I thought it was near impossible, I was so afraid, but I had to take a stand and push past feeling sorry for myself and stop feeling like my life was over. I found this program called the Choice Group. I was able to get two really good job coaches that helped me find the right track. Then one day my job coach had come to my home, we talked and we worked on my resume and she told me about a company called Michael and Son Services. I was a little intimidated but very excited about this possible future. At that point, everything started to move very fast, after three days I received a call from Michael and Son Services offering me to come in for an interview. I started to burst into tears of excitement, I thought “God, this is my breakthrough!”

When I arrived for the interview I was staring at 2 flights of stairs that stood between me and my independence, I have asthma but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I was scared of the unknown that was to come, I was unsure that I could do this, I had no call center experience and had not worked in seven years.  I took a deep breath and started up the stairs, there was no turning back, and I knew I could do this. As the interview went on, I was offered the position that changed my life.

A few short weeks later, I started training, I was so nervous about starting my first job in seven years. A week into training my asthma got the best of me and I was unable to complete the training and was in the hospital for several days. Once I got out I knew that I had lost an opportunity to get my life back, I sat and cried about what I had lost. I then received a phone call from Michael and Son. They let me know that they saw something in me and wanted me to come back for the next training class. I was overjoyed with the second chance and the new beginning, I thanked God for what He had done for me.

Michael and Son is about second chances and family. I have received multiple Top Performer Awards and I now encourage each training class on how to be successful in our call center. I can truly say that Michael and Son saved my life from depression, and also from death. Looking at me, from now 10 years ago to who I am today, I can truly say I am blessed and will never take anything for granted. This smile on my face is not only from God but from Michael and Son giving me my life back!

-Kimberly Martin
A very blessed person

Disability Unemployment Rate Goes Down

A recent article from by Shaun Heasley points to hope for unemployment among people with disabilities!  Unemployment dropped by almost 2% from February to March.  While this isn't a monumental change, it is the beginning of what is hoped to be a larger trend.

Disability Unemployment Rate Sees Improvement
by Shaun Heasley
April 1, 2016

An increasing number of Americans with disabilities are finding work, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Figures released Friday as part of the agency’s monthly employment report indicate that the unemployment rate for those with disabilities fell to 10.8 percent last month. That’s a drop from 12.5 percent the month prior.

The change reflects a growing population of people with disabilities who are seeking out work and finding it.

At the same time, unemployment for the general population remained largely unchanged at 5 percent as the economy added 215,000 jobs last month.

Federal officials began tracking employment among people with disabilities in October 2008. There is not yet enough data compiled to establish seasonal trends among this population, so statistics for this group are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on people with disabilities covers those over the age of 16 who do not live in institutions. The first employment report specific to this population was made available in February 2009. Now, reports are released monthly.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Light it Up Blue: World Autism Awareness Day

Today is the 8th Annual World Autism Awareness Day!  The Light it Up Blue Campaign is meant to spread awareness about Autism and you can, too, if you Light it Up Blue!

What is World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue?

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), observed on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health priority. Every year on World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks celebrates its international “Light It Up Blue” campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism. Individuals everywhere wear blue in honor of our community.

Light It Up Blue

-Spreads awareness and understanding of autism
-Celebrates and honors the unique talents and skills of people with autism
-Brings attention to the needs of all people with autism