For decades, people with seeing, speaking, hearing or walking impairments were shunned from the workplace, as were those with mental impairments affecting memory, concentration, thinking or learning. But thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, and the work of high-profile celebrities such as Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox, the workplace is becoming friendlier for millions of Americans, and issues concerning workers with disabilities are in front of the public more and more.
With this new awareness has come a wealth of resources for information and training on disabilities issues and the workplace. Just a click of the mouse now brings help to those seeking a career change, training for advancement or a return to work with the assistance of work-related accommodations. There are even hotlines available for discussing individual circumstances.
This information can be pivotal to a productive environment. Here are five sites that pertain both to people with and without disabilities.
- The Division of Rehabilitation Services
Also known as Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or Bureau of Rehabilitation, these departments assist workers with disabilities in finding employment and obtaining training to facilitate employment opportunities. You can find your local office in the phone book under State Government, or take a look at this state-by-state list.
- Disability and Technical Assistance Centers
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research has established 10 regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers to provide information, training and technical assistance to employers, workers with disabilities and other entities with responsibilities under the ADA. The centers act as one-stop, comprehensive resources on ADA issues in employment, public services, public accommodations and communications. Each center works closely with local businesses and governmental, rehabilitation and professional networks to provide ADA information and assistance, placing special emphasis on meeting the needs of small businesses.
- Office of Disability Employment Policy (US Department of Labor)
The Office of Disability Employment Policy provides a directory of state liaisons. If there is not a Technical Assistance Center located close by, this directory can help you identify the most convenient and appropriate resources and training programs in your state and near your community.
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
Besides offering a toll-free hotline at (800) 526-7234 for individual questions and customized advice and referrals, the Job Accommodation Network provides a list of more than a dozen online job banks specifically for workers with disabilities. Counselors are also available to assist with negotiations for job accommodations. Accommodations mean more than costly equipment. For example, an accommodation can be an individual who assists the employee with transportation or acts as a reader or interpreter. And, if you can't find the right service to meet your needs, call JAN's hotline for a referral.
- Lift, Inc.
This nonprofit corporation identifies, trains and hires computer professionals who have physical disabilities through contracts with major corporations that eventually hire them directly. Lift, Inc. combines specialized business experience in information management with a desire to give workers with disabilities a vocational lift.
If you've been longing to return to work or wondering where to turn, contact any of these five agencies or organizations. If you're looking for inspiration, review the list of famous people with disabilities at the Family Village Library