Serving Monroe, Owen, and Greene Counties

“Disability Inclusivity in the Workplace" at Wake Up!

Coffee and scones were the perfect pairing with the third monthly Wake Up! With United Way breakfast panel. More than 30 attendees got up bright and early on Thursday, June 13th to participate in a discussion about “Disability and Inclusivity in the Workplace” at The Mill. 

United Way of Monroe County’s Executive Director, Efrat Feferman, moderated the discussion and called upon various attendees to voice their opinions in the topic at hand. A number of elected officials and those involved in the Monroe County education system were in attendance.  
Randy Paul, a longtime local community organizer and activist, opened the panel discussion by pointing out what he saw as the two greatest issues facing disability inclusivity and proper accommodations for those who live with a disability.  
“The biggest problem is in education,” Paul stated. “The other is that a lot of the time when laws are passed, and until you have someone enforcing them, they are not enforced. The best example I can think of is the Help America Vote Act,” he continued. “It took almost five years to get our county to be in compliance.” 
Sometimes compliancy and accessibility issues arise simply from the fact that many people are unaware of how to accommodate someone with a disability, especially since there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all option. Furthermore, not all disabilities are visible, which can make them not seem “real” to those who are asked to accommodate them. Paul candidly spoke of his own biases towards what disability was and what it looked like before he was made to experience it in his everyday life. Paul has been using a wheelchair for the past 20 years. 
Fellow panelist Angie Vandersteen, Business Development Manager with Indianapolis-based disability partner Tangram Business Resourcing, continued this line of discussion by explaining what accommodation for those with disabilities looks like. 
Vandersteen said that it is as simple as, “being prepared, being aware of accommodations, and not being afraid of the cost of accommodations. On average the accommodation costs less than $200. Often, we think of wheel chair ramps and re-doing the doors, getting automatic doors. Most accommodations are not that.” 
Sometimes it’s the small things. Vandersteen told a short story about a woman whose employer hosted staff birthday parties upstairs. She was in a wheelchair so could not actively participate -- besides being brought down a plate of food. “They did not see why that was an issue,” Vandersteen expressed incredulously. “Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone to go downstairs, make her feel included?” Many members of the audience nodded in agreement. 
The topic switched to education when a retired director of special education asked members of the panel what the schools should be doing to prepare students with various disabilities (hearing, visual, mental) for the workplace. 
Brandi Hamilton, Director of Community Services for LifeDesigns, a United Way member agency, spoke up about a local multi-county program called Pre-Employment Transition Services which specifically helps with that issue. Read about their five core services here.  
As the discussion began to wind down, other comments were provided by audience members about locally addressing issues of disability inclusivity and the conversations that are happening. This included such topics as minimum wage standards for those with disabilities. As Vandersteen explained, many of these people are paid a reduced hourly rate based on work accomplished rather than a fixed hourly rate that is above or equal to minimum wage. This can be less than $1 per hour. 
Hamilton also welcomed everyone to next month’s employee forum, “Work to Include,” which will involve a discussion on how to best support employers to hire and retain employees with disabilities (details below). 

The next Wake Up! with United Way breakfast panel will examine “Unteachable and Difficult: Understanding Childhood Trauma” Thursday, July 11th at The Mill. Tickets and more info here >>

Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and Indiana University's Political and Civic Engagement Program, with thanks to Old National Bank for series support. 

Want to learn more about topics discussed related to disability and inclusivity? Check out these links to learn more in-depth info.
Session handouts:
Tangram Business Resourcing:
Work to Include Coalitiion:
Work to Include Coalition in Bloomington is having an employer forum July 16 at the IU Memorial Stadium to talk about what it is like to hire individuals with disabilities, teach employers how to make accommodations for such employees, and share what support they may need to hire and retain employees who have disabilities. Find out more about the event:
Employing Individuals with Down Syndrome Video: United We Thrive by Down Syndrome Family Connection. Watch at

The ARC Policy Priorities: ARC of Indiana works with elected officials and government agencies to make a positive differences in the lives of people with disabilities and their families. 

LIFEDesigns Advocacy and Policy Priorities:
ADA in Indiana: Understanding rights of individuals and responsibilities of employers under Americans with Disability Act.
Accessible Bloomington: Review City of Bloomington’s resources and programs for people with disabilities.
Disability Employment Initiative Act: Introduced by Senator Bob Casey to eliminate barriers to employment and transition people out of subminimum wage. Click here to download pdf

See info about and get your tickets for the next Wake Up! with United Way breakfast series >> 





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