Why Not Hire the Disabled?
(This is a paraphrased version of an article I wrote for Dynamics, a quarterly publication of ASIS International, the world’s largest organization of security professionals. It’s been shortened to fit this blog)
Being blind, and having been around a number of disabled people in the past few years, I can tell you that we may not be able to do some jobs as fast as a non-disabled employee, but we can still accomplish it. We just have to take pains to do it our way. And doing it our way may not necessarily be the standard way but as long as it is done on time and is right…
Obviously, a blind or deaf person can’t stand a post as a security officer in most cases. People that are confined to wheelchairs are not suited to being on a post that requires a lot of walking, especially if it is outside the building, or one that requires them to move quickly and evacuate the facility.
However, those of us that are disabled can contribute to the safety and well-being of a company’s employees. You may ask how can a blind or wheelchair bound security person contribute very well to any company, especially in an industry that is so visually and shoe leather oriented. In the interest of this blog length, I will shorten these stories.
In the mid 90’s I worked for Allied Security and had an individual wheel himself into our office and put in an application. Not even thinking we would be able to accommodate him, we took the app and interviewed him. He was intelligent and motivated to go back to work. I put him through our orientation program. We had a position in the security operations center of our largest client, where he fit in wonderfully. Other jobs for wheelchair/blind people in security are as follows, as long as everything is equal;
• Access control points checking ID badges
• Access Control points signing people in & out
• Dispatch/control centers
• Customer Service
• Front Desk at a client/company site
The question is simple. Do you have any jobs within your company that can be done safely by someone who is disabled? Look at the jobs you have and then answer that honestly.
Misconceptions among Employers:
One of the myths about those of us who are disabled and want to work is that we are out to get what we want and how much we can get, and get away with, or figure a way to sue the employer. Nothing can be further from the truth!
Is this saying that there aren’t people out there who do want to sue the company if you don’t spit on the griddle? No I’m not. One example is when you get a cup of coffee from a drive-thru, is it hot? If you didn’t order it iced, it better be. Then why do we have to have signs on the windows telling us it’s hot?
What do we expect from an employer
• Computer programs that allow us to do our jobs i.e. JAWS
• Keep aisles clear of boxes and such
• Close the filing cabinets above waist level, away from out canes
• If you borrow something off my desk, put it back in the same place
• Let me know if you have something in your hands or arms when I’m coming to you
• Common courtesy and professionalism in the office
The way to treat us in the business
The exact same way you treat any other employee. By making exceptions and catering to or avoiding us, it draws attention to our disability. And we just want to blend and make the company safe or profitable.
If we need help, we’ll ask. If we need something, we’ll ask. And we won’t be rude, surly, cop an attitude, yell, scream, or anything of the sort. Will we get angry and frustrated at things? Of course we will, the same as you do. When I’m talking to someone and they tell me that they didn’t know I was blind because of the way I conduct myself, what a compliment! I don’t want special privileges or exceptions.
So as we move further into the future towards a world that can make disabled people more ‘whole’ or as some would say ‘ normal’, let’s throw out the misconceptions, back of the brain discrimination, and don’t judge a book by its cover. Look at what we can do to enhance the safety and security of the company, its employees, and assets. If you don’t, you may lose out on a wealth of innovation, knowledge, skill, & experience.
We are what we repeatedly do
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. He has spent 31 years in the field and despite going blind in 2003, he still writes, blogs, and appears in the media as an expert. He has written 2 books, more than 2 dozen articles, and a twice weekly blog since going blind.