The Center for Accessible Living is the leading resource in Kentucky and Southern Indiana for employers seeking to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace and companies seeking to reach them in the consumer marketplace.
The Center for Accessible Living has played a major role in helping businesses create successful work conditions for employees and accessible services for customers.
The Center for Accessible Living staff has over 30 years of expertise in assisting corporations with issues relating to the employment of people with disabilities. Some of our areas of expertise include ADA Compliance, building and product accessibility, reasonable accommodation, job analysis, recruitment, career development and much more. Our Employment Specialists can assist you with inquiries into any disability-related employment issue.
You can subscribe to our free business services e-mailings, the Business Advisory Council, and other CAL email groups.
Business Advisory Council meetings, trainings, and seminars give you the opportunity to learn from experts in the field as well as interact with others facing the same issues. You have the opportunity to focus on disability issues where the emphasis is on the exchange of practical information. Best of all, membership is free!
A powerful tool for attracting persons with disabilities to your job opportunities. We offer an unlimited number of job postings. Recruitment & outreach strategies, including access to individualized referrals of pre-screened, qualified candidates for company job openings.
The Center offers you direct access to our information experts. Gain answers on a wide range of disability issues, including information about available tax incentives and return-to-work procedures.
Links with useful information about general disability and disability-related employment issue. Also, utilize a comprehensive collection of video and print resources addressing a wide array of issues from accessibility, disability etiquette, and more.
Whatever your situation may be, we have an interpreter to fill the need.
The Center utilizes the services of one full-time, certified staff interpreter from our organization and several certified, professional freelance interpreters (self-employed). All Interpreters are licensed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our interpreters adhere to the RID/NAD Code of Ethics. Interpreters are available to travel throughout Kentucky. The Center can also arrange Deaf culture sensitivity training for interested groups.
Facility accessibility is vital to both integrating individuals with disabilities into the workplace and to serving customers with disabilities. The Center takes a realistic look at accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance with a comprehensive site visit by our expert survey team.
Also available, is a survey of programs and services, company specific software, ASL interpreter plan, website and ADA title I employee policies.
Technical assistance with job descriptions and essential functions of the job.
Assistance retaining newly identified employees with disabilities, support and follow-up services after placement. Includes job accommodation information, job carving, and job sharing consultation and technical assistance.
Support and follow-up services are offered to companies that hire an individual directly through the Center for free for that individual.
The Center provides training, consultation and technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other issues related to employing and serving people with disabilities. The Center offers both pre-designed and customized training packages that build upon the knowledge and programs that are currently in your company. Our expert staff will assist in identifying and selecting the most appropriate and cost-effective programs to answer your specific needs. Trainings can be tailored to company leadership, HR, management, or general workforce audiences.
What is as American and homegrown as Kentucky Fried Chicken? Winston Industries, an international corporation that designs and manufactures new cooking technologies, is dedicated to understanding and exceeding the expectations of their customers and employees. The company was originally incorporated as Commercial Appliances, its primary product being a Collectramatic Fryer. This revolutionary fryer, which was first used by Colonel Harlan Sanders in producing Kentucky Fried Chicken, enabled restaurant cooks to fry multiple rounds of chicken without filtering. Kentucky Fried Chicken continues to be one of Winston Industries’ largest customers. Other innovations include products designed to maintain food temperature control and safety.
The mission of Winston Industries is to foster an environment of teamwork, dedication to excellence, and long term customer relationships. They are committed to innovate, manufacture, and distribute the most progressive and highest quality food service technology worldwide. Winston Industries’ products incorporate technologies that include digital displays, timers, and other mechanical components that are computer controlled. Toward this end, Wes Kleier, the company’s only current employee with a known disability, was hired. His title is Embedded Systems Engineer.
Steve Thompson, Wes’ supervisor, says,
“The addition of Wes to our team strengthens our ability to develop new products. He has quickly
become part of our working family. Since he joined us, he has made important contributions using his skills as an engineer to develop solutions
for a diverse marketplace.”
Making accommodations for Wes’ disability was easy, says Steve. These accommodations include the creation of an office area on the ground
floor, and a specific arrangement for his desk and computer.
“I have yet to recognize any limitations for Wes to perform his job,” Steve remarks.
“He has accepted without hesitation several new projects and successfully met a tough intellectual challenge to learn to use the development tools
he needs to write his software.” Steve also notes that Wes’ wit and social skills have allowed him to make friends with several people in the
corporation and fit in very well socially.
Being hired by Winston Industries has allowed Wes to demonstrate his ability to contribute to the growth of an organization. In discussing
the work that he does, he explains,
“I create the brains of the machines so that they do as the customer requests and expects.”
Wes enjoys seeing how the business world works and putting the knowledge and skills acquired through his degree to use at work. His job allows him to expand on those skills and to apply them in ways that can’t be taught in school.
Looking for a job was a challenge for Wes. Travel and relocation were not an option, which limited his choices in which jobs to apply for.
He also feels that,
“Despite their attempts to curb them, employers have their misconceptions and stereotypical views of people with disabilities.
They are going to wonder, to some degree, about unknown problems. Would I take more days off due to illness? Would there be communication
problems between me and other employees? Would costly modifications be needed to accommodate me?” Wes states that these are all
legitimate concerns which he had to dispel during the interview process.
“Steve has demonstrated continued support through my training and acclamation and has been very encouraging while understanding that
this is my first opportunity at full time employment. He has also been very respectful toward my disability and has offered any assistance
I might need in order to be as productive and comfortable as possible.”
Winston Industries has discovered that diversity in the workplace brings a richness of skills, experience, knowledge and points of view to the table. Its employers have learned from their experience in hiring Wes that accommodations do not have to be labor intensive or costly. Above all, they’ve learned that individuals with disabilities have many unique skills, experiences, viewpoints and personality that allow them to contribute to the growth and teamwork of any company they are qualified to work for.
"The Opportunity to be Independent"
If you’re having trouble with your Sears Credit account and you call for assistance, you may well find yourself on the phone with Jannet L, a customer service representative at Citi Cards. Located in Louisville’s Blankenbaker Station Business Park, the site manages the Sears Credit Card Portfolio and currently employs 1,300 people, 9 of whom have varying degrees of sight impairment.
Working as a Citi Cards associate since 2005, Jannet is trained for any type of customer service issue. Like the rest of her 1,300 co-workers in Louisville, Jannet routinely handles hundreds of such calls every day, each lasting an average of two-and-a-half minutes. But unlike many of her colleagues, she does so with virtually no eyesight. At age 8, Jannet was diagnosed with a disease that left her reading Braille by age 15. Today, Jannet can barely perceive light and shadows.
With the help of assistive technologies Jannet is able to compensate for her negligible vision. Using Window Eyes software, a program which essentially recites printed text from Janet’s screen, in conjunction with a Braille display running constantly on her Microsoft Windows 2000 PC, Jannet is able to provide helpful customer service and support just like her colleagues.
Jannet said from her years of experience at Citi Cards that the business has been a very strong supporter of her needs going above and
beyond to ensure she has the tools she needs to excel.
"That's a plus for Citi as a whole, and it impressed me and my colleagues," said
Jannet, who is one of 9 individuals with visual impairments working at Citi’s Louisville site.
"Even the Lighthouse for the Blind in Louisiana,
where I worked as a receptionist, didn't have the accessibility products or the technology that I find here.”
Marilyn, Jannet’s manager stated
“when I was first asked to work with Jannet, I had concerns. I wanted to be able to give her what she
needed from a manager and I wasn't sure if she could. After meeting Jannet, I didn't have to make a decision; she made it for me with her
determination and positive attitude.”
That was nearly two years ago and Marilyn now says working with Jannet,
“has been one of the most educating and rewarding experiences
I have ever had. It is a pleasure and an honor to have her as an employee. Not only is she extremely positive, but she does an excellent
job in team building and assisting her fellow teammates. She provides superior service for our customers with her extensive knowledge and
customer first mentality.”
Jannet recently asked her coworkers, what they had gained from Citi Cards’ efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities through technology. Their consensus: The opportunity to be independent.
Asked what assistive technology overall means to her and Jannet is quick to reply.
"It makes it possible to be independent,
working on my own and making a living," she says.
"I don't have to depend on the system. I can get out and I can do the job."
Where do you find potential employees that are qualified, job-ready, and diverse in their ethnicity, race, age, education and social standing?
Wouldn't it be great if these same potential employees had lower turnover and no more absenteeism than the average employee?
This isn't just a human resource manager's dream. This group of people actually exists. In fact, they're easy to find, considering that 58 million Americans belong to this group. They make up more than 21 percent of the total population of Kentucky and nearly 19 percent of Louisville residents.
This elusive group commonly is referred to as
"people with disabilities," and although they are very capable employees, they are
largely unemployed or underemployed and all too often underestimated.
People with disabilities include those born with physical or intellectual limitations as well as people who develop disabilities
during the course of their lives. The range of disabilities is as diverse as the people who have them and include
"hidden" disabilities such as
dyslexia, bipolar disorder or Asperger Syndrome.
The American with Disabilities Act defines an individual with a disability as a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment.
Many people with less obvious disabilities choose not to disclose their limitations or to exercise their rights under Title I of the ADA because of the discrimination and stigma often applied.
A common misconception by employers is that individuals with disabilities will require special and costly accommodations.
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that 20 percent of accommodations cost nothing and 82 percent of accommodations cost less than $1,000.
Another myth is that employees with disabilities are not as productive and have higher rates of absenteeism.
Studies of the performance of workers with disabilities show that their attendance and their work performance are average to above average.
Employees with disabilities also do not cost more to train, do not increase medical benefit pools, and do not have higher rates of unemployment claims or compensation.
There are many benefits of a diverse work force, including increased productivity, improved corporate culture and market image, and expansion of business opportunities.
Cingular Wireless created a task force of company leaders and people with disabilities to analyze departments and develop recommendations for making them more disability-friendly. The recommendations led to product innovations and contracts with vendors who employ people with disabilities.
Walgreen's has benefited its bottom line and corporate image through its innovative and far-reaching efforts to hire people with disabilities in a distribution center in Anderson, S.C.
A study from the University of Massachusetts found that 92 percent of the consumers surveyed felt more favorable toward companies that hire people with disabilities, and 87 percent said they would prefer to give their business to those companies.
Currently, people with disabilities and their families represent a $1 trillion market base.
The economy of the United States potentially could benefit by $621 billion annually if the employment rates of people with disabilities equaled the employment rates of people without disabilities.
A commitment from senior leadership is the fundamental indicator with employers who are successful at hiring and retaining employees from this overlooked demographic.
A key step to benefiting from hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities is to make the commitment to employees with disabilities intrinsic to a company's culture.
A company can do this by providing awareness and sensitivity training materials, increasing visibility through celebrations for Disability Employment Awareness Month mentoring, and other programs.
Other ideas for making a disability-friendly work environment are to share best practices, establish partnerships to increase access to information, build active relationships with disability employment groups who can offer information and resources.
A ready-made platform for doing all these things is the Kentucky Business Leadership Network.
Business Leadership Networks are coalitions of businesses that understand the business imperative to include people with disabilities in the workplace and marketplace.
The KYBLN members use this network of employers to share best practices and work to change the negative attitudes persons with disabilities often face as employees and customers.
Members of the KYBLN -- and its local chapter, the Greater Louisville Business Leadership Network -- also have access to disability-related employment organizations that know people with disabilities and the ways they can contribute to businesses.
On Thursday, Oct. 18, the GLBLN has a scheduled meeting to recognize and celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The Center for Accessible Living and the GLBLN will recognize companies participating in National Mentoring Day. More information can be obtained at the organization's Web site, www.kybln.org, or by calling (859) 977-4050, ext. 222.
Kay Mathis is vice president of ADA technology for Citigroup in Louisville. Keith Hosey is associate director for the Center for Accessible Living, also in Louisville. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Hire People with Disabilities?
Your company shouldn't hire people with disabilities because it's the right thing to do, although it is. Your company should hire people with disabilities for the same reason you do anything else, it's simply good business.
“There is a war for talent and anyone who intends to win it better realize two things: First, that it is a global war and,
second, that if you restrict your search for talent in any way… you will be giving your competitors the edge they need to put you out of business.”
- William G. Parrett, President, Deloitte & Touche
While there are many reasons, we like this business case for hiring people with disabilities.
The Business Advisory Council (BAC) is a council of business representatives who volunteer their time in partnership with the Center for Accessible Living to effect diversity in our community’s workforce. It was established as a unique opportunity for networking and educational opportunities for employers and business leaders with an interest in promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, while demonstrating good corporate citizenship. This partnership in turn allows company growth by ensuring qualified candidates for employment, publicity for the company, and positive community participation.
Membership is free and staff are on hand to offer an array of business services, including technical assistance on accessibility, reasonable accommodations, and disability awareness to members. Some of the Business Advisory Council activities include:
Quarterly Breakfast Meetings — Enjoy networking and training, discuss business, and assist a job seeker with a disability in their job search efforts.
Trainings on Disability Issues — Normal fees are waived for several trainings and presentations per year upon request. Workshops include disability related issues such as accommodation assistance, ADA technical assistance, disability etiquette, customer service for people with disabilities and an entertaining Disability Jeopardy can educate about disabilities. Center for Accessible Living Staff also conduct worksite accessibility surveys.
Publicity for Your Organization — Receive publicity through our website, quarterly employment newsletters, news releases, etc. Post unlimited job openings annually on the Center for Accessible Living website and in our offices to more effectively target qualified candidates with disabilities.
Consumer Assistance Workshops — Assist consumers with resume development, mock interviews, or speak about a favorite employment related topic at semi-annual employment day.
Dawn at the Downs — Enjoy friendship, networking, good food, door prizes, annual awards and a chance to watch Derby contenders as they exercise.
Networking — Share ideas and
Best practices on promoting a diverse workforce, and create a positive image for your company.
Q: I am very busy. How would participation in the program accommodate my schedule?
A: Business meetings are quarterly, for no more than two hours per meeting. Other participation is voluntary.
Q: How will I and my company benefit from participation in the BAC?
A: BAC participation can be beneficial to you in the following ways:
Q: What is the length of my commitment?
A: Commitment of membership is annual; some have passed on membership within their company; others have participated for over 15 years.
Q: What types of businesses participate?
A: Participating businesses range from small and large local businesses to Fortune 500 corporations.
Q: I am unfamiliar with nonprofits. Will I still be able to participate?
A: Yes. Center staff will assist BAC members as needed.
Q: How much does membership cost?
A: Membership and participation are free.
Q: How can I join the BAC?
A: Contact Keith Hosey for Louisville, (502) 589-6620 or Carrissa Johnson for Murray/Paducah area, (270) 753-7676.