Social Security Announces Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
We have all heard the buzz about DEI, or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but what does this mean for disabled persons in the workplace?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a technical term called “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) to determine if work is substantial enough to make disabled individuals ineligible for benefits. Currently, monthly earnings of $700 or more are considered SGA and will make them ineligible for benefits. SSA also has special rules for blind persons.
Recently, The Social Security Administration issued its 2022-2023 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan, which outlines the goals of each of the four areas. “Social Security’s goal is to weave DEIA principles into the fabric of our workplace,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “In alignment with Social Security’s mission, the DEIA vision is to enhance our current workforce diversity and sustain an inclusive work environment where individual differences are valued, and employees are treated with dignity and respect.”
Human Resource professionals know all too well that very few organizations actually outline initiatives for hiring people with disabilities. It’s very important for the employer to have an updated handbook that includes policies and best practices for those with disabilities to be able to fully participate in the workplace.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of employees with a disability by enforcing businesses to comply, offering reasonable accommodations to allow that employee to work for a job they are qualified to do.
“In practice the ADA requires companies to consider accommodating an applicant or an employee who has a need that may be out of the norm from others,” clarifies Lytana Kids of Flex HR, a top HR outsourcing solutions firm. She goes on to explain some reasonable accommodations “for example, maybe you have an employee who has a back problem and an ergonomic chair may provide the support they needs, or a hearing impaired applicant and that employee may need an interpreter to assist with their interview, or technology added to their computer that allows them to receive information differently rather than audio.”
These adjustments are generally nominal in costs and do not cause a business an undue financial hardship. Employers need to decide what modifications are practical for them, as a this is an important approach to creating a long-lasting culture of acceptance. Developing an inclusive work force is crucial to represent the customers a company serves, additionally, it allows for more creative and innovative thinking for career growth.
Lytana goes on to say “as an HR leader I believe setting the right tone and culture is instrumental in the creation of the company of being acceptive of differences, once this happens it’s not a special program that people have to follow, it’s a culture.” A key aspect to this is training both for managers and HR professionals. “Both groups must know and understand the law, be realistic in their approach to accommodations and be willing to think outside the box. Another very important best practice is an “accessibility” employee resource group. This group not only has to be supportive of each other but should have an executive sponsor who learns what they, as employees, may need to then provide that support for the growth of the business. This is a win-win for both the company and the employees.”
So, between the government’s DEIA strategic planning and that of Human Resources within businesses, workplace disability inclusion is moving in a positive direction. Ensuring that all people feel welcomed, comfortable, appreciated, and valued for their differences has become a major priority for organizations across the country.
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