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Partners for Independence: an industry managed job placement model.

On July 26, 1992, the employment regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became effective. For the first time ever, people with disabilities are guaranteed the same equal opportunities in employment that have been ensured to other Americans under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This landmark legislation was not achieved without struggle; nor can the stroke of a pen by itself bring the spirit of the law to reality for 43 million Americans.

Realizing the importance of providing information on the concerns and needs of people with disabilities if ADA is to have optimal impact and usefulness, and recognizing that no study has adequately identified factors that encourage or discourage compliance with ADA and the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace, the Electronic Industries Foundation (EIF)(1) commissioned the Gallup Organization, Inc., to conduct market research in 1991. We believed that if these factors and other concerns about the act were adequately identified and quantified they then could be adequately addressed.

The study was designed to assess attitudes of the business community and people with disabilities toward ADA. During late 1991 and early 1992, Gallup polled 400 companies to research their attitudes and practices in regard to ADA(2). Despite the January 1992 deadline for compliance with certain provisions of ADA, our study found that most businesses had yet to remove barriers or improve accommodations for people with disabilities. Among the significant findings, over three-fourths of those companies polled stated that no special effort had ever been made to recruit people with disabilities. Furthermore, fewer than one-fourth of the respondents had any type of program or materials that would help supervisors or employees work effectively with people with disabilities. Even more interesting was the response of 50 percent of those polled who stated that the reason their company had not hired people with disabilities in the past year was a lack of qualified applicants. At the same time, over three-fourths of the respondents had not had any association with state vocational rehabilitation agencies, community-based organizations serving people with disabilities, or with other community-based rehabilitation agencies.

Based on these findings, rehabilitation agencies and other community-based organizations have a unique opportunity to help fill service gaps and at the same time further their own missions in placing or returning people with disabilities to gainful employment. Not only can they capitalize on their ability to offer specific interventions to help overcome barriers to complying with ADA, but they can also engage business and industry as partners to access employment opportunities. One only needs to look at EIF's success to see the value of this.

For over 16 years, EIF has field tested and applied an approach to help overcome barriers to competitive employment for people with disabilities. EIF's approach allows business and industry to take a leadership role in the development, implementation, and management of the placement of people with disabilities into jobs. This approach builds on a strong relationship between business and industry and rehabilitation. Borrowing techniques from the "for profit" community, we have been able to foster mutually beneficial relationships with business and industry and influence and engage them in the hiring of qualified people with disabilities.

Program Design

Key to EIF's success has been the involvement of the workplace directly, with business and industry as partners, problem solvers, and users of program services. A major thrust of EIF's approach is developing and marketing a program of activities to remove barriers-all types of barriers--so that business and industry will commit to hiring qualified workers with disabilities.

A business relationship exists between our program and the people with disabilities it serves. In marketing terms, they are customers of EIF job placement services, and our role is meeting their individual needs for employment. However, EIF does not ignore other needs or replicate existing services. The service delivery system is well equipped to provide necessary referral and support services to help all job candidates reach independence. Furthermore, we support those services by working with people with disabilities who have received optimum benefit from traditional rehabilitation and social services and are now ready for jobs. EIF builds on its strength--access to employment opportunities through the direct involvement of employers-- and remains employment focused in working with its candidates.

EIF's placement process is market driven by employer needs. Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant, said: "If the marketing is complete, selling is not necessary." This adage is certainly true in EIF's program. If the market research and assessment of employer needs has been adequate and if staff has effectively prepared and matched the "product" of the placement process--the person with a disability-to meet employer needs, the placement will take care of itself.

The marketing pitch to employers is positive, emphasizing the ability, not the disability, of applicants. EIF, Like many others, knows that there are few jobs that people with disabilities cannot perform if they are carefully matched and trained for those jobs. We do not promote hiring a particular person to demonstrate affirmative action compliance or to exploit financial incentives. To EIF, the person with a disability should be hired if he or she is able to meet job demands, rather than out of a sense of misguided charity or just because of incentives.

Finally, EIF recognizes that a variety of barriers still exist that can handicap job candidates with disabilities. EIF seeks to remove barriers and disadvantages. Some barriers exist in the physical environment and some are within peoples' belief systems. These barriers can create disadvantages that further handicap people with disabilities in job search activities. Disadvantages such as skill deficits in finding and competing for jobs, disillusionment about the chances of finding employment, or lack of appropriate job skills needed to qualify for jobs can mean the difference between working or remaining unemployed. Even the very real limitations imposed by disabilities that preclude employment in certain types of jobs in some instances can be reduced or removed through interventions like job accommodation and access to assistive technology.

EIF's approach involves all those activities required to make a successful job placement, including the awareness work with employers and community agencies to open doors and build partnerships. The success of this process is a direct result of the involvement of business. In that way, the program has a strong business marketing orientation, industry leadership and management, and unique service components related to industry expertise.

Marketing Orientation

Marketing is identifying a need and meeting it. In placing people in competitive employment, EIF subscribes to this approach. We have three customer bases: the employer, the rehabilitation agency, and the person with a disability. First we deal with the needs of the employer as customer, because without job opportunities EIF has nothing to offer its two other customers. We identify workers with disabilities who can meet existing employer needs and we work with rehabilitation agencies to assist the workers in acquiring the necessary skills. EIF then markets them to employers by capitalizing on positive rather than negative functional attributes and matches those attributes to the functional requirements of existing jobs. EIF's relationship with each candidate is a business one, although staff are well-equipped to provide the necessary referral and support services to assist job candidates in meeting all of their independence needs.

Industry Leadership and Management

Industry involvement in EIF's job placement program is manifested at several levels. Through the foundation' s relationship with our parent organization, the Electronic Industries Association (EIA), we are linked to electronic companies throughout the United States that provide a unique entree into the local business community. EIF uses this linkage to select a local industry leader, who is an EIA member, to act as initial chairperson of a local advisory group. The advisory group works to carry out the management functions and to provide advice and counsel to ensure that all aspects of the project are tailored to the needs of employers. This linkage promotes business ownership of the project and ensures expert management from the start.

The second and third levels of business and industry involvement are through functioning committees and subcommittees. The two major committees include an employment committee and a training committee. Subcommittees make up the fourth and final level of business involvement. They evolve out of the major committees as needed. For example, subcommittees may be formed for development purposes or for public relations.

Unique Service Components

Besides serving as a springboard for business management and marketing, the linkage to business can give any agency access to expertise that can be tapped to develop other unique service approaches, including job accommodation assessment and assistance and services that link employers and people with disabilities to resources to meet the requirements of ADA. For example, EIF's Rehabilitation Engineering Center (REC), a regionally based project which provides expertise and services on assistive devices and job accommodation requirements, serves as a clearinghouse for our projects on the most up-to-date information on assistive technology.

Another major service offered through EIF's program is information and resources on matters related to ADA. Numerous awareness training programs have been developed to facilitate compliance with the act, as well as guides to assist employers in such areas as interviewing and job accommodation.

Preemployment Plan

To be successful, a job placement program must be able to assist people with disabilities in learning the skills necessary to compete in today's job market and to enable them to become more confident and motivated to seek jobs. Without this, the lives of people with disabilities will not be enriched through increased earnings and the opportunity to share in the social and economic rewards of our society.

To achieve these goals, EIF follows a process that involves four stages and a variety of interventions designed to overcome barriers, reduce disadvantages, and open doors.

Stage 1: Referral

Referral is a three-step process that involves determining job opportunities and requirements, communicating these to community-based agencies to recruit people with disabilities, and screening candidates. The process begins with a job need, either a specific job order or an identified area of regular job opportunity. Job requirements are carefully surveyed and analyzed. If necessary, onsite job analyses are conducted, especially if there is some concern about the need for job accommodations. Prospective job candidates are carefully interviewed and screened using a standardized application and interview procedure. Job candidates who meet employer specifications are selected and referred to the employer for interviewing. Those who are not job ready are referred to the appropriate agency for needed services. Job-ready candidates are matched to appropriate job openings in the community.

Stage 2: Developing Job-Seeking Skills

Sometimes people with disabilities have missed some of the developmental vocational experiences, such as summer or part-time jobs, that result in job histories, work experience, and confidence about job finding. These deficits may concern employers and present obstacles in the job search process. Making a positive impression on paper or in person is critical to this process. Presentation skills can be just the edge needed to secure a job.

Using the knowledge and experience of industry executives through an Employer Discussion Panel also provides innovative job-seeking skills training for job applicants. By sharing their expertise, this panel of corporate representatives helps job candidates increase their knowledge of the process of finding and keeping a job.

Teaching job-seeking skills involves a variety of techniques--modeling and demonstration of interview techniques, videotaped role playing, mock interviews with bona fide employers, and instruction, feedback, and support. Topics include interviewing and handling tough questions, completing applications, finding job leads, developing telephone skills and seif-marketing techniques, writing resumes and cover letters, and negotiating and accepting job offers. Each candidate receives assistance in preparing a professional businesslike resume and is guided through the job search process.

Stage 3: Training

For some people with disabilities, job skills training may be required. For example, some candidates are not likely to find a job or they are likely to be chronically underemployed without training. Others may need to update existing skills, or there may be a pressing need for skilled workers in a particular field and training could result in an immediate job or career development opportunity. Training is usually short term (2-6 months), but in some cases can take up to a year, is geared to overcoming a major barrier to employment-- lack of job skills--and is recommended in an occupational area that matches the interests, abilities, and skills of the job candidate and the demands of the labor market. With its linkage to business and industry, EIF has been able to make solid recommendations based on existing employer needs for certain skills and to identify on-the-job and industry-based training opportunities. Referrals also are made to existing community resources such as community-based training facilities, private vocational schools, community colleges, or other training facilities.

Stage 4: Placement

The placement stage of the process involves matching the candidate to the job, providing interventions to facilitate the placement, providing followup services to ensure that the job match is satisfactory and intervening if any problems arise. EIF has developed several techniques to facilitate the job match process in addition to those described earlier.

Specialists at several sites are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and Signing Exact English (SEE). In addition to communicating with deaf and hearing impaired candidates and conducting special job-seeking skills training for those who sign, these specialists also are able to serve as interpreters to help bridge the gap between the hearing impaired or deaf candidate and a prospective employer when initial contacts are made or when an interview is being conducted. "Exceptional Candidates" lists also are regularly sent to members of the employer network to advertise job-ready candidates. Staff respond to each job order by examining the existing pool of job candidates and alerting all referral sources for additional referrals. Job candidates are referred to job openings for which they qualify. When no job openings are currently evident, individual candidates are marketed to employers through one-on-one presentations. Candidates are also involved in generating job opportunities, so that the job candidate, staff, and employers are all engaged in identifying job opportunities.

Finally, an integral part of the placement process and EIF's customer service orientation is followup. We maintain regular contact with the new employee and the employer to evaluate the success of the match. For example, in those cases where worksite modification may be required, employment specialists will conduct an assessment of the work station and recommend to the employer those accommodations that may be needed. Sessions also are held with the employee's immediate supervisor to provide guidance and any information the supervisor may need to assure the most appropriate working environment for the new employee. One-on-one sessions with both the employer and the employee are held either in person or by phone to provide interventions as needed.

Over the years, EIF's original job placement model has remained essentially intact, with new services added when needed to enhance efforts. Our accomplishments demonstrate EIF's ability to help people with disabilities and to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between industry and rehabilitation. Furthermore, they have brought much recognition to the foundation, including being named by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, as one of five model programs in the nation which exemplify successful approaches to increasing competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities. But, the "bottom line" for evaluating success is not the number of awards received but rather the number of people with disabilities who are placed and the quality of those placements.

"The nation will achieve the full benefits of the new disabilities law only when employers allow all Americans to participate to the full extent of their abilities--not as 'disabled' employees, but as enabled contributors." These compelling words closed a recent Washington Post op-ed piece by a woman who does not consider herself disabled even though she has physical limitations. She said people with functional limitations are neither "pitiable" nor "heroic." "We are just average people trying to do the best we can." Her words capture the spirit of efforts to enhance the competitive employment of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are an important asset to our country. Yet, American industry is not benefiting from the purchasing power of competitively employed people with disabilities. As the Washington Post writer conveyed, most people with disabilities are not seeking charity but the opportunity to work, be productive, and lead economically independent lives. Yet, for an employer to be willing to invest in any potential employee, the worker must meet the standards and requirements of the job, and that requires involving the workplace. With employers nationwide faced with an increasing shortage of skilled workers and with the nation faced with the implementation of ADA, such involvement takes on an even greater meaning for those of us involved in placing or returning people with disabilities to the workplace one that not only will enrich the lives of these people but strengthen the country as well.


1. EIF is the not-for-profit foundation of the Electronic Industries Association, the major trade organization representing electronics manufacturers in the United States. The foundation works to resolve issues of national and public concern on behalf of the electronics industry. For almost two decades, EIF has operated a national Projects With Industry program through 15 affiliate projects around the country. Local projects have been supported in part by funds from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), U.S. Department of Education. Since 1977, more than 11,000 skilled people with disabilities have been placed in the competitive workforce through EIF's program as a result of the partnerships developed with over 1,800 employers and rehabilitation agencies nationwide.

2. Findings from the first phase of the survey dealing with employer practices were released on March 17, 1992. Gallup also polled 400 people with disabilities. Results from this phase of the survey were released and published in August 1992. Using the results of this survey as baseline data, EIF plans to continue with its comprehensive study as the effects of ADA are felt. A followup survey will be conducted approximately 1 year after the regulations have been implemented.

Ms. Mannon is President of the Electronic Industries Foundation, Washington, DC, where she oversees organizational operations and programmatic activities that focus on advancing the independence and productivity for people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, economically disadvantaged people, and other underserved populations.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Mannon, Molly M.
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Dec 22, 1992
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