October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a month-long celebration of the contributions American workers with a disability have made to the workforce in the past and present. The intention of the month is to advocate for more inclusive hiring and employment practices.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that only 21.3 percent of disabled Americans are employed, despite record federal appropriations for specific employment services for disabled workers and estimated increased employment support and work incentive programming over the past decade.
In higher education, students with disabilities often face significant challenges when transitioning from secondary education to the workforce. The pathway to employment for disabled Americans is fraught with obstacles, including structural and attitudinal barriers to access, such as inaccessible transportation systems and employer reluctance to hire disabled workers.
Employing people with disabilities is usually seen as a social cause, one best suited to organizations that are not-for-profit or in the public sector. However, in many industries, innovative companies are showing that the inclusion of people with disabilities can lead to real competitive advantage and long-term profitability.
Employers and higher education institutions must continue to advocate for, and include the disability population which, despite the challenges they face, are dedicated and enthusiastic workers that deserve an opportunity to succeed.
Here are five ways career services can support students with a disability.
Early and Ongoing Career Exploration
Providing individuals with a disability with exposure to various career paths, internships, and mentorship opportunities helps them gain a better understanding of their interests and strengths. Early exposure enables students to make informed decisions about their academic and career trajectories, leading to a smoother transition from education to the workforce.
Collaboration Between Educational Institutions and Employers
Effective collaboration between educational institutions and employers is crucial in preparing students with disabilities for the workplace. There needs to be stronger partnerships between schools, colleges, and companies to bridge the gap between education and employment. This includes working with employers and companies to update job descriptions that are inclusive to the disability community, explain administrative burdens that disproportionally impact the disabled, and connecting them to students who meet their needs. By understanding industry needs and connecting with the disability services office, career services professionals can connect employers to untapped talent.
Individualized Accommodations and Support Systems
Tailoring accommodations to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities is a cornerstone of ensuring their success in the workplace. By recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by each student, educators and employers can create an environment that fosters inclusivity, allowing individuals with disabilities to thrive in their chosen fields.
Promoting Soft Skills Development
Communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving are essential skills that contribute to success in any professional setting. Educational programs should incorporate activities and experiences that nurture these skills, preparing students for the interpersonal aspects of the workplace and enhancing their overall employability. This can be very helpful to students who are neurodivergent and may need extra assistance to understanding how a job interview works, understanding communication styles, and equipping them with tools to be active participants in workplace culture.
Raising Awareness and Fostering a Culture of Inclusivity
A critical aspect of preparing students with disabilities for the workplace is creating a culture of inclusivity. By fostering a supportive and inclusive culture within educational institutions and workplaces, society can break down barriers and create an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can contribute meaningfully.
From early career exploration to fostering inclusivity and collaboration, the key takeaways emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to education and employment. Designed to support an institution-wide approach to student success, Symplicity Accommodate and Symplicity CSM can break down the departmental silos that are often the barriers to offering a fully holistic student experience.
With these tools, institutions can bring together Symplicity’s standout products for career services, student conduct, and disability services offices that have supported student services for more than 20 years—and other technology providers in business intelligence (BI), student information systems (SIS,) and analytics—all under one integrated platform.
If you’re curious about how Symplicity CSM and Accommodate can support your institution email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a conversation. For existing Symplicity clients, reach out to your client manager to learn how to connect these systems if both exist on your campus.