Disability Solutions marks 5 years of helping companies hire disabled employees
Published 2:46 pm, Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Ability Beyond has expanded its roots beyond Connecticut and New York with Disability Solutions, a consulting service that helps companies navigate the process of hiring employees with disabilities.
Launched five years ago, Disability Solutions has helped client companies hire more than 300 employees from entry-level to management positions. It works with companies of all sizes to create a strategy for hiring those with varying disabilities. Consultants help companies find new channels for talent, support culture change, leverage hiring incentives and understand the regulatory environment.
“It’s a baby industry — we’re almost inventing it,” Kristine Foss, managing director of Disability Solutions, said. “We say we are building and flying the plane at the same time. It’s still a new frontier.”
Disability Solutions was borne out of Ability Beyond’s work with PepsiCo as it helped the company with its initiative Pepsi ACT, or Achieving Change Together. Since then, Disability Solutions has worked with companies such as Synchrony Financial, American Express, Staples and Aramark.
“We become an extension of the company’s HR team,” Foss said.
Synchrony, based in Stamford, started a People with Disabilities Network program and has hired more than 60 employees over the last 12 months, mostly at its operations center in Kettering, Ohio, but also in Phoenix and India.
“You can say we are global now, which is exciting,” Foss said.
Julie Sowash of Disability Solutions worked with Synchrony Financial with its initiative. Sowash has hidden disabilities herself and brings a unique understanding to the process of hiring those with disabilities.
“My hope is that businesses across the country will follow Synchrony’s lead in seeing and engaging in the true value of our community,” Sowash said. “We are looking for opportunities to be successful in an organization that values talent of all types. Synchrony’s focus on culture, talent and people will be that opportunity for many people with disabilities.”
Foss said the definition of disability is broad when talking about the workplace, making for a “large and diverse talent pool.” Examples of disabilities are sight or hearing impairment, physical and mental disabilities, and veterans with disabilities. Foss said it extends to older workers who have had surgeries or suffered strokes.
“Our motto is ‘changing minds and changing lives.’ We are changing minds when it comes to who we are talking about,” Foss said. “For some, it’s just about being considered.”
Foss said she spoke to a woman who needed a wheelchair later in life and had trouble finding work. She was hired by Synchrony.
“She said she could see on people’s faces when she entered an interview that she wouldn’t be working there,” Foss said. “She didn’t feel that way when she went to Synchrony. They have a welcoming environment there and they are committed to diversity.”
The people with disabilities who are hired are not part of an Ability Program, Foss said. They are given the same salary and benefits as the rest of the company’s employees.
To help companies looking to hire employees with disabilities, Disability Solutions launched a national online career center to bring the employers and job-seekers together.
“Our service was founded on the principle that bringing together the most knowledgeable disability inclusion consultants would create a catalyst for true change in the workplace,” Foss said.
Ability Beyond, which is based in Bethel, provides services and support for people with disabilities and their families. There are two full-time employees in Bethel dedicated to Disability Solutions with consultants throughout the country.