Looking beyond disability: an employer's perspective
rteen years ago Susan Anderson received a spinal cord injury in a swimming lessonn and was diagnosed a C6-7 quadriplegic. Today she uses a manual wheelchair for mobility. She is employed as a revenue agent for the IRS in Laguna Niguel, CA. Anderson, honored as Laguna Niguel District's 1990 Disabled Employee of the Year, is a prime example of independence through employment.
IRS employs more than 2,500 people throughout the district, which covers most of Southern California. About 6% of these employees have identified themselves as having some type of disability.
"We have found three keys that are critical to the success of our program for disabled employees," says Jesse Cota, district director. "First, we must sensitize our employees to raise the level of disability awareness. Second, we must recruit qualified applicants. And third, we must promote qualified employees and insure opportunities for upward mobility."
The level of disability awareness must be raised to the point where managers and cowokers learn to "treat people as people." Once the work force is sensitized, new employees are far more likely to be accepted. To accomplish this, the Laguna Niguel District is in the process of providing all managers with classroom training designed to break down barriers.