Employment is an important part of community inclusion for people with disabilities. Meaningful work fosters personal growth, equal opportunity, self-sufficiency, and independence. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, The Arc is celebrating the many contributions and achievements of employees with disabilities in the local workforce and raising awareness of employment-related advantages unique to hiring people with disabilities.
Meet Tyler, a Loan Quality Specialist for QCR Holdings Inc. in Davenport. As an individual who identifies himself as a person with Asperger’s syndrome, he excels as a Quality Specialist where he gives meticulous attention to detail crucial to identifying and addressing even minor issues. Tyler double-checks that the information in their system is also correct on paper. His focus and dedication have contributed to high-quality outcomes. Say’s Jenny Miller, Director of Community Employment Services, “Tyler is the perfect candidate for his job.”
Tyler’s strengths in the workforce would not have been allowed to shine if not for the support of The Arc’s Community Employment Services program. Tyler was referred to The Arc through the Autism Society. He had found some quality matches in the job market, he just needed to refine how he packaged his educational and professional experience. Tyler graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Museum Studies and Biology from St. Ambrose University. He was working as a Contractor for the US Army Joint Munitions Command on the Rock Island Arsenal when his contract ended and he was looking for work.
Tyler was given some tools to track his interviews and most importantly the practice to help refine his delivery. Says Tyler, “That really, really helped. I was at a disadvantage.” People with Asperger’s can generally have good language skills, but they might still have difficulty picking up social cues or understanding context which can hinder their understanding of humor, sarcasm, or non–literal language which can come up in an interview. They also discussed whether or not to disclose his disability during the interview process. In Tyler’s case, he decided to disclose. Fortunately, the interviewer worked with other people like Tyler and was familiar with Asperger’s which helped open the flow of communication and created an atmosphere of mutual understanding where Tyler felt comfortable to discuss his strengths. After another interview and an aptitude test, Tyler was hired in his role at QCR Holdings.
Tyler has advice for anyone with a disability who might be looking for work. “It’s hard for everyone not just for people with Asperger’s. You are not the only ones.” Having a resource like The Arc made a difference for Tyler. “I do not view my Asperger’s as an excuse – I view it as an opportunity to get better every day.”
Employers like QCR Holdings are benefitting from the attributes that people with disabilities bring to the workforce. In Tyler’s case no special accommodations needed to be made to unlock his potential. Simply knowing where Tyler was coming from, made a big difference in establishing open lines of communication and clear expectations. As more people like Tyler are able to get the support they need to enter the workforce, employers are perfecting their practices to allow for a more neurologically diverse workforce and are rewarded with an extended talent pool.
The Arc would not have been able to help people like Tyler if not for the funding of the Genesis Health Foundation Community Assistance Funds for People with Disabilities which provided the gap funding needed to assist individuals who would not otherwise qualify for services. There are many people who are just outside of the service funding parameters that still require assistance to help them shine in the workforce. The Arc is grateful for its visionary leadership in this area.
During the month of October, we will be showcasing inclusive workplace practices that benefit disabled workers and employers. More and more employers are trying out-of-the-box thinking to address a tight labor market. Opportunities favor creative approaches, find out how The Arc’s Community Employment Services program can benefit your team at www.arcqca.org.