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Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series | Kristine Foss

Kristine Foss | Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series | Fall 2018 | Changing Minds and Changing Lives through Disability Inclusion

Disability Solutions' Managing Director, Kristine Foss, was recently invited to speak at the Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series on November 8, 2018.


Presentation Overview:

Working with Employers: Changing Minds and Changing Lives through Disability Inclusion

November 8, 2018- Duration 2.75 hrs

Kristine Foss, MA, SPHR

Managing Director Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond Bethel, CT

Employment professionals, leaders, advocates, and jobseekers have a shared mission based on the belief that people with disabilities can and should work, and bring talent, perspective, and innovation to the workforce. As a former HR Professional, now working nationally with Fortune 500 companies as a disability inclusion consultant, Kris has seen the common disconnects, misperceptions, and conflicting priorities that keep us from achieving our mission. She will discuss her Top 5 secrets to working with employers, including avoiding the pitfalls and traps of disability inclusion well intentioned employers, jobseekers, and providers often encounter. Strategies will be shared for daily employment service delivery, proactively creating talent partnerships with employers, working collaboratively to form networks for success, and addressing risk or misperceptions.


Full Audio Presentation:


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Rutgers DDLS Presentation Audio Table of Contents:

  1. Part One: Introducing Kris Foss, Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond

  2. Part Two: The Current Landscape of Disability Inclusion

  3. Part Three: The Value Proposition of People with Disabilities in the Workplace

  4. Part Four: Talent Trends in Demand

  5. Part Five: Compliance and Self-Identification

  6. Part Six: Top Barriers to Disability Employment

  7. Part Seven: Disability Hiring Best Practices, Results and Actions

  8. Part Eight: Disability Inclusion Success Stories - Synchrony & Pepsi

  9. Part Nine: Building a Model for Success to Prepare Candidates with Disabilities

Audio Transcript:


Part One: Introducing Kris Foss, Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond

Margaret Gilbride: Good morning. My name is Margaret Gilbride. I am the Director of Transition and Employment at the Boggs Center, which is part of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. I would like to welcome you to the 279th session of the DD Lecture Series. We would like to gratefully acknowledge support for the series from the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Today's presentation will focus on ways we can help employers understand their businesses can thrive through disability inclusion. Despite the low unemployment rate, employers continue not to avail themselves of this untapped pool of job applicants, the applicants with disabilities. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to overrepresent this large untapped resource in today's workforce.

Only 26% of New Jerseyans with a cognitive disability were employed in 2017. Those with a non-cognitive disability fared better. They had a 37% rate of employment. In comparison, the employment rate was 74% for New Jerseyans with no disability. Despite research that continues to show employees with IDD are consistently rated as good to very good on almost all performance measures, employment professionals struggle to move the needle on employment first.

We're fortunate today to have Kristine Foss, a former generalist HR leader, now working nationally with Fortune 500 companies as a disability inclusion consultant. Kris' career U-turn provides a unique perspective that we can benefit from today, understanding the pressures and goals of the HR professional, as well as the experiences and barriers encountered by jobseekers and employees with disabilities. She has shared lens into the common disconnects that often keep employers from recruiting, hiring, and promoting talent with disabilities within their workforce.

Kris leads the Disability Solutions team, drawing from a combined 20 years of strategic leadership experience in human resources, workforce development, project management, and sales and marketing. Kris and her team worked nationally with Fortune 500 clients, including PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, American Express, AEON, and Aeromark.

During her career, Kris has developed workforce development strategies aligned with business goals and she has implemented several leadership and diversity initiatives. She currently served on several boards, including for The Bridge to Independence and Career Options, the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals, and Elsevier's College of Direct Support National Advisory Board.

Well, I have not worked directly with Kris myself. I have had the pleasure of working with several members of her team over the years, and they never disappoint. Please join me in welcoming Kristine Foss to New Jersey.

Kris Foss: Thank you. That's a lot to live up to. Thank you. Thank you all for coming out today. I know that you're all very busy. I know the work we do day-to-day keeps us very focused on helping jobseekers find work, navigating staffing, funding. I know that it keeps us all very busy, so it really is an honor that you all chose to come and spend the morning here with all of us and to talk with me a little bit about employment for people with disabilities.


Part Two: The Current Landscape of Disability Inclusion

Kris Foss: Going back to the current landscape, one thing I can say that is really, really exciting, and it gets my team very excited, and we've seen a lot of this and I bet a lot of you are seeing this, whether it's on social media or reading articles or watching television, people with disabilities, we're finding our voice. People with disabilities, the last two years, like never before had been involved with impacting policy and politics. I mean the last presidential election was the first time I ever remember that a person with a disability was on stage talking at both the Democratic and the Republican National Convention. I've never seen that before.

Groups like RespectAbility were putting out guides to talk about what each candidate, local and national, was talking about and what their platform around disability was. I don't remember us being part of any platform before. That's a big change.

I don't know if any of you follow [Emily Liddell 00:17:10]. She's a social activist, she's a person with a disability herself. She's just an incredible writer, blogger. She's all over social media. She talks about issues with accessibility. She shares her personal experiences with everything from dating to getting through a train station and everything in between. She's incredible.

Diversabilty. We're seeing people when we're worried about healthcare policy and changes being put forward in Congress. We see National ADAPT protesting, signs. We've found our voice, and that's exciting. That's the first time I can remember, except back with the passage of the ADA, and it's been a while.

We're expanding our visibility. How many people are seeing more and more television shows or advertising either including a person with a disability or even starring a person with a disability character? We're seeing a lot of that, right? Yeah. There's some reasons for that. One is that we're finding our voice. The CDC just last month put out new numbers that said that one in four, not just one in five, as it's been for years, but one in four people in our country have some type of disability. It's a large group, 25% of our population.

Entertainment, pop culture is starting to come around. What's exciting to me is that we're not just seeing ... We've got a long way to go, but we're not just seeing a character with a disability in television shows and in movies. But Hollywood's getting a little better, it's coming along at authentic casting where, believe it or not, a person with a disability. An actor with a disability is actually playing a character with a disability. A lot of big changes, and there's a reason for this, the reason that we're seeing more advertising and besides the pure numbers, and that's that we're wielding our spending power.

This is pretty amazing to me. When we started this journey, we thought that the burning platform that companies would pay attention to, especially federal contractors with their compliance obligations, we thought, "Well, maybe if they saw that they had some high turnover areas and that this was an untapped talent, they might pay attention to this." This is opening up doors, and companies are paying attention to this.

I know it's a little small, so I'll go over this. But in the US alone, people with disabilities themselves represent $645 billion in annual spending power buying services, going on trips, spending their dollars day-to-day in stores. That's a huge customer market. Then if you add in friends and family, allies, people that are paying attention to what companies are doing in hiring people with disabilities and making products and services accessible, many of us in this room that are paying attention to what companies are doing and voting with our pocketbook, $4 trillion annual spending power. It's huge numbers, and companies love a new market, so they're paying attention.