Talent within Disability
At Disability Solutions, we work directly with employers on their overall approach to recruiting, hiring, and retaining talent with disabilities, our greatest assets are the jobseekers and community-based talent partners who serve them. We have the opportunity of connecting with our jobseekers one-on-one and hear firsthand who they are as candidates, not just the words printed on their resumes. These personal connections are where we learn about the struggle, the rejection, and the judgment of being a jobseeker/employee with a disability. I have heard stories from the mouths of talented people with disabilities who were told “you are stupid,” “you will never amount to anything,” “you are a charity case,” or “you’ll never have a job.
Recently, I connected with Ryan Lundy, who works as a Teaching Assistant at Yale School of Pennsylvania, serving students with special needs and disabilities. At the age of five, Ryan had a developmental delay then in middle school he was diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disability (NVLD). A nonverbal learning disability is a neurological condition marked by a collection of academic and sometimes social difficulties. Comedian/Actor Chris Rock recently opened up about his NVLD and how he attends therapy weekly to cope with his diagnosis. Growing up wasn’t easy for Ryan. Over the years, he received occupational therapy and accommodations in school where he had a 504 which is a plan for students with disabilities in regular education. He had many tutors, counselors, and academic advisors. “School was not easy,” Ryan shared with me. “I was taken advantage of and bullied by kids, which turned into many days of coming home in tears wondering why I was always being excluded.”
Ryan continued to move forward to attend York College of Pennsylvania, where he went to parties with his roommates, became the Basketball Manager, and joined Best Buddies. Ryan has learned many coping strategies such as making to-do lists and setting reminders in his phone for mediation, yoga, and deep breathing. “This experience is why I have compassion for the work that I do today. I never thought I would be working with individuals with disabilities, but that is my calling. I work as a Teaching Assistant for a special education school, the Center for Autism, run recreation programs for two different townships, and do community integration work. I volunteer with the organization called Best Buddies and in the past coached in the Special Olympics.”
Ryan’s challenges with a disability didn’t just go away as he grew older. Like many people with disabilities, he developed new strategies. He established new paths that work for him, pushed through his disability, and was rewarded with success. “At times things are still difficult for me. Some employers haven’t given me a chance and that’s been degrading. I still don’t’ get certain movie references and struggle to connect with someone on dates, but professionally I feel I am making a difference in the world and people’s lives.”
People with disabilities are battle-tested in the game of life and have faced significant adversity. Rising above this adversity makes talent with disabilities a solid addition to your business. It is known that diverse hiring increases productivity, creativity, and the employer’s internal and external reputation. Employers are always looking for innovative ways to attract and hire from other diverse populations. Adding people with disabilities to your team brings people with unique viewpoints and different viewpoints and different life experiences lead to creative solutions for problems. Ryan is one of many who shared his experience with me, however, there are 61 million individuals with disabilities in the U.S. all with unique experiences, challenges, and backgrounds that are looking for that opportunity to share their talent. I challenge you to look at that talent within disability.