Sunday, August 17, 2008

Walgreen's Leads the Way

Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, is leading the way in enhancing hiring of people with disabilities. On June 14, 2007, the company opened a new distribution center in Anderson, North Carolina equipped with technology and management training to facilitate hiring and retaining people with disabilities. The center has touch screens for the vision-impaired, flexible workstations, wheelchair ramps and elevators. All workers receive disability awareness training, and managers go through a special program run by the University of North Carolina on supporting disabled employees.

For the past year, the distribution center has staffed approximately 400 people, almost 40% of who have a disclosed disability. The center’s creation is not about empathy and is not subjected to lower performance expectations. Each team member is expected to perform at same level regardless of whether or not he or she has a disability.

In fact, the distribution center has shown the positive contribution people with disabilities can make to companies. The center is Walgreen’s most efficient distribution center in the United States and has been a tremendous success that the company is opening a new center in Windsor, Connecticut later this year.

The following is a clip about the Anderson, N.C. center featured on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams:

To learn more about the distribution center in Anderson, North Carolina or to consider employment opportunities with the company – visit The website is designed to be accessible by people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities

Thanks, Walgreens, for being an example and leading the way.
For Julia Turner, who was born with Down syndrome, a full-time job might seem out of reach, but not here, at Walgreens’ first-of-its-kind Southeastern distribution center.
“I have found what I want, and I’m satisfied,” Turner said as she scanned boxes at the center, which officially opened June 14.

The drugstore chain’s plan is to hire an 800-person workforce that is one-third disabled, but it is ahead of that goal, reporting that 42 percent of the 250 people it has hired so far have a physical or cognitive disability.

Tommy Watson has Asperger syndrome, sometimes known as “high-functioning autism,” which makes him developmentally disabled in some ways but also fuels a startling facility with computers. When anyone has a computer problem at Walgreens’ Anderson center, they call Watson.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

The outreach is the brainchild of Randy Lewis, Walgreens’ senior vice president of distribution and logistics, whose 19-year-old son, Austin, has autism.
“Austin’s gift to me was to look past the disability to see a person,” Lewis said. It is a philosophy that many businesses have been slow to embrace

For Walgreens, the outreach is no charity. Disabled workers must meet the same performance standards as their non-disabled colleagues, Lewis said, and the company expects its new distribution center to be fully as efficient and cost-effective as its traditional facilities.

Lewis said the Walgreens program gives hope to the parents of disabled children, who he said often wonder “what would happen after I’m gone. Can I live one day longer than my child?”

Watson’s mother, Dianne Lipper, said Walgreens has answered that question.
“I don’t have to have that worry anymore,” she said. “He’s going to be [taken] care of here. As long as he performs his job and does his best for Walgreens, he’s got a home.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

U.S. Federal Government Hiring

Article for With-TV
U.S. Federal Government Hiring
Buzzing in the Workplace

Note to Readers: Article below focuses on U.S. Federal Government hiring of people with disabilities. If you are a reader from outside the U.S. and have interesting information to share regarding your government’s hiring of people with disabilities, please feel free to contact me.

In January 2008, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a report on the federal employment of people with disabilities*. Overall, the EEOC concluded that the federal government employs fewer people with disabilities now than it has at any point during the last 20 years. The EEOC’s finding is troubling for the following reasons:

· The federal government has a mandate to be a model employer in the hiring and advancing individuals with disabilities.
· During the past 20 years, significant technological advancements afford people with disabilities a greater opportunity to work.
· The Office of Disability Employment Policy, a division of the U.S. Labor Department, indicates that roughly half of individuals with disabilities in the United States are unemployed (note: the office cautions the statistic may vary based on definition of disability and data source).

The EEOC made several recommendations for improving efforts to hire and retain individuals with disabilities. These recommendations include:

· Establishment of numerical goals for hiring individuals with disabilities on an annual basis.
· Ensuring procedures that make agencies and officials accountable for reaching goals and verifying that goals are obtained.

The initial implication of the EEOC’s findings has been a surge in commitment among federal government leaders to re-focus efforts on hiring people with disabilities. While a commitment from leaders is a great start, a push from our community will help.

If you are seeking employment, consider reaching out to your local congressional representative about potential opportunities.
· If you aren’t sure who your Senator is, click on the following link: On the top right side of your browsers select your state.
· If you aren’t sure who serves your district in the House of Representatives, click on the following link: On the top left side of your browser, type in your zip code and click “search”.

When contacting your local representative about potential employment opportunities, be sure to mention in the course of your conversation the EEOC’s report on federal hiring of people with disabilities. By networking with your representatives now, you may be able to reap the benefits of future efforts by the federal government to hire people with disabilities.

Feel free to contact me with your questions or thoughts…

* The Federal Government defines people with disabilities per codes on the Office of Personnel Management’s Standard Form. The coded disabilities are as follows: deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, convulsive disorders, mental retardation, mental illness, and distortion of limb and/or spine.
** Sources:,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Extended Time on GMAT

Wow – time passes quickly! I can’t believe it has two months since I posted on this blog. Consistent blogging is a skill and I admire those of you who are able to maintain your blogs daily.

Since my last blog, I took the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) and did much better than I expected. I received extended time on the test, which really helped as I know I could not have competed fairly with my peers without the additional time.

Why do I get additional time on my test if I only have a hearing loss?

When I was three years old, I was identified with a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. Age three is considered a late diagnosis and therefore I was delayed in the formation of auditory skills needed for the development of perceptual organization and processing skills. As a result, the speed at which I process information is slower than my hearing peers. Therefore, my ability to perform on time-crunch exams is affected.

Throughout my education years in grammar school, high school, and college – accommodations have been made available to me to so I could have the opportunity to be educated in curriculums developed for hearing students. Accommodations afforded to me were as follows:
o Alternative Testing Services (i.e. taking test in room by myself with a proctor)
o Extended time on course exams
o 50% Additional Time on Standardize Tests
o Note taking Services
o Preferential Seating Recommendation Services

I had to provide extensive documentation in order to get extended time. The documents I provided include:
o Audiograms (a document that shows hearing levels for certain sounds) of my hearing loss from initial diagnosis to date
o Psychological Examinations performed by doctors over the course of my life
o Audiological and Speech Language Evaluation

The intent of providing the documentation was to show that I have had a disability over the course of my life and that it has limited my perceptual organization and process skills. While I have these skills, they don’t perform at same rate as hearing people, but that doesn’t mean I’m slow ;).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Revealing Experiences

I drove by my grammar school the other night and had a flashback to second grade (note: I went to an all hearing school and was the only student who wore hearing aids). I remember my dad and I met with my second grade teacher, Ms. Reiser, before school on the first day of the school year. My mom and dad had packed a plastic baggie with batteries, back-up hearing aids, and an air-puff tool (not sure what it is called!). My dad and Ms. Reiser wanted to make sure I knew to go to her should I have problems with my hearing aids. I remember feeling shy and embarassed as my dad gave Ms. Reiser the bag of goodies.

Another flashback I had was around the same time in my life (second or third grade) and I was waiting in line to go to the bathroom with other kids in our class. I remember someone behind me was curious about my hearing aids. He kept touching one of my aids. Upon his touch, I shooke my head and turning away. I looked on the floor or moved somewhere else in line.

These memories reveal how I was really insecure about my hearing impairment at an early age. Although my mom used to to tell me my hearing aids were like glasses, clearly I didn't feel that way. I didn't like being the odd one out wearing instruments that no one else wore. I certainly didn't feel cool having hearing aids -- never decorated them or wore them in a color other than tan.

I'm going to make a list of things that were a challenge for me as a result of my impariment (or as a result of my being insecure about my hearing impairement). This will be my next post.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Below is my article for WithTV posted on February 14th:

Several weeks back I wrote about different ways one can identify whether or not a firm is truly committed to hiring people with disabilities. One factor I mentioned was to consider whether or not a firm has an Employee Resource Group for people with disabilities, as the group tends to facilitate and improve employee engagement on disability issues.

If you watched the Super Bowl, you may have learned of one such employee group called EnAble. EnAble is a group within PepsiCo that supports diversity and the inclusion of persons with different abilities.

EnAble created a commercial for the Super Bowl that was performed entirely in sign language and contained subtitles. The spot was created by and features PepsiCo employees who are members of EnAble. The ad is an attempt to demonstrate PepsiCo’s commitment to diversity by airing the first ad using ASL and subtitles only on a national broadcasting network (there was no sound at all).

According to PepsiCo, "this is one way we can give back through what we call Performance with Purpose. It's part of a larger effort to make PepsiCo the defining corporation of the 21st century. By bringing the world an ad performed by deaf employees in ASL, we feel like we've already scored the upset on Super Bowl Sunday."

While the ad may have produced mix feeling among members of our community, one fact remains true -- without a group like EnAble we may never have seen such an ad played during the Super Bowl. Additionally, EnAble opened the door for dialogue about the media’s level of engagement on disability issues, and raises awareness on the importance of corporate hiring practices to include hiring people with disabilities.

If you didn’t catch the ad, check it out below:
(see post Bob's House -- Pepsi's new Super Bowl Ad -- January 27th)

Description of Ad:
Two guys in a pickup truck (one’s drinking a Pepsi) are headed to a Super Bowl party hosted by their friend Bob, but they stop on the darkened upper-middle-class street after neither one remembers which house is his.

The two spend a bit of time arguing before the driver gets an idea and repeatedly honks the horn. House lights begin to pop on as they slowly work through the neighborhood, honking along the way.

They stop at the only house that remains dark and the driver declares, “That’s it!”
“Yeah, ya think?” the passenger replies sarcastically.

They walk up and ring Bob’s doorbell, prompting Bob’s foyer light to flash three times. Bob lets the pair in, and the passenger gives a quick “Sorry” to a puzzled neighbor before walking inside.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bob's House -- Pepsi's new Super Bowl Ad

EnAble a group within PepsiCo which supports diversity and the inclusion of persons with different abilities. Check out the ad - very clever.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A True Commitment to Hiring people with Disabilities

Most companies in corporate America have statements regarding their equal employment policy. It often goes something like this:

“Our Equal Employment policy is to identify, attract, retain, and advance the most qualified persons, without regard to their race, religion, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or veteran's status.”

While most companies have policies such as the one above, not all demonstrate a commitment to hiring people with disabilities. From my professional experience, I have yet to meet another individual in the consulting industry who has a visible disability (with the exception of people who wear glasses). This is within my firm and well as within several major Fortune 500 corporations (but bear in mind I haven’t met everyone in the firm).

Why is hiring and retaining people with disabilities so important for a company?
Diversity contributes to a company’s strength. The combination of unique skills, abilities, experiences and backgrounds creates an environment that produces extraordinary results. People with disabilities are an important component of fostering diversity and often bring an outside of the box thinking with them to their job since it is a way of thinking necessary for living with a disability every day.

How do I know if a company is committed to hiring people with disabilities?
When evaluating if a company is committed to hiring people with disabilities, consider the following:

  • Does the company partner with organizations focusing on disability? Relationships with organizations focusing on disability are a clear indication that a company is interested in recruiting people with disabilities. Partnerships serve as an avenue for a corporation to recruit talent within a pool of people with disabilities.
  • Does the company offer disability training and resources? Sensitizing employees to the capabilities of people with disabilities and the issues they face is critical. A company that offers employees diversity training on how to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities typically indicates a company’s commitment to ensure employment for people with disabilities is successful.
  • Does the firm have an Employee Resources Group or Task-Force geared specifically for people with disabilities? An Employee Resource Groups and/or a Task-Force facilitate and improve employee engagement on disability issues. Employee groups for employees with disabilities can help a company provide amenities to make people with disabilities feel welcome. These groups exist to help employees maximize opportunities to network and develop their careers, and to strengthen the company’s recruitment, retention, leadership development, and outreach for people with disabilities.

If you are a person with a disability, consider evaluating companies based on the above when exploring employment opportunities. If you are a supporter of people with disabilities and are currently employed, consider evaluating whether or not your firm does any of the above. If your firm doesn’t, consider challenging your firm to demonstrate its true commitment to hiring people with disabilities.

Feel free to email me with your thoughts or questions.