Disability Inclusion at Work
The Maine Medical Center Department of Vocational Services Employer Services team provides no-cost, inclusive workforce resources for businesses. Our business-centric approach focuses on educating employers on the value of disability inclusion.
We provide free trainings, strategies, and practical tools to help businesses across Maine create a work culture that is intentionally inclusive of people with disabilities. Our mission is to bridge the gap between people with disabilities and employment to ensure people with disabilities are included in Maine’s workforce.
Susan Gatti is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has lived and worked in the Greater Portland area for over 30 years. Susan’s career path has provided her with first-hand experience in, and knowledge of, the Maine labor market including, direct experience working with corporations, non-profit organizations, and small businesses. She has personally established and maintained several small businesses and held management positions in the manufacturing and insurance industries. Prior to her current role as an Employer Relations Specialist, Susan’s work included compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a Return to Work Coordinator and Reassignment Specialist and working as an Employment Specialist to assist people with disabilities obtain and sustain employment.
Chris Hynes’ strategic creativity and focus on business sustainability stems from his recently received MBA from the University of Vermont’s Sustainable innovation program. Chris’ educational specialty is related to social sustainability with a major focus on inclusive hiring practices. Prior to his current role as an Employer Relations Specialist, Chris was an AmeriCorps VISTA member where he managed a children and families program at Emmaus Inc, a homeless shelter in Haverhill, MA. Chris’ combined education and work history provide him with a unique business strategy lens that understands the importance of simultaneously meeting a business’ goals and supporting an inclusive work culture.
Jennifer N. Kimble, M.S., CRC is the Director of Maine Medical Center’s Department of Vocational Services. Jennifer holds a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and has worked in the field of supported employment since 1996. After working for several years in Boston, Jennifer returned to Maine in 2002, working as an Employment Specialist at MMC's Department of Vocational Services. She transitioned to Operations Manager in 2003, and to Director in 2017, overseeing local programming in addition to contracts with state and federal agencies. Jennifer is the current Chair of the Maine State Workforce Board’s Commission on Disability and Employment and represents Northern New England on the board of the National Association of Benefits and Work Incentives Specialists.
Training and Education
The Employer Services team provides free, customized, disability inclusion trainings for leadership, managers, staff, human resource professionals, diversity equity and inclusion specialists and talent acquisition partners. Sample topics include:
- Introduction to disability inclusion
- What does disability look like?
- Disability etiquette
- Disability inclusion within diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
- Business case for hiring people with disabilities
- Practical suggestions for companies to be more inclusive
- Understanding the ADA as it relates to reasonable accommodations and accessibility
We also assist over 1000 job seekers per year on their vocational journey. Job seekers are referred to us by community agencies serving individuals with barriers to employment. The majority of job seeker referrals come through a partnership with the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services.
Our team collaborates with hiring managers, human resource representatives and talent acquisition partners to assist with workforce recruitment and to identify high-quality matches that are valuable for both the business and the job seekers.
Strategic Planning and Implementation
We create and mobilize a strategic framework that helps businesses create a disability-inclusive work culture. Services may include:
- Review of application, interview and on-boarding processes
- Incorporating disability inclusion within a comprehensive DEI strategy
- Assistance with developing an employee resource group (ERG) specific to disability
- Review of business policies and procedures to identify opportunities to improve disability inclusion
We identify and suggest reasonable accommodation strategies to support sustained employment for people with disabilities. Services include:
- Providing suggestions on how to build an inclusive culture to ensure people with disabilities are able to bring their best selves to work
- Assessing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to reassignment and the accommodation process
There are many benefits, both financial and beyond, that come from implementing and executing an inclusive hiring strategy. A disability inclusion program (DI) will benefit a company’s bottom line. It can also foster a positive culture and will encourage employees to bring their best selves to work every day. Studies have shown that many businesses that have mobilized a DI hiring strategy report an increased profit margin; Companies can expect the same or better business results in terms of costs, productivity, and output.
- Cost Reduction
- Reduced Turnover: Turnover can be reduced by 20-30% compared to other labor pools; when costs associated with turnover are decreased, productivity and efficiency benefit.
- Recruiting/HR Costs: By using state funded community organizations and resources (such as DVS), companies can reduce their costs for recruiting and ensure a pipeline of qualified, vetted, and supported job candidates.
- Improved Market Share
- People with disabilities represent a large portion of the consumer market. This market share grows if family members, caregiver, friends, and other connections to a person with a disability are taken into account; increased awareness can help boost sales and revenue.
- Tax Credits & Incentives
- Companies may be eligible for Work Opportunities Tax Credits (WOTC). They can also use state and local resources to access low-cost/free training programs.
Beyond Financial Benefits
- Enhanced Reputation
- Increased awareness by stakeholders and consumers can build brand loyalty and ultimately create a competitive advantage in the market.
- Increased Innovation
- Everyday people with disabilities have to be creative in order to adapt to the world around them. This has helped them develop strengths in problem solving, persistence, agility, etc. All of these skills can help boost innovation internal to the company that hired them.
For support related to a specific employee associated with Maine Medical Center’s Department of Vocational Services, contact the employee’s Employment Specialist or Job Coach.
For information about recruiting qualified job seekers or to learn more about Employer Services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources to Advance Disability Inclusion
Strategic Planning: How to get started
- Disability Employment and Inclusion: Your Guide to Success
- ODEP | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)
- Building an Inclusive Workforce (dol.gov)
- Steps to Get Started with Disability Inclusion
- DI-Quick-Start-Guide-Full.pdf (workplaceinitiative.org)
- EmployerGuide.pdf (maine.gov)
- Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage | Accenture
- Maine CITE
- Accessibility (askjan.org)
- MDOL: Accessibility Guide (maine.gov)
- Office Accessibility Center - Resources for people with disabilities (microsoft.com)
- Disability Etiquette (askjan.org)
- Disability Etiquette - A Starting Guide - Disability:IN (disabilityin.org)
- 5 Myths and the Real Facts for Employers - Think Beyond the Label - Think Beyond the Label
- Understanding equality versus equity | Canadian HR Reporter
- How to define dihttps://www.cultureamp.com/blog/how-to-define-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-at-work/versity, equity, and inclusion at work - Culture Amp Blog
- Unpacking the debate over person-first vs. identity-first language in the autism community - News @ Northeastern
The Employer Services team publishes a quarterly newsletter to provide resources and information pertaining to disability inclusion in Maine’s workforce.
If you are interested in joining our email list, sign up here.