I am going to give a talk in a seminar of employment for People with Disabilities (PwD) at Keio University next month. If this is one of your concerned topics, this is an event you cannot miss!
I was very honored to be invited to give a talk at “Inclusive Working Environment Forum for people with and without disabilities” on March 10.
My research has started since last October and finally is reaching to an end this month! Only few days left to go back home, Japan. When I first got Syracuse, I had only worries like “I don’t know if I can live here for 1 year…”, but everywhere can be the best place after you live there a while. Now I really love Syracuse including its inconvenience and lots of hills. hahaha. I really thank people who have supported me here in Syracuse!
1 and half year ago, I was selected as a fellow of Duskin Ainowa Foundation, and I joined their lecture to learn about the history of disability movement in the US. I spent 2 years in the US for college, so I knew the accessible environment for wheelchair users as well as that disabled people live actively in a community. However, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know the historical background of disability movement. This time in Washington DC, I had a precious opportunity to meet Judith Heumann, who is one of the key persons of disability movement in the US. She is a special advisor for international disability rights at U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has 53 offices across the country, and is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. When you experience discrimination by an employer, you can contact the nearest EEOC office and file a charge (complaint) so that EEOC can investigate the discrimination and, in some cases, sue the employer if the issue cannot be resolved. EEOC Headquarters is located in Washington DC, and it was an honor to meet Peggy Mastroianni, Legal Counsel.
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in the U.S. Department of Labor is working to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. I had the opportunity to interview three people at ODEP. The first person I would like to write about is Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary.
In Washington DC, I visited The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and interviewed Zach Baldwin, Director of Outreach. AAPD has implemented various projects to promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. This time I mainly asked about employment-related projects, which is my research focus.
Syracuse University where I have been working with since last October is the first college that started Disability Studies in the US. The campus is a very inclusive environment not only for students with disabilities but also for faculties with disabilities. Professor Michael A. Schwartz is a supervising attorney and director at Disability Rights Clinic under Syracuse University College of Law, and teaches disability law. He is Deaf.
Through my observation at the warehouse, I found that Costco has created an inclusive working environment where people from different background can work together. In Japan, many positions that require you to serve customers or people from outside of the company in a face-to-face situation are still not open for people with disabilities. I wonder why. Do employers in Japan think that people with disabilities cannot do customer service face-to-face? Or do employers think that it is embarrassing to show employees with disabilities to their customers? Or both? In some business fields such as retail or food industries, the majority of positions would require you to serve customers directly. How can those industries promote hiring people with disabilities?
The last company I visited in Seattle is Costco. The headquarters is located in Issaquah, which is 30-minute drive east from Seattle. I interviewed Brenda Weber, Assistant Vice President of Human Resource. At Costco, the vast majority of employees work at warehouses, which requires more physical movements as an essential function of the job. Those jobs might not link with employment for people with disabilities in Japan. However, Brenda estimates that there would be at least one employee with disabilities at each warehouse of Costco. Unlike Japan, US does not have a quota system for hiring people with disabilities. Then what kind of hiring process does Costco have to hire talented applicants including ones with disabilities?