Podcast Episodes

Season Three


Episode 14: Envisioning a Future of Disability Inclusion

Lydia Brown, director of public policy at the National Disability Institute, discusses two issues preventing people with disabilities from excelling in the workforce and in general: policies that trap them in poverty and artificial intelligence that discriminates. Antiquated Social Security rules with asset and income limits create a poverty trap that limits a disabled individual from seeking more pay or career advancement. In terms of AI, algorithms are being used that may screen out candidates with disabilities based on certain characteristics such as gaps in employment history, or length of time it took an individual to graduate from college. Often these characteristics are unrelated to a job function or job performance. Brown says these are two of the major issues of this generation for not only disability rights groups but also policymakers. They represent larger issues regarding policies, laws, socioeconomic structures, and the need to address our fundamental values as a society.

Episode 15: Unraveling Disability Employment Statistics: Impact of COVID

Ari Ne’eman, doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University, says that the numbers demonstrate the extraordinary impact the COVID-19-induced shift to expanded telework had on the employment opportunities for people with disabilities, but even those don’t tell the complete story regarding what remote work means for disability employment. It is a situation reflective of the gains prospective employees with disabilities experienced because of the pandemic and the parallel economic recession, Ari Ne’eman, doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University, says in this episode. The overnight shift to remote work for much of the general workforce because of the pandemic has made it more difficult for employers to argue that physical presence in the workplace is an essential component in job duties, Ne’eman points out, and this is the essence of how disability employment has benefited from remote work. That deconstruction of the perceived importance of physical presence in the workplace needs to be normalized.

Episode 16: Advancing Disability Inclusion in Apprenticeship Programs

Nicholas Wyman, executive director of the Institute for Workforce Skills and Innovation, describes the value that apprenticeships offer in addressing disability employment disparities. In doing so, he describes the obstacles that people with disabilities face in seeking employment, whether outright discriminatory assumptions or longstanding practices that may have good intentions but have adverse consequences for people with disabilities. It is vital with continued skilled labor shortages for employers to rethink the application processes and coordinated support systems to enable disabled people to succeed in inclusive apprenticeships.

Episode 17: Disability and Telework: An Encouraging and Concerning Trend

Mason Ameri, associate professor at the Rutgers University Business School, describes how the pandemic has transformed the outlook of disability employment. Tight labor markets have demonstrated an increased willingness by employers to have remote workers, and people with disabilities are helping meet this demand. However, the growth of telework is more likely in white collar jobs, and workers with disabilities are more concentrated in blue collar jobs and service positions. There is a need for more research to understand how employers can restructure jobs where nonessential tasks are done remotely as well as increased understanding of remote work as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA with other supports that make that possible. There remain unanswered questions as to whether remote workers will be put to a different standard in proving performance necessary for career advancement, challenged by less real time interaction face-to-face with supervisors.

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