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Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

December 2, 2000
Related Topics: Disabilities, Featured Article
One of the biggest barriers toemploying disabled job candidates is the negative attitude of supervisors andcoworkers, according to a July 2000 study by Cornell University, “Americanswith Disabilities Act Implementation in the Federal and Private Workplaces.” 

    In that study of human resourcesmanagers at 400 federal employers and 800 private-sector employers, 43 percentof the federal employers and 22 percent of the private employers cited negativeattitudes of supervisors and coworkers toward persons with disabilities as acontinuing barrier to employment and advancement. 

    “Anecdotally, negative attitudesmanifest themselves in overt and subtle ways,” says Susanne Bruyère, directorof the program on employment and disabilities at Cornell and author of thestudy. “When employees are interviewed, they may be passed over because ofconcern they may not be as capable as other candidates. Often it’s notintentional.” 

    “Managers need to see a person who isboth productive and well-educated,” says Beth Hatch-Alleyne, a blind seniordesktop specialist for general markets at Xerox, in Webster, New York. Youcan’t expect people to know what you’re capable of if you don’t tell them,she says. “They don’t always understand that I need to do additional work inthe beginning. If a database doesn’t speak, I need to learn to program it tospeak.” Additionally, if a program is causing problems that decrease herproductivity, they need to know that also. 

    Basically, overcoming bias is a matterof educating managers and coworkers about the possibilities, and that’s a jobfor companies as well as individuals. The Norfolk Southern Corporation, arailroad headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, addresses the issue of negativeperceptions by providing training classes for all supervisors, says R. DavidCobbs Jr., director, EEO and employment. “But,” he adds, “it isn’t asextensive as sexual harassment training.” Nonetheless, he says, “Some of theperceptions have changed. Our managers look toward reasonable accommodationsnow.” 

Workforce, December2000, Vol. 79, No. 12, p. 42  Subscribenow!

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