The corporate workforce and the skills it needs are growing in an ever-widening pool of diverse potential and realized talent. It makes sense, then, to combine e-learning — one of the favorite ways to quickly distribute learning and get workers up to speed — with content for a large population of unrealized talent: workers with disabilities.
Chalk, a provider of interactive learning solutions and tools, recently created an alliance with the Enable Network, an organization that provides employers with disabled employees who can fulfill their jobs in the same manner as a person who is not disabled. The alliance produced training content custom designed to alleviate employers’ apprehension about hiring people who have disabilities.
“This type of training is particularly important because people with disabilities represent probably one of the largest relatively untapped labor markets in North America right now,” Stewart Walchli, Chalk president and CEO, said. “Many companies, including many of the Fortune 500, recognize this, and they recognize that they have a duty and an obligation to be good corporate citizens and make their organizations friendlier to people and to clients that have disabilities.
“In 2002, a U.S. Census report calculated that there are over 51.2 million people that have disabilities in this country. That’s roughly a sixth of the population. There’s also the legislative and regulatory side, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law back in 1990. There’s also some state-level legislation that requires companies to provide a certain level of training for the employees of the organization. Most organizations haven’t done a good enough job training their employees about effectively working with co-workers with disabilities and how to make their organizations a friendly place to work for people with disabilities.”
In addition to the traditional e-learning benefits such as easy, 24×7 access and the ability to take the training wherever it’s convenient, Walchli said this e-learning will provide consistency and standardized messaging. Plus, all learning activity can be easily tracked to make sure all employees have taken the training.
“HR managers and CLOs will have the ability to generate reports to ensure that all of their employees have taken this training,” Walchli explained. “Also, we’re building in Section 508 compliance, which means that the training will be able to be delivered to people with disabilities in a similar manner to the way it will be delivered to people without disabilities, with everything from having audio to larger print, if people are visually impaired, and so forth.”
Eric Jackier, chairman and CEO of the Enable Network, founded the organization in 2002. He said that when CLOs begin to develop content for people with disabilities, it’s important to consider everyone learns differently, depending on what disability they have.
“In terms of the training itself, there are four important pillars for effective disability integration,” Jackier explained. “There’s training for recruiters, training for the disabled community, training for the hiring manager and there’s training that needs to take place for the integration process. Once the person is hired, you need them to work seamlessly within an organization, disability or not.”
Jackier was born with cerebral palsy and is a self-described “lifelong member of the disabled community.”
Walchli said the seamless aspect is critical for both the individual and the entire organization.
“The HR managers and learning executives that we’ve spoken to see this as a core part of a company’s orientation,” Walchli said. “It’s really important that this becomes part of the culture of an organization, not just one particular department that is knowledgeable about this material — it should be across the organization.”
Open and honest communication between the disabled and business communities is essential, Jackier agreed. Further, he said the disability community needs to make its needs known.
“These are employees who happen to have a disability — they’re fully qualified to complete the jobs they were hired for,” he said. “To that end, it’s important that the corporate business community communicates what its needs are and what is expected of the employee. The more communication that goes on, on both ends, the more effective the relationship will be, and the more long-term success we’ll all have.”
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