Did you know there is a new Section 503 federal law that allows employers who are federal contractors or subcontractors to ask employees and/or job candidates to self-identify?
When you self-identify, it means you are voluntarily declaring yourself as a person with a disability. While the initial focus of the law is on disabilities, it quickly turns to a conversation about accommodations or productivity tools, if any, that an employee or job seeker needs to perform well on a given job.
This new law makes employers more aware of the actual state of disability diversity in their workplace and promotes hiring and advancement of job seekers with disabilities.
Self-identification is the “in” thing to do if you want equal access to employment or want to help your employer comply with the federal law.
The new law requires federal contractors and subcontractors to develop an action plan to achieve 7 percent utilization of people with disabilities. The 7 percent utilization rate is not a mandate, but progress is measured each year.
Four benefits of self-identification
1. Self-identification has benefits that help you get the accommodation or adaptation you may need to perform better on your job. Some people’s disabilities are invisible, so employers don’t know that you need an adaptation. For example, after my neck surgery that limited my range of neck motion, I notified my employer that I needed an adjustable height chair at my workstation instead of having to work while standing.
2. Self-identification is also a chance to improve your relationship with a supervisor. I informed my supervisor that if she would speak louder and have eye contact with me when she speaks, we could have a better interaction. After that conversation, my supervisor knew I cared about our relationship and wanted to make it better.
3. Self-identification also leads to greater inclusion in your workgroup. At least that was my experience. By self-identifying, you can actively help your employer in recruiting and hiring other individuals with disabilities. I inspired managers to recruit other individuals with disabilities.
4. Hand in hand with self-identification is your disclosure of functional skills you possess with or without accommodation. When the focus is on your functional skills, the disability does not matter. What matters is the unique set of skills and abilities you contribute to a team. On my job, I learned that I have strong customer service skills despite my hearing impairment. As part of self-identification, take the time to identify your functional skills with or without accommodation. Have the people closest to you get involved with functional skills identification.
I hope you will join me in my campaign to promote the importance of self-identification, whether you are a job seeker or an employee. I truly believe that our community can become stronger with openness to self-identification. With self-identification, we show our support for a federal law that is clearly designed to promote the hiring of individuals with disabilities.
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