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Did you know that 70% of disabilities are invisible or not readily noticeable?

In this interview with Kevin McCloskey, we continued our recognition of National Disability Ability Awareness Month in March. As the Senior Director of Partnership Development at Disability Solutions, Kevin works directly with employers on developing programs to actively attract, hire and retain talent with disabilities. Kevin trains employers to educate them on the benefits of hiring talent with disabilities and provides tools to help them best engage and support potential and current employees. Kevin also regularly contributes to blogs and hosts Disability Solutions’ podcast “Changing Minds and Changing Lives.”

*NOTE 00:56 – The name of Disability Solution’s parent company is Ability Beyond (not Building Beyond)

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Transcript – The Invisible Profession Podcast Ep. 017

Welcome to the Linguava podcast, the invisible profession, we give you tools, tips, and resources in medical interpretation and translation and help bring to life our profession and ultimately help improve health outcomes for the limited English proficient and Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

David: Kevin, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s a real honor to have. Have you with us and get to learn a bit more about what you’re doing and the impact you’re having on the community. If you can start off just by, by sharing a little bit about who you are and some of the work that you do at Disability Solutions.

Kevin: Sure. So my name is Kevin McCloskey. I’m the senior director of partnership development with Disability Solutions. So Disability Solutions is a great company we work for. Basically we are what we call a consulting arm of a nonprofit called Ability Beyond. So Ability Beyond has been around in the Connecticut New York area for over 60 years, providing excellent service to people with disabilities.

So we have, residential facilities, we have back to work programs. We have day. You name it, we’re probably doing it in the disability field. So we decided about nine, 10 years ago that we saw a huge opportunity with employers to really educate them on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and also an opportunity to educate them.

So a lot of education upfront and then really helped them put together a program that could be successful to out there and actively recruit, hire, retain talent with disabilities.

David: When we talk about disabilities just for the whole community who’s listening this morning. If you had to describe what is a disability?

Kevin: Sure. Yeah, that’s one of the first things we start with, when we do our trainings with companies is a disability is large. Like the definition itself really, affects your major life activities. The stigma around disabilities it might be someone in a wheelchair. Someone has autism when there’s all these different disabilities out there, 70% of disabilities are actually invisible or not readily noticeable.

Employers always thinking about, what are we going to do when we hire this person with disability, or we are going to need an accommodation? What are we going to do to accommodate that individual? When really people disabilities are mostly just like me and you they come color and background.

I like to say that disabilities don’t discriminate. They could factor in anyone and there’s different types of disabilities out there. So when you’re actively thinking about hiring people disabilities I guarantee you have people disabilities working for you right now. And our mission here is to prove that anyone with a disability can do the job just as good, if not better than those without disabilities. And we’ve proved it.

David: Amazing work that you guys are doing there Disability Solutions.

This month right now is Disability Awareness Month for you and the work that you do and the support and advocacy that you’re a part of. What does this month mean to you personally?

Kevin: It means a lot. So again, our motto is changing minds changing lives, and we realized very quickly when we started Disability Solutions, that education needs to be a huge part of the program. We’re not just going out and hiring people with disabilities just to do it, or it’s not charity model. It’s really going to have to, you have to understand that the best way to do it and put together a successful program.

So I love creating awareness of people with disabilities. Like I said before, one of the. The biggest things I talk to people and employers about is that 70%, you had people disabilities working for you now. And they’re going to bring some really great unique talents to the table when they come for employment.

And again, so that the awareness we do is very important. I remember one time we worked with an employer and it they titled our training I don’t remember this right now, but they titled our training something like man, I wish I remember the name of it, but it was something like. It was to be scared like you did something wrong.

So now we have to do this training where we’re like, we’re just going to come here. We’re going to dispel some of those fears and stigmas around people disabilities, especially when it comes to employment. And just really give you as an employer better tools for your toolbox to be able to go out there and successfully do it.

So I it’s, my favorite part of the job is awareness and watching those light bulbs jump into people’s heads or come up to me after a training and be like, I had a disability, I didn’t even realize. And I don’t check the box that I’m a person with a disability or get involved at all. So education is a key piece of what we do.

So I’m glad to bring awareness to it today.

David: Yeah, that’s fantastic that you’re, bringing that awareness and for us at Linguava and the language access space in a similar way I feel like we’re bringing awareness and education to many people. We specialize in medical medical field.

So medical providers of how to best provide language access. Did the limited English proficient communities or Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. Can you share or think of a story where you’ve seen language access maybe in the interpreting space with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, have a significant impact on someone’s ability to succeed.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. I have a few stories actually. I was out in Las Vegas I’m going to say six years, six, seven years ago working with a company to open a brand new facility and help them. They wanted to hire people with disabilities. So we worked with several different groups out there.

One it comes to mind is the college of Southern Nevada had a great program for helping people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing employed. So we work with them a lot and put them through a training. So this company had basically machinery, the jobs were putting together or taking apart machinery and putting it back together.

So we had individuals come in and we had interpreters and more importantly, I love the way these individuals were working with each other to help each other, figure it out on the floor. And as far as it goes with interpreters, two gentlemen that were hired on to this company and obviously need interpreters there a lot at first.

But what we realized early on is they taught the company a lot more than the company taught them. So they would come in and actually host some morning meetings and they would teach their staff or teach their coworkers a new sign every day. That was related to work. So when they’re on the floor, they’re able to talk, they’re able to teach these individuals on the floor.

Some signs that we’re actually helping them on a job, or they needed interpreters there all the time. But they will come in for trains and whatnot. We also saw and just like camaraderie. Their coworkers come together in, help them sign some stuff to them during those meetings or write out some notes to help them.

So we saw some great success there, accessibility teams, and we were teams and zooms. They have the subtitles there now. So another thing that the barriers, like it’s not I mumble a lot, so something that I see my words pop up and they’re wrong. It’s also helping me as human beings to be able to realize.

To be fully accessible. I gotta make some changes too, to accompany the individuals that need understand what I’m saying. Just the technology and some of the things that have been done over the last five to 10 years in the disability space has really given a great opportunity to people who have these wonderful skills and experience and are able to do the job.

So this technology interpreters all around, it’s just, it’s a great tool to help people get where they should be able to.

David: Yeah. And, Kevin I’ve heard such amazing things about your trainings. And I’ve gotten to not experience them directly, but we’ll watch some of your trainings on online.

And for those who might be interested in receiving a training or reaching out and connecting with you, what’s the best way they can. They can.

Kevin: Sure. So our website is a or we have on research sources up there. We just launched actually a training portal. So you can go on and click and take a training right there on the website.

We also do them live obviously before the pandemic, we are out on the road all the time doing this training. So we do them live. We do them via zoom on webinars and we also have the learning management system for individuals go on. So that’s a you can also find our blogs and our podcasts about everything related to disability especially disability employment.

David: You could just give us one, one call to action for the audience today.

Kevin: I say this a lot before but, we are Disability Solutions and we would go to, let’s say a career fair, or we go to a big event, a conference. Individuals will speak to the booth next to us, and then they’ll look at us, read our name is Disability Solutions and then they keep on going. They don’t want to have that conversation. It’s uncomfortable for people and it’s okay. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. But what I say is this is disability awareness, right? Jump in, don’t be afraid. It’s a huge talent pool out there. If you’re an employer, I’m sure you’re having a hard time finding talent.

We’ve had a lot our last two years for us, I’ve been great because companies are really starting to realize we need to look at other resources to find employment and people with disabilities as an untapped pool of talent. So again, just dive in, don’t be afraid. Get some education. And just take that first step.

I think that’s really important to educate yourself, take that first step, and then you’ll see all the wonderful things that come with recruiting, hiring people with disabilities.

David: Yes. You all heard it. If you have questions, educate is the best way to jump in the pool and reach out to Kevin and be able to ask him questions directly.

And he has a lot of great trainings and resources. So Kevin, thank you so much again for your time. This morning. Really appreciate what you’re doing for the Disability Community and we’ll look forward to connecting again.

Kevin: Thank you. Appreciate it.