New Career Initiative & Programs Prepare Students with Disabilities for Employment

1.PNGTeenagers and young adults who want to jump-start their careers can benefit from Pathways to Careers, a Texas Workforce Commission initiative to expand pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) to students with disabilities. These career-focused services will include work opportunities, such as internships, apprenticeships, summer employment and other job opportunities available throughout the school year.

The first Pathways to Careers program is Summer Earn and Learn which will launch statewide this year. The program will provide 2,000 students with disabilities with work readiness training and paid work experience. The 28 Texas Workforce Solutions Board Offices, in partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions– Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS) staff will implement the Summer Earn and Learn program and coordinate the skills training and paid work experience.

The Boards will identify business partners and pay the students’ wages. Local TWS-VRS offices will assist with recruiting students and providing case management services.

Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast is partnering with the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to launch a Summer Earn and Learn program.

“We’re pleased to partner with HISD in providing summer jobs and career exploration for students with disabilities,” said Gulf Coast Executive Director Mike Temple.” We truly appreciate HISD’s commitment to the future for these young adults.”

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County is partnering with its local schools and Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth to implement its summer program.

“In addition to Goodwill, other employers we’ve reached out to include CVS Pharmacy, Klein Tools and the City of Mansfield Park and Recreation” said Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County Executive Director Judy McDonald. “Helping students with disabilities gain work-related knowledge and skills is extremely important, and we want to enlist the support of as many employers as possible.”

Other Pathways to Careers programs are still in development or preparing to launch and will expand upon Pre-ETS and career-related education to students with disabilities. Read more about those programs in future editions of Solutions.

Tips for Employers Interviewing People with Disabilities

By Michelle Colvard

People with disabilities, like me, live full lives. In a typical day, I don’t give any more thought to the fact that I use a wheelchair than someone who wears glasses gives thought to their eyesight.

I am a research compliance officer in the healthcare industry, I have spina bifida, and I use a wheelchair every day. I have been hired as a person with a disability and, as a manager; I have hired individuals who have disabilities. Some people may associate having a disability with weakness or with inability. But I represent the opposite view: having a disability fosters resilience, problem solving and critical thinking. These skills serve anyone well, particularly in the workforce.

Throughout my life, I learned how to dance (in my wheelchair), drive cars, race cars as a hobby, earn a master’s degree while working full time, and, now, raise a child. We do the things we care about because we’ve adapted to the world and helped the world adapt to us. Part of this adaption occurs in the workplace. So, as a manager, here are a few tips for other hiring managers to keep in mind during the hiring process of individuals who happen to have a disability:

  • Focus on Abilities, not Disabilities – Individuals with disabilities have education, skills, and professional experiences to offer employers. Don’t assume a person is incapable of doing a job just because they have a disability. During the interview, ask how the candidate will use his or her abilities to be successful in the role.
  • Focus on Job Description and Skill Set – Employees with disabilities want to be treated like all other employees: with consistency. Don’t lower your expectations for candidates with disabilities. Be fair when interviewing all candidates; focus questions to understand how candidates’ skill sets align with job descriptions.
  • Use People First Language – People with disabilities are people first, with the disability being just one part of who we are. Don’t talk to or about us in a manner that places our disability first. Utilize best practices defined by the concept “People-First Language” and say “a woman who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a wheel-chair bound woman.”

Remember that job candidates with disabilities likely have a pretty good idea of how they can be successful in the positions for which they are applying. Just like you would any candidate, give them a fair chance to explain.

Texas Workforce Commission is partnering with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the Texas Workforce Solutions network for a campaign called Texas HireAbility to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Significant Moments in Disability History Contribute to Employment of People with Disabilities

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the Texas Workforce Solutions board partners to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The campaign was launched in October in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As we end our celebration of NDEAM, we reflect on the significant moments in our history that are important to these efforts.

Many events in national and Texas state history have positively contributed to equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

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These moments in history are significant for establishing vocational rehabilitation programs, services and policies to help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, retain and advance in high-quality employment in Texas and across the United States.

Although NDEAM officially ended yesterday, our efforts to raise awareness and assist individuals with disabilities as they pursue their career goals will continue through our ongoing Texas HireAbility Campaign. For more information about vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities and to learn more about the Texas HireAbility campaign, visit

Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about #TXHireAbility.

Five Key Facts About Hiring People with Disabilities

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Texas Workforce Solutions to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The campaign was launched in October in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

According to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 82,000 Texans with disabilities of working age (18-64) are actively seeking employment. Below are several key advantages for businesses looking to recruit, hire and retain these qualified Texans.

  • Studies show employees with disabilities are rated by supervisors as being equally or more productive than coworkers and as achieving equal or better overall job performance.
  • 33% of hiring managers and executives reported that employees with disabilities stay in their jobs longer. Businesses which hire employees with disabilities report increased employee retention and less absenteeism.
  • 59% of workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities cost nothing, while most others have a onetime cost of $500 or less.
  • Hiring people with disabilities does not increase a company’s workers’ compensation liability. Workers’ compensation rates are based solely on the business’ accident record and operational hazards.  Employing  workers with disabilities does not impact the rates.
  • The labor laws businesses must follow when firing underperforming employees are the same for employees with or without disabilities. These employees can be terminated when appropriate documentation is maintained to support the decision.

For more information about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and to learn more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit

To learn how creating a culture of accessibility positively impacts business, watch and share this webinar produced by the Texas Workforce Solutions and the Texas Workforce Commission in collaboration with Seton Healthcare Family.

Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about #TXHireAbility.

Texas HireAbility Campaign Raising Awareness of Hiring People with Disabilities

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The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Texas Workforce Solutions to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.  The campaign is launched in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month to highlight the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce. Governor Greg Abbott has issued a proclamation for Disability Employment Awareness Month in Texas. The Texas HireAbility campaign will feature statewide events and resources for employers and job-seekers with disabilities.

Texas HireAbility resources for employers will include a Workplace Accessibility Webinar which employers can access on-demand from the Texas HireAbility website in early October.  TWC will also connect employers to resources on recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities through the TWC Solutions blog and other social media channels.

As part of the campaign’s launch in October, TWC will partner with Texas Workforce Solutions offices across the state to promote job and hiring fairs to that connect Texas employers with job seekers with disabilities.  These events will be ongoing and will provide opportunities for employers to receive resumes and applications, as well as conduct onsite or post-event interviews.  TWC will also promote events to help employers learn more about recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

Check out October’s full schedule of events associated with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about #TXHireAbility.

Working together to help employers hire people with abilities

Rey Cantu sitting in front of computer at workplace
Rey Cantu sitting at his work station – photo courtesy of Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande Valley

Employing knowledgeable and skilled employees who have strong abilities and dedicated work ethics is every employer’s dream. On the flipside, most job seekers want to work for business owners, large and small, who focus on their strengths and commitment to their careers. Making both dreams come true can be possible when employers concentrate on a candidate’s ability, not his or her disability, when hiring new employees. Effective Sept. 1, 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and employees from the former Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) began cementing an already strong partnership that strives for achievement of those dreams as the Business Relations team of the vocational rehabilitation program joined the Texas Workforce Solutions service network and became part of TWC.

The transition to this new agency has been a smooth one as the two agencies and their partners have been working together for years to help connect employers with individuals who have the abilities they need.

The story of Rey Cantu is just one example of this collaborative effort.

Rey Cantu is a young man that has difficulty with his vision and is unable to see at night or in places that are not lit properly. He felt that it would not be possible to get a job because of his disability. Cantu is among the more than 1.6 million working-aged Texans with one or more disabilities.

To help Cantu gain employment, Texas Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande (Lower Rio) and former DARS employees encouraged him to participate in the Work Experience Program with Lower Rio. Through this program, Cantu learned that he is not defined by his disability.

The Work Experience Program is a planned, structured learning experience that takes place with a business partner for a limited time period. After working with one employer for two-and-a-half months, Cantu was asked to stay on full time. He also received assistance with his communication skills and transportation needs, giving him the confidence needed to successfully gain employment.

“The Workforce Solutions Work Experience Program helps people get back into the workforce and support themselves,” said Lower Rio CEO Frank Almaraz. “It may be something as simple as helping to coach someone to have a little more self-confidence, clean up their résumé and be able to present themselves well or prepare for an interview. Just like Cantu, this training can open the doors to a new career for job seekers looking to join the workforce.”

Lower Rio has partnered with Project HIRE (Helping Individuals to Reach Employment) since 2012 to help hardworking individuals like Cantu develop skills for the workplace. Project HIRE is a grant awarded by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to obtain workplace skills and training.

“Rey was able to gain knowledge, practice and understanding of how to complete job tasks through the work experience he received at Valley Association for Independent Living (VAIL),” said VAIL Program Director Lidia A. Teran Gutierrez. “It allowed him to receive training that prepared him for the position he was offered. Because of this hands-on experience, Rey has been, and without a doubt, continues to be an asset at VAIL.” Partnerships such as Project HIRE provide an opportunity to encourage an individual’s professional skills, while teaching them to overcome barriers to employment. Project HIRE offers people with disabilities the opportunity for a successful career and financial independence. Businesses benefit from these partnerships through technical assistance and training to learn more about accommodating employees with disabilities.

“Participating in the Workforce Solutions Work Experience program helped me show VAIL that I could do the job. I was able to show VAIL my strengths and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get the job at VAIL in the first place without the help of Workforce Solutions,” said Cantu. “Thanks to everyone for all the help.”

Programs similar to Project HIRE and Workforce Experience help businesses become aware of how to train and retain employees who may have a disability.

On a national level, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2016 creates awareness of the importance that disability plays in workforce diversity. This year’s NDEAM theme is #InclusionWorks and will be observed in October. NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates employers about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.