‘Disability is rarely the only or most significant barrier to employment’
Viewpoints: By helping companies remove barriers at every step of the employment process, people with disabilities are able to find jobs where they can thrive, writes Lindsey Braciale, founder and CEO of Advocations.
Our monthly Viewpoints series invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Lindsey Braciale, founder and CEO of Advocations.
As someone born with a disability, I hated when people, especially “experts,” attempted to put limits on what I could do. When I continued to exceed their expectations, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my achievements were being graded on a curve. I didn’t want to be special; I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. When I realized my experience was not unique, I found my life’s purpose and a new business opportunity.
I started Advocations in 2009 to help companies solve critical labor challenges by pipelining talent that is often undervalued and overlooked by the business community. Our specialty is identifying opportunities where disability is either an asset to the job, or irrelevant. We initially used staffing as a Trojan horse to help our clients get their foot in the door and show what they could do. Today, Advocations offers a turnkey solution for companies looking to find and retain talented people, who also have disabilities, nationwide.
In recent years, we’ve seen the business community make great strides in their approach to equitable employment for people with disabilities. By engaging with companies like Wells Fargo to participate in our job seekers’ professional development efforts, we build personal connections that empower a company’s leadership to proactively identify and work toward removing barriers that stand in the way of finding and retaining workers with disabilities.
In fact, our first placement at Wells Fargo was in 2011 — our client’s father had built his career at Wells Fargo, and he advocated for his daughter to work there, too. Nine years and several promotions later, she just moved out on her own!
“We initially used staffing as a Trojan horse to help our clients get their foot in the door and show what they could do. Today, Advocations offers a turnkey solution for companies looking to find and retain talented people, who also have disabilities, nationwide.” Lindsey Braciale
Many companies, however, still report challenges in finding talent with disabilities to fill professional roles. While this is good for Advocations’ recruitment business, I worry that companies will start to benchmark success on how far they have come rather than on how far we have yet to go. Employment is a balance between supply and demand, and I think it’s time we also focus on the “supply” side of the employment equation.
Disability is rarely the only or most significant barrier to employment for our job seekers. Sadly, it’s the complex web of systemic failures, risk aversion, and low expectations that leads people with disabilities to settle for less when they can do more. Over the years, we’ve found parents are either the loudest supporters or the biggest roadblocks.
Before becoming a parent, I didn’t get it. There were instances when we would find a client a job that was a perfect fit, but their parents would sow doubts — we weren’t playing on the same team. I was trying to help them understand the dignity of risk, when they were just trying to live “one more day.”
Small Business Challenges and Insights
Hear more from Lindsey Braciale as she joins our panel of experts discussing the common obstacles most small business owners encounter.
The first time I heard the phrase, I was stunned and I didn’t know how to respond. So the father repeated himself and said, “One more day, because it’s too gut-wrenching to think about my child’s future without me.” As a mom and entrepreneur, I finally realize the power these three words have on the work that we do at Advocations, and today we are actively channeling this fear to create a powerful and unstoppable force for the future.
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I can’t help but think, “What got us here won’t get us there.” Timing is everything, and for me and the 61 million Americans with disabilities, the time is now. Will you join us?