Disability Convocation Spotlights the Hiring of Engineers with Unique Abilities

Panelists at the Spring 2018 Disability Unity Community Convocation. From left: Sandra Reyes (Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Diversity Administrator, State of Delaware), John Johnston (U.S. Department of Agriculture), Greg Pollock (Dow Chemical Company), and Keri Gray (U.S. Business Leadership Network). (Photo: Margot Hartford)
Panelists at the Spring 2018 Disability Unity Community Convocation. From left: Sandra Reyes (Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Diversity Administrator, State of Delaware), John Johnston (U.S. Department of Agriculture), Greg Pollock (Dow Chemical Company), and Keri Gray (U.S. Business Leadership Network). (Photo: Margot Hartford)

Among the least-considered attributes of people recovering from or adapting to a disability are the new skills they acquire in this process. The rewards and opportunities enjoyed by employers who hire people with such unique abilities were highlighted at AIChE’s Spring 2018 Disability Unity Community Convocation, which took place April 24 at the AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety in Orlando, Florida. The convocations — held at AIChE’s Spring and Annual Meetings — allow the engineering community to learn about the capabilities of colleagues with a history of disability, and the Spring 2018 event was devoted to employment issues related to professionals with disabilities, including recruitment, retention, and workforce re-entry.

Guest speakers discussed their work as advocates for disabled employees, as well as their own experiences as disabled people in the workforce. John J. Johnston, a food toxicologist with the U.S Department of Agriculture and a leader of the American Chemical Society’s Chemists With Disabilities Committee, spoke about the competitive advantages that companies can derive from hiring people with unique abilities. Greg Pollock, (HR, North America Diversity & Inclusion Lead, The Dow Chemical Company) detailed his company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and the importance of individual advocates in leading organizations toward inclusiveness. Keri Gray (director, Rising Leaders Initiatives, U.S. Business Leadership Network), advocated not only for disabled professionals, but also for millennials like herself, advising employers that they must develop more-inclusive hiring practices and working environments to leverage tech-savvy millennials, who may think and work differently than earlier generations of employees. Closing the session, Sandra Reyes, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Diversity Administrator for the State of Delaware, discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the rights of people with disabilities, along with a review of the ADA’s reasonable accommodation rules.

The session was organized and moderated by Chris Pope, an independent researcher and consultant from Santa Cruz, California, who chairs AIChE’s ChemEs with Disabilities Task Force.

Following the session, Bill Byers, vice president for the Energy, Environment, and Systems Group of CH2M HILL, sat down with Greg Pollock, and Keri Gray, director, Rising Leaders Initiatives, USBLN (U.S. Business Leadership Network) to discuss the importance of inclusion and the issues involved in being disabled in today's workplace. You can watch the interview below.

The Disability Unity Community Convocation — along with an associated reception — was supported with funding from the AIChE Foundation. In addition to the ChemEs with Disabilities Task Force, co-sponsors of the session included AIChE’s Management Division, the Young Professional Committee, and the Minority Affairs Committee.