Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 18 March 2014 (request for a preliminary ruling from the Equality Tribunal — Ireland) — Z v A Government Department, The Board of Management of a Community School

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 18 March 2014 (request for a preliminary ruling from the Equality Tribunal — Ireland) — Z v A Government Department, The Board of Management of a Community School

(Case C-363/12) (1)

((Reference for a preliminary ruling – Social policy – Directive 2006/54/EC – Equal treatment of male and female workers – Commissioning mother who has had a baby through a surrogacy arrangement – Refusal to grant her paid leave equivalent to maternity leave or adoptive leave – United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Directive 2000/78/EC – Equal treatment in employment and occupation – Prohibition of any discrimination on the ground of disability – Commissioning mother unable to bear a child – Existence of a disability – Validity of Directives 2006/54 and 2000/78))

2014/C 142/07

Language of the case: English

Referring court

Equality Tribunal

Parties to the main proceedings

Applicant: Z

Defendant: A Government Department, The Board of Management of a Community School

Re:

Request for a preliminary ruling — Equality Tribunal (Ireland) — Interpretation of Articles 4 and 14 of Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (OJ 2006 L 204, p. 23) — Interpretation of Articles 3(1) and 5 of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (OJ 2000 L 303, p. 16) — Biological mother having recourse to surrogacy — Person suffering from a physical disability which prevents her from giving birth — Right to maternity leave.

Operative part of the judgment

1.

Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, in particular Articles 4 and 14 thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that a refusal to provide paid leave equivalent to maternity leave to a female worker who as a commissioning mother has had a baby through a surrogacy arrangement does not constitute discrimination on grounds of sex.

The situation of such a commissioning mother as regards the grant of adoptive leave is not within the scope of that directive.

2.

Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation must be interpreted as meaning that a refusal to provide paid leave equivalent to maternity leave or adoptive leave to a female worker who is unable to bear a child and who has availed of a surrogacy arrangement does not constitute discrimination on the ground of disability.

The validity of that directive cannot be assessed in the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but that directive must, as far as possible, be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with that Convention.


(1)  OJ C 311, 13.10.2012.

 

LSAC’s discrimination

The Justice Department filed a joint motion today for entry of a landmark consent decree to resolve allegations that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) engaged in widespread and systemic discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Under the proposed consent decree, LSAC will pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages to compensate well over 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) over the past five years.  The decree also requires comprehensive reforms to LSAC’s policies and ends its practice of “flagging,” or annotating, LSAT score reports for test takers with disabilities who receive extended time as an accommodation.  These reforms will impact tens of thousands of test takers with disabilities for years to come. 

A Prisoner Of Conscience

“The Nuremberg Trials : The Doctors Trial

The Doctors Trial considered the fate of twenty-three German physicians who either participated in the Nazi program to euthanize … physically disabled or who conducted experiments on concentration camp prisoners without their consent.  The Doctors Trial lasted 140 days.  Eighty-five witnesses testified and almost 1,500 documents were introduced.  Sixteen of the doctors charged were found guilty.  Seven were executed.”

[http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/nurembergdoctortrial.html]

The above quote depicts the treatment meted out to hundreds of thousands of people who were physically challenged under the Nazi Germany regime; and how eventually Nuremberg trials brought to justice the doctors, the police men (SSS men) and those administering the concentration camps. Professor G.N. Saibaba – teaching English at Delhi University’s Ram Lal Anand College – was arrested on May 9, 2014 from with in the University campus by the Maharashtra police for his alleged Maoist links and is presently lodged in a Nagpur jail.

His plight is jail is comparable to that of physically challenged in concentration camps during the Nazi rule in Germany. He is lodged in a solitary, dark cell with no attendant. It means that if he wishes to answer the call of nature he has to crawl like an animal. In any case he cannot use the conventional toilet seat. Saibaba suffers from 90% disability afflicted as he is from Post Polio Residual Paralysis (PPRP) of both the legs since age 5. He also has weakness of upper limbs. Besides he suffers from high blood pressure; and has severe low backache. He is wheel chair bound and needs assistance for his everyday activities. Reports indicate that he is not even provided medicine for his high blood pressure. There is a very real risk of his getting a heart attack or a brain hemorrhage; the latter episode could leave him half paralyzed and speechless. The untreated high blood pressure could damage his kidneys. It may be recalled that Jayaprakash Narayan’s kidneys were damaged while he was incarcerated in jail during Mrs. Gandhi’s Internal Emergency years, 1975-77. He was heading the Sampoorna Kranti Andolam (Movement for Total Revolution). Not being provided with an attendant for help could lead to complications like loss of bowel and bladder control due to spinal cord compression – a sort of punishment being inflicted with in the jail premises which is worse than capital punishment. And Saibaba is just an accused!

Earlier in September 2013 the police had raided Saibaba’s residence and took away what was alleged to be ‘incriminating evidence’. Saibaba has since been assisting the Maharashtra police in its probe whenever it descended in Delhi. A charge sheet was filed in the case in February, 2014 as reported in a section of the print media and a non-bailable warrant procured against Saibaba. He was eventually arrested. As Prof. Saibaba was cooperating in the probe there was no need for his arrest during the trial period. Ironically he has been arrested under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [UAP Act] as amended from time to time. Under this law anticipatory bail is expressly prohibited. Even the regular bail gets denied under the Act if the court on a perusal of the case diary or the report prepared by the police is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true. This goes against the fundamental principles of granting bail to an accused. It is ultra vires the Constitution as the liberty of the accused is unnecessary curtailed. Some of the sections under which he has been charged include S. 13, 18, 20 and 39 of the UAP Act. The investigating agencies have gone to ludicrous lengths in using these sections against him.

Prof. Saibaba has always stood up for the rights of the dispossessed. He is pro-people. The mighty Indian State has undertaken a crackdown on Prof. Saibaba and those who share his views. The reason why the police arrested Prof. Saibaba appears to be to keep him in judicial custody/police custody for over 48 hours or more and then use this as a pretext – under cover of Govt. service rules – to suspend him from job as has been done on 15 May, 2014. Later the family would be asked to vacate the Govt. accommodation. All this would intensify the mental, psychological and social pressure on Prof. Saibaba. In ordinary circumstances had Saibaba been not wheelchair bound and afflicted with polio of both the legs he could have been shown to be escaping during transportation and eliminated in a false encounter. Since Prof. Saibaba is already paralyzed in both legs the authorities may not like to resort to break his legs or use the roller-coaster method – practices which are in vogue in many police stations.

We are living in an era where the biometric information of every citizen of India viz. pattern of iris, finger prints of both hands and the facial profile is available with the Ministry of Home Affairs. A misuse of this data could lead to any citizen being incriminated in any crime. Besides one does not need to be a computer whiz to appreciate how data can be added or deleted even from an external hard disk of a personal computer to incriminate people whom the Indian State deems to be dangerous to wit those sensitive persons who have the interest of the poorest of the poor at heart.

It is ironic that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 has the statement of Objects and Reasons of Bill tabled in Lok Sabha on 26 August, 1995; the statement includes inter alia the responsibility of the State towards protection of rights and provision of medical care; and to counteract any situation of the abuse and the exploitation of persons with disabilities. The Indian Constitution guarantees by Article 14 Equality before the Law and Equal Protection of the Laws; however the blind social stigma attached to physically incapacitated persons cannot be overlooked. It is patently obvious in Saibaba’s case. Someone has to have an I.Q. well below that of a congenital idiot to be missing Saibaba’s physical incapacitation. Those involved in investigating the matter for the last eight months failed to inform the higher authorities that a person with 90% disability is being arrested clandestinely from Delhi and airlifted surreptitiously to Nagpur or whereabouts in Maharashtra. The judge who remanded him to custody failed to order appropriate arrangements for him in the jail as befits a physically challenged person. The jail doctors and the jail administration, too violated the Disabilities Act by not making arrangements for ramps within the jail premises where Prof. Saibaba is lodged in a solitary, dark cell. As mandated by the provisions of the chapter 8 section 46 of the Disabilities Act the jail authorities failed to get adaptation of toilet for wheel chair users. As the problems faced by Prof. Saibaba have been highlighted by the media, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities appointed under the Disabilities Act could have taken steps to safe guard the rights and facilities that needed to be made available to Prof. Saibaba. The Chief Commissioner has the power to take suo motto action in case of deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities and to take up the matter with appropriate authorities. The Chief Commissioner, for the purpose of discharging his functions under this Act has the same powers as are vested in a court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Every proceeding before the Chief Commissioner is a judicial proceeding. Why has the Chief Commissioner under the Act or the State Chief Commissioner (based in Pune) not acted pro-actively so far in Prof. Saibaba’s case? Those who are physically challenged or differently abled in any way constitute the second largest minority community in India, second only to Muslims. It is shocking that twenty years after the passage of the Disability Act, State institutions including jails continue to deny basic rights and dignity to people who are differently abled. The Indian Government’s attitude becomes highly condemnable since India has also ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1 October, 2007.  Article 14 of the Convention states:

“Liberty and security of person

1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal

basis with others:

(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;

(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.

2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of the present Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation.”

Prof. Saibaba is a political prisoner. In view of the facts and circumstances of the case he needs to be given bail on emergent basis and the accusations against him withdrawn.

Source: http://www.countercurrents.org/sahni180514.htm By Shobha Aggarwal & Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni  a18 May, 2014

Blind man wins battle to become judge

Spanish legal authorities have ruled in favour of a blind 23-year-old law graduate who called for people with his disability to be allowed to become judges.

“Can a blind person like me carry out the work duties of a magistrate?” was the question sent by Gabriel Pérez Castellanos to the official body days after completing his Law degree in July 2013.

Ten months on and several adjournments later, Pérez Castellanos finally got the response he was hoping for.

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary ruled unanimously on Tuesday that blind people can access state entrance exams to qualify as judges even though their job responsibilities may have to be adapted to suitable cases.

According to the report, evidence used in court that “can only be assessed with one’s eyesight” is limited and “not enough to completely rule out blind people from a career in the judiciary”.

“I’m very happy, of course,” the young man told The Local.

Having scored 7.9 in his Law degree (equivalent to a First Class Honours degree in the UK), Pérez Castellanos is now completing a Master’s degree at Garrigues, Spain’s biggest law firm.

“The plan is to focus on labour law,” he said of his future plans.

And while the budding lawyer admitted it would be more difficult for a blind  person to be a judge — as would be the case for many professions — he thought none of the challenges were insurmountable.

“The main task of judges is to make decisions based on their knowledge of the law,” he said.

Pérez Castellanos told the Local doesn’t view himself as a spokespeson for blind people but admits he had been amazed, and delighted, by the repsonse to his situation.

Online petition website Change.org collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of Pérez Castellanos’ legal struggle.

Brazil, France, Peru and the UK already employ blind judges as stipulated in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

Source: http://www.thelocal.es/20140514/blind-man-wins-battle-to-become-a-judge

Living With Disability in Zambia

ANALYSIS

This week I wish to introduce one Zambian disability advocate; Noah Manda.

I met disabled Zambian advocate Noah Manda at an event titled “Challenges of Living with a Disability in Africa: Decent work for PWD,” organised by The ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Programme, a group highlighting and creating discourse on African issues from Moving towards disability inclusion perspective. He spoke about the challenges of being a Person(s) with Disabilities (PWD). Below are excerpts.

Who is Noah Manda?

I was born in the late sixties in Zambia when polio was prevalent. The situation was further exacerbated by road traffic accident.

In 1970, at three years old, I contracted polio, suffered the resultant paralysis of my right leg and became elbow clutches -dependent PWD.

After years of treatment, I began my education late at 12 years old, because there were few nursery schools that would accept young PWD.

I later attended a special needs school for young PWD for my primary education.

Studying in a specialised school was better because the physical environment was more accessible, and I didn’t receive questions from fellow students, as we were all PWD.

Receiving a secondary and college education was very challenging, as I had to cope with a very disability-unfriendly environment.

I experienced disability discrimination, including almost losing a term of high school because school wasn’t interested in admitting a PWD with better grades than many of their students.

Access to school facilities has always been difficult and sometimes impossible for me because most schools don’t have handicap-accessible amenities, including toilets. I’d have to restrain myself for the day.

Classrooms, libraries and dormitories weren’t any better. I cannot measure the impact such situations like writing exams without being given extra time, and being lifted on steps by kind but untrained people and the associated injury risks, have had on my academic grades.

The inconveniences caused by very limited accommodation of PWD questions the saying, “Disability is not inability,” because they directly impact one’s grades, which are subsequently used to measure one’s intellectual abilities.

Being a PWD and disability rights advocate has exposed me to numerous unchallenged human rights violations PWD endure.

Our society excludes and construes PWD in a demeaning way. Changes are occurring to positively impact African PWD – they have allowed few PWD like me to acquire an education and assume leadership positions – but improving the lives of PWD at the family, society, state and national levels is still needed.

My parents and Norwegian Zambia embassy partially sponsored and facilitated my education up until high school.

I then established a tuition centre for junior grades in order to raise money to take me to college where I received a technical skill in electronics and Celtel Zambia through the project Touching Lives, a corporate social responsibility project bought me electronic tool box to set-up a television (TV) and Radio Workshop repair.

This shows the relevance of coordinated efforts among different actors, which, if adopted by all sectors, including the employment and health sectors, will lead to more independence and positive societal impact for PWD.

The realities of PWD in Africa

As an Elder in my church, Security staff employee at G4S Zambia and a technician in electronics in Zambia, I am an exception.

In Africa, disabilities are often associated with evil spirits, curses and punishment for ancestral wrong doings.

There’s little understanding that PWD are human beings, equal to everyone else and entitled to the same rights, privileges and opportunities.

PWD are often totally dependent on others who often mistreat them, with no means to effectively manage their disability and related needs, such as with mobility devices, medication and regular medical treatment.

Many PWD have no capacity to decide their fate and are abandoned in the rural areas and stay poor, helpless, neglected, and betrayed by family and community members.

Generally, PWD in Africa lack access to public and government facilities, including health centers, schools, and legal centers like police stations and courts.

Many are left homeless, live on the streets where they are more vulnerable, and endure unwanted conflicts and assaults.

Female PWD also endure sexual exploitation. Due to rape and defilement, many have contacted HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies have resulted.

The additional burden of raising fatherless children alone increases their difficulties.

Many are unemployed because they are uneducated and vocationally unskilled.

Many with employment opportunities are destined for menial jobs.

This partly explains the large numbers of disabled beggars on the streets of many African countries’ capital cities.

Current African disability trends

Fortunately, international civil society organisations have prioritized PWD, targeting the issue either directly or indirectly in African programs they support.

The current trend is associations and partnership formation, such as disabled-persons organisations, community-based organisations, and international partnerships with donors, the community and advocacy-based agencies.

The non-profit organisation at which I’m the executive director, Christian Action, Research and Education on Disability(CAREDISA Media Resources received financial and technical support in its disability and media advocacy project to PWD in Zambia from different actors such as Abilis Foundation from Finland and Celtel Zambia then.

Legislative and disability policy measures are underway. Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi have either enacted laws on disability or restructured their domestic laws to reflect disability needs.

Numerous policies and strategies have been generated to guide disability work in several African countries.

Many have included and captured disability performance data for Millennium Development Goals, and to report to groups including human rights committees.

International conventions like the UN Convention on the Rights of PWD (UNCRPD) have guided laws on disabilities in countries like Zambia and Malawi.

Much still needs to be done to implement and fine-tune these laws to reflect the authors’ real intentions, but there’s now a ray of hope.

The CRPD has led to the creation of numerous disability rights agencies sponsoring African disability work, including Disability Rights Fund, Open Society Institute’s Disability Rights Initiative, and International Disability Alliance’s CRPD Forum, all of which are targeting effective and full implementation of rights enhancement for PWD worldwide, based on the UNCRPD, with some offering technical support.

There are now enhanced conceptualisation of disabilities from a human-rights perspective, and national human-rights commissions have established units on disabilities in South Africa and Uganda.

On the horizon

CAREDISA, one of the first disability concern media nonprofit organisations providing positive portrayal for Zambian PWD, is dealing with employment, accessibility, discrimination, thus (church and disability) and education is our preference.

We also conduct public awareness campaigns on the UN Convention on the Rights of PWD, which Zambia signed and ratified.

African countries must enact, repeal, amend, revise and implement disability laws.

They should also design workable regulations and guiding policies, utilising the CRPD model. Many countries have no definition or understanding of disabilities.

Disability concerns are often sidelined during policy making. Consequently, the resultant service delivered is inadequate or inappropriate. Specialised policies must be generated and introduced in international environments for the policies to be effected.

In Zambia there is a National Policy on Disability and the PWD Act # 6 0f 2012 but implementation is challenging.

Affirmative action is also required by law, and statutes should be enacted for special groups and PWD.

The state should lead in employing PWD, and organisations that employ significant numbers of employees should be required to hire members of special groups.

PWD are often isolated, and conditioned to accept and not question anything, even things done to them.

Therefore, they must be empowered and encouraged to speak up for themselves and speak out against negative occurrences.

For example, a woman PWD told me, “There’s a man who comes and rapes me daily, but who can I tell?”The man has since been arrested.

This happens because often PWD are not considered human, so crimes against them are ignored by law enforcement.

Crimes against PWD should be challenged, and their inclusion in mainstream society should be made essential.

Also, education and vocational skills training should be available to enable PWD become independent, self-sustaining and productive members of society.

If people want to help, they can promote, protect and respect the rights of PWD, and teach future generations to ensure continuity. Everyone can make contributions towards the fulfillment of the rights of PWD.

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201405050853.html DR FELIX SILWIMBA, 3 MAY 2014

Draft document sets quality standards for services to people with disability

A consultation document proposing standards for residential services for people with disability was rolled out this morning. Its purpose is to harmonise the quality of services provided to the disabled.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disability, Justyne Caruana, said that Malta had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012.

Now the next step was the implementation, she added. The Convention obliges the government to provide models which provide tailor-made and holistic services for disabled people.

Enforcement mechanisms will also feature heavily, Dr Caruana said. Emphasis will be placed on independent living and adequate staff training.

The national standards document targets three main areas: the needs of residential facilities, adequate and competent employees and the way the service is operated.

It goes into the rights which the resident is entitled to, including the resident’s legal rights, the way medication is administered and handled, the food offered, security, complaints, the viewing of sexuality as a natural and integral part of life and issues relating to privacy.

The document also underscores the emancipation of disabled people, Dr Caruana said, gesturing to the delicate pottery, crochet, ganutell and other crafts displayed by disabled residents of a number of day centres and the elderly of St Vincent de Paule.

“We want to help bring out their hidden talents, as evidenced from the beautiful exhibition set up.”

The consultation document can be viewed on http://www.activeageing.gov.mt/en/Pages/Setting-the-standards-for-residential-services-for-persons-with-disability.aspx

People are invited to send in recommendations and suggestions ondisabilityresidences.mfss@gov.mt by June 5.

Soruce: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20140505/local/draft-document-sets-quality-standards-for-services-to-people-with-disability.517730

New rules giving people with disabilities more opportunities

It took Aaron Bosley about a year to find a job.

Mr. Bosley started looking for full-time work when he was still a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in 2004. “At that time, it was hard to find work in the IT field,” he said in an interview at Highmark’s Downtown headquarters last week. “I sent my resume all over the state of New York and never heard anything back.”

As he talked, he moved his hands and an interpreter translated.

For Mr. Bosley, who has been deaf since he was 6 months old, the job hunt paid off in April 2005 when Highmark found him through a Pittsburgh-based consulting service.

Thanks to new regulations that became effective in March setting hiring goals, other federal contractors are now on the hunt to give veterans and other individuals with disabilities the same kind of opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor made changes to regulations implementing a section of the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities. The changes became effective March 24 as part of an effort to reduce high unemployment rates for veterans and people with disabilities and strengthen contractors’s affirmative action and nondiscrimination policies.

March 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Labor show that individuals with disabilities make up 19.5 percent of the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for disabled individuals in March was 14.5 percent, an increase of 1.5 percent since March 2013. While unemployment for disabled individuals increased, the unemployment rate for those without disabilities decreased from 7.4 percent in March 2013 to 6.5 percent in March 2014.

“Even though money is being spent on rehabilitation programs, people are not finding jobs,” said Kathleen Klinemann, CEO of Tripil, an independent living center for individuals with disabilities based in Washington, Pa.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs estimates that more than 45,000 companies — a list that includes names such as Royal Dutch Shell, AT&T and Dell — are federal contractors or subcontractors.

Under the new regulations, these companies will aspire toward a 7 percent utilization goal for veterans and individuals with disabilities. The goal refers to every job category for a contractor or for an entire workforce as a whole if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees.

Other highlights of the regulations include data collection, which will monitor the effects of companies’s outreach; the opportunity for employees to self-identify, or voluntarily let their employers know they have a disability; and records access, which will allow the compliance office to review any documents related to compliance checks.

Culture change

Though disability advocates believe the changes will be helpful, some also believe companies need to create a more disability-friendly environment if they want any employees with disabilities to self-identify. Because of some of the stigmas associated with disabilities, employees might decide to keep their companies in the dark.

According to Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, no company will be cited for a violation simply for failing to achieve the goal, but federal investigators will be looking for evidence that companies are taking the required steps to achieve the goal by conducting meaningful outreach and recruitment, and eliminating barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

“Failure to achieve a goal would not be a violation of the rule; but failure to try is,” said Ms. Shiu.

Because of the new regulations, up to 465,000 people living with a disability may have a chance at gaining employment within the next year, according to Tony Coelho, the primary sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and former California congressman. The act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, was enacted by Congress in 1990.

“In my view, it’s a real game-changer,” Mr. Coelho said. “For those of us with disabilities, a job is what’s critical.”

Creating a culture

One of the components of the new regulations is that companies invite future and current employees to voluntarily self-identify with paperwork similar to an ethnicity form.

The form uses prescribed language such as, “Yes, I have a disability,” “No, I don’t have a disability,” and “I don’t wish to answer.” An employee does not have to disclose the specific disability.

Joyce Bender, CEO of Bender Consulting Services at Penn Center West, helps those with disabilities find jobs.

Ms. Bender said she already has been contacted by several companies asking for help in regards to the new regulations. She said many of these companies are close to reaching their 7 percent goal, they just don’t know it yet because employees may have been hesitant to self-identify.

“If you want people with disabilities to self-identify, you have to do things to demonstrate we are disability friendly,” Ms. Bender said. “They know people look differently at them.”

According to Sara Oliver-Carter, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Highmark, in the past 20 years, the Pittsburgh insurer has hired around 100 people with disabilities with the help of Bender Consulting. The company strives to make its employees feel valued by using a three-pronged approach — comfort, disability etiquette and partnerships — to promote a culture of understanding, she said.

“People need to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I have a disability and I’m proud of it,’ ” Ms. Oliver-Carter said.

Highmark also has an Abilities Resource Group that helps employees with disabilities and is working to establish another program, The Voice, which will be similar to LGBTQ’s SafeZone. SafeZone was created to develop supportive environments in schools and workplaces for those in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.

According to Ms. Bender, companies need to understand that there’s a difference between being tolerant and being welcoming.

“What you’re going to have to do is create a culture and demonstrate from the very top this is important to this company. Until all of that happens, people would not self-identify immediately,” she said.

No deadline has been set for companies to meet their 7 percent utilization goal, but companies need to start now if they want to create a more disability-friendly environment, Ms. Bender said.

“For me, I’m thankful to have a job,” Mr. Bosley said.

Soruce: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/05/04/New-rules-giving-people-with-disabilities-more-opportunities/stories/201404300168