What’s Up WID: Accessible Workplace Accommodations Transcripts

Sheryl Ellis, a white woman wearing a blazer and blouse smiles.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Hello, everyone, and welcome back to What’s Up WID: The World Institute on Disability podcast, where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. I’m your host, Ashley Inkumsah. On today’s episode, Sheryl Ellis is discussing workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. Sheryl has more than 20 years of experience in human resources. She is the author of Making it Work: Managing Your Health Condition Through ADA Workplace Accommodations, and the Making it Work Employee Workbook.

                                             She is recognized as an expert in title one of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Sheryl and I discuss the importance of providing workplace accommodations for people with disabilities, how employers can create accessible work environments, and how people with disabilities can ask for accessibility accommodations in the workplace. Thank you so much, Sheryl, for joining me for this very important conversation about the importance of accessible workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. Before we get started, I do want to ask you, how are you doing today?

Sheryl Ellis:                        I’m doing okay. I would say, I am excited about the summer because I do live in the Pacific Northwest. So it is cold up here still. We’ve had a lot of rain this year, so I’m looking forward to a little bit warmer weather. Other than that, I’m doing okay.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Warmer weather is always preferred.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Yes. I will say. I’m ready to use my electric bike.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Love that. I love that for you. Now, if you could please tell us about your work and how you got involved in ADA compliance and HR facilitation work, I’d love to hear more about that.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Sure, sure. I’ve been in HR for about 20 years. I have had a disability pretty much since I was 24. I had meningitis at 24 and have had chronic pain and fibromyalgia and found out I had Lyme disease. So I’ve been one of the people that have been hiding my disability for a very long time. But being in HR, you have a little bit more flexibility. Then in 2004, I got in a car wreck going to see a client. I was rear ended and exacerbated my health condition. So it was the first time that I was faced with being an employee requesting accommodation instead of on the HR side. I worked for a PEO, which is a provider employer organization that provides HR for a lot of small to medium sized businesses. I realized at this time that, and a lot of us consultants, that we weren’t doing the job we needed to do as HR people, especially being in California, I was in California at the time, and what the laws required around ADA.

                                             It was a real wake up call for me. I got my master’s after that in dispute resolution, because I really wanted to understand how to work out situations between employees and employers in these situations. Because I realized that anytime in life, something can happen, where you need help at work, but you still want to perform and stuff. I was very fortunate. I had a great company that really worked for me, but as an HR person, it really helped me realize what it was I needed to do. In 2009, when the ADA amendment was enacted, it required accommodations for a broader range of individuals with health conditions. So I realized that companies in general were not prepared for this. They didn’t understand the law. Also, there was a lot of responsibility on the employee to understand how to request accommodations, understand their own condition of what they need at work.

                                             This could put me in a whole journey of starting to write a book. In the book I decided to go with educating the employee because employers really need to understand from the employee’s perspective, what limitations they have, what it is they need at work to overcome their condition in order for them to be productive. So I felt like the more that they could come to the table for HR and provide this information, the easier it is for everybody. HR and employers love when you actually have those resources available. A lot of this information, even as I’m going through the book, I’m realizing things about the law I didn’t even know. So it was a very big journey personally and professionally for me.

                                             It’s put me on that avenue of now specializing in ADA accommodations, workplace accommodations, helping employers with policies and procedures, implementing what I call the interactive accommodation process plan. And it’s about training. Training advocates, training HR professionals, training attorneys, I’ve trained attorneys, and helping managers. Managers are the ones that get caught in the middle. And they’re the ones that have a lot of responsibility, but don’t really understand what to do. So this has been my journey, is to help everybody start working together and really understand the law because this is a unique law in that both parties are responsible in this process. It is a unique law in that way. So I made the book where the employer can also use my book in order to help their employee.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yeah, that’s very interesting that you have experience on both sides, from an HR perspective, the employer’s perspective, and then as a person with a disability yourself having to request those accommodations. So you definitely clearly have a very well rounded expertise when it comes to this work because you’ve been on both sides. That is amazing to hear.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, and it’s humbling. It’s humbling because at the time I was like, “Oh yeah, I have health condition, but I can handle it. Yeah, blah, blah.” Then it happens to me and it’s like, it was a wake up call. We get humbled through life. Those humbleness experiences really help us to really see both sides. I think that’s critical, especially when it’s dealing with things like this.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yeah. That’s the thing about disability, is it can literally happen to anyone at any time. It’s why we should all care. One of the many reasons why we should all care about disability, inclusion and accessibility, because we all need it. Whether you’re disabled now or in the future or your family member, your loved ones, it’s really important that we all come together to prioritize accessibility for this reason.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Yeah. I think COVID was a real, again, another wake up call for everybody. It’s like, nobody was immune to this. People who have been healthy all their lives and all of a sudden now they have long-term COVID, they have long-term symptoms. I think from my experience of working with all ranges of disabilities, it’s sometimes harder when you’re older then you get sick or you have health conditions because you haven’t had to adapt or adjust or be creative and managing. Where somebody who’s been born with it, not saying it’s easier for them, but they have better adaptation and know how to be a little bit more flexible and innovative. Because they’ve had to, they’ve had no choice. My aunt has polio. That’s all she’s known since she was two years old. Now she’s experienced things I haven’t experienced. I think people are starting to realize it can happen anytime during life. We have to all be open to flexibility and finding ways to make it work for everybody.

Ashley Inkumsah:            I think that speaks to the fact that the disability community is not a monolith. Everyone experiences disability in a different way at a different time, but we all should still come together with lived experiences of what it means to have a disability. I think that’s really important to highlight.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Like Amazon, they created their, between 2010 and 2013, they created their accommodation process program. So they did it because they had warehouses. Because of the physical issues that people can have from being in the warehouse. In 2000, I think it was 2015, Facebook came to me about, and I didn’t work with them, but they created their own accommodation program and their own department because they have mental health challenges. You’re dealing with all this Facebook, so it’s a different challenge. What you see now is a lot of benefit brokers taking on some of that accommodation process for employers even though they still need to be part of that process. So you are seeing companies take this on because it can be complicated until you really understand it. Then that’s why you see the bigger companies doing it and the smaller companies looking at other resources outside, which makes sense.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Absolutely. What are some of the most common challenges in your experience that you’ve seen people with disabilities, and also as a person with a disability yourself, what are some of the most common challenges that people with disabilities face in the workplace?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Fear. Absolute fear for their job and past experiences. The way people react to them when they know they have a health condition. I’ve had experiences like that too. Not knowing how the employer’s going to react, what are they going to do? Are they going to lose their job? Are they going to take them seriously? Are their co-workers going to treat them professionally? This is when it’s up to the employer about how to lead this accommodation process in the company, so that employees feel comfortable to come forward and request it and know that it’s okay. Because it just makes someone productive. You’re going to have a more productive employee who can come out and ask for this. Now, this information’s confidential. So not all your other peers are going to know what’s going on, but it’s still that fear. They had that peer pressure.

                                             They even did a research with some scientists, that ones that had disabilities did not come forward, not because of the company, but because of their peers. So again, you have to make that environment disability, health condition, friendly that it’s okay to ask for what you need in order to be successful in your job. I think this goes back to, and this is why I wrote the book, was learning how to, and when to request accommodation. When’s the right time? You don’t have to request it when you apply for the job if that’s not what you even know. Most people don’t even know what they need. Some people never need an accommodation at work. Understanding your rights and responsibilities, and also know where those boundaries are.

                                             What is it that they can offer you? What is it that they can’t? What are those boundaries? Redo your research, and I teach that too about how to do your research. Doesn’t mean you need to know the exact thing. You may not know. It may be that you have to go to a physical therapist and occupational therapist to help you, but bringing to the table some information for the employer so that they have an idea of how to start working on this, really helps out a lot. Again, it’s just one of these laws that really do take both parties to be involved and really take some responsibility in the process.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Did you know WID offers accessibility, solutions and universal design services that support companies and organizations of all sizes via disability led surveys and focus groups, user experience testing, climate assessments and audits, training and advisory services? WID offers this service to drive better design and accessible experiences for employees, clients, and customers. Ready to learn more? Visit our website at www.wid.org/accessibility-services to book an appointment with us today.

                                             Why do you think that it’s important for employers once their employees do disclose their disability and their accessibility needs? Why is it important for employers to create disability inclusive, hiring practices, as well as the actual work environments?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, first of all, they’re tapping into individuals with qualified experience. So if you give individuals what they need in order to support them, then they are going to be able to be more productive. Also, what’s always so interesting and it’s the thing you don’t expect that other employees see this happening, they become more loyal and sometimes they actually find better ways to do their job. The sit-stand desks are a very good example of one of those that was made as an accommodation, but other employees found that it actually helped them also. They may not have seen themselves as having a disability or health condition, but they realize that this is going to help them also. There’s been several research studies that I always like to talk about. That this is not just panacea out of the sky information.

                                             Walgreens had a very aggressive disability inclusion program and they actually found people with disabilities actually were more loyal. Their retention was higher, they had higher productivity and they had less injuries. And then Microsoft credits its employees with disabilities were actually a driving force of innovation, problem solving and higher productivity. But as we talked about, sometimes we’re forced to be creative. We have to think outside the box in order to figure out the best way to do things. That really does transfer over to working. And then Accenture has a report that came out in 2018, that I was even shocked about, that companies who are disability inclusive and who hire and retain and accommodate employees with disabilities actually make twice as much money. Their net income is twice as much. There are 30% higher economic profit margins. There is a bottom line profit to doing this. It’s not just about doing the right thing.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yeah. I think the social good aspect of it is definitely the most important thing, but yeah, absolutely. I think that most companies, I would imagine most companies would want to be as profitable as possible. So it really is important to have disability inclusive workspaces because disabled people make up 1.3 billion people in the world are disabled. That’s a lot of people, that’s a lot of people to potentially add to the profitability of your company. So it’s really important to include the disability community.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Those people with disabilities have amazing qualifications. With my aunt having the physical, we can see it, they just made these assumptions. Well, one company really provided an opportunity for, I don’t know how she did it, but she was traveling all over the United States doing training, presentations on telecommunications. She didn’t even have at the time all the accommodations we have now. So yeah, there is a lot of talented people that they’re really missing. Again, you talk about profit. That’s the biggest concern with a lot of companies, is they think they’re going to lose profit. Again, it’s that education, learning how to work with this, to make this work for both you and the employees. So yeah, I agree with you.

Ashley Inkumsah:            How would you say, how does the ADA protect against workplace discrimination for people with disabilities and in what ways does the ADA fail to address workplace accommodations for people with disabilities?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, the first thing is the purpose of the ADA is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. This doesn’t mean better opportunities or more opportunities, but equal opportunities. It is a civil rights protection. A lot of people do not know that. Just like people, they provide with people on the basis of color, race, national origin. When I’m talking, I’m talking about workplace accommodations, that’s title one. There are actually five titles under the ADA, doing a little bit of a disability 101, because some of the stuff people don’t know about. So there’s five different titles in public life. There’s public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government agencies, and telecommunication, where they need to provide equal access and opportunities.

                                             A lot of people also think ADA disability… I can basically talk to somebody every day who thinks disability means you’re in a wheelchair or that you have something very, blind or deaf. They don’t realize that disability can mean fibromyalgia, any invisible disability. I use the word ADA disability a lot because people don’t understand that. In title one, the goal of title one, and that’s what I deal with is ADA employment, it’s to help protect you from discrimination in all employment practices. What that means is if you’re requesting accommodation or if you’re needing accommodation, that they can’t make employment decisions like firing you or demoting you because you’re requesting an accommodation. So it gives you some protections. It also protects people that you know. If you’re associated with somebody with a disability, they can’t discriminate against you because of that also.

                                             The key too to this is, again, what I was talking about the interactive process, is making sure that when someone requests accommodation, that the employer and the employee have to be involved in this discussion. It can’t be the employer doing all the work or the employee doing all the work. It’s really working together to see what works. A lot of it is trial and error. As far as how the ADA fails to address what employment discrimination is, it doesn’t eliminate economic inequality. It doesn’t change the norms or remove the stigma. That’s where we’re at right now, is trying to remove the stigma. There are still a lot of conscious and unconscious negative attitudes out there, and some of that is just not experience.

                                             They make these assumptions that workplace accommodations are very expensive. As you probably know, actually the job accommodation network does an ongoing survey to see how much the cost of workplace accommodations. I just saw a new percentage out there from then that says 56% of workplace accommodations are actually free. So sometimes it’s just adjusting that the way that somebody works and then the remaining is typically 500. And where I see 500 is maybe software that you need to have, or maybe a sit-stand desk or a chair. That’s when it gets to that 500 amount.

                                             It’s understanding too, that there’s not a lot of information of, if the employee cannot perform the main functions of the job with or without an accommodation, then they’re not qualified for the job. Just because somebody requests an accommodation doesn’t mean that they get to come and go as they please, they get anything that they want. There’s still guidelines just like anybody else. They still have to comply just like everybody else, but you’re providing those resources so they can do it. You don’t have to lower production standards, you don’t have to do these things or outside of what you would normally do with other employees.

                                             Again, that’s where a lot of my education goes into and where… The ADA is there to give you the laws. Then you have people like me and other job accommodation network, other professionals that help to explain in between the lines of what the benefits are, how to approach, how to do all this. So yeah, we’re still working on that stigma. It tends to be that companies who have had experiences with people with disabilities at work and have had successful outcomes, they tend to be more willing to hire people with disabilities.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yeah. I think that employers are certainly well intentioned. I think studies have shown that people’s intentions and their explicit intentions are to be inclusive of people with disabilities. But absolutely, like you said, people still have these unconscious implicit biases that sometimes you obviously, if it’s unconscious, they’re not even aware of it, the prejudices that they hold. So it’s hard to undo something when you don’t even realize that you’re doing it. I think the majority of employers do have good intentions, but they just need help from people like you and the work that we do at WID to help to practice that good intention in the right way.

Sheryl Ellis:                        They’re always so surprised of what it really means, what the law really means and how to apply it and what it doesn’t mean. Every day I get something where it’s like, no, you don’t have to do that. Some of that too is putting managers responsible for part of this when they’re not even trained on what the ADA is. What is your first thing your managers are thinking? Oh my gosh, she’s asking or he’s asking for an accommodation and I need to get the work done. What am I going to do? I’m going to panic. So they are coming from a whole different place than the employee is. If you provide those resources to your managers, you’re not going to get some of those, and that’s where a lot of the lawsuits are coming.

                                             I’ve had attorneys that are literally begging HR to train their managers, because they’re killing them. They’re doing things that are inappropriate. I think, like you said, the intentions are good. I think getting more managers, more employers to just talk about this, have discussions, what are your fears? So that I or WID or someone can talk about what is reality and what isn’t. Of course, people have bad experience with all different types of employees, not just people with disabilities, everybody. But you have to come with more of an understanding and experience and background to understand, let’s put this in perspective. How do we work this to the best advantage of both sides?

Ashley Inkumsah:            You touched on your book a little bit and I want to talk about it more. Your book, Making It Work: Managing Your Health Condition Through ADA Workplace Accommodations, I want to talk about how you address the challenges that people with disabilities face and what ways? How do you address that in your book?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Yeah. I think that’s the most important thing, is talking about, when? When do I do this? How do I do this? What does this process look like? What do I do if I have a bullying manager? Maybe they’re even discriminating against me. How do I deal with all this? I really go into that. I go into how to approach, how to best prepare, what information can you provide them? Then let’s say that you don’t get the response back that you need. Then I talk about ways to deal with that. The worst case scenario, I will tell you how to file a complaint, but that’s not in everybody’s best interest. Because even if you file a complaint, if you haven’t done your part, it’s not going to work anyways.

                                             So you might as well go through the process. But I get the fears, I’ve been there. I’ve gone through all this and I know you have to have reasons and decisions of why you want to request an accommodation. You don’t want to wait until your performance suffers because they don’t have to rescind a poor performance evaluation. If you need help to do this, even if you read my book or read parts of it, because it’s really a reference. It’s not meant to be read from… Let’s say you say, “Okay, I get it, but I still need support.” Well, that’s okay. There’s job accommodation network, there’s WID, there’s all these different resources that are there to support you, to help you.

                                             Sometimes I’ve had individuals just want to talk about it. Okay. Well, that’s what I thought. That’s what I was thinking about. People like WID and myself or other resources out there can really just help you say, okay, that’s what I thought. But what people tell me is that it helps them get a better idea of how this all works, and what are some ways to address some challenges or what even ideas of what type of accommodations out there? Because sometimes you don’t know. I have fibromyalgia type symptoms. Those come and go. Also, I try to explain that everything’s trial and error. What may work at one company may not work at another, or what was working doesn’t work because your health conditions change. So be kind to yourself, just be kind.

                                             I think that’s the biggest thing. The thing is, one of the things too, if you’re a veteran, if you’re an older worker, if you’re in the temporary workforce, a lot of people are temporary workers. There’s different laws to that. So I go into that also for different types of situations. Or if you’re recovering addict, that’s a hard one to know how to process. I try to help to explain what that process looks like. Then the other part is I try to help you manage your personal life. So you can do great at work.

                                             Now you’ve got your accommodations and your company supported, but your life is a mess. That’s what I challenge with, is I needed outside resources to help me. I did not live where my family lived, so I didn’t have any support. So I needed to know what I needed to do to help manage that. Because I couldn’t manage my personal life, then how was I going to manage my professional? So it’s a 360, I try to look at everything. There’s different parts of it’s going to help people in different parts of their lives, different parts of their career. And that was my intention.

Ashley Inkumsah:            That sounds super comprehensive. You covered all of the different angles and perspectives that people are approaching workplace accommodation from. Where can people purchase your book?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Amazon is where I mostly have it, and the American Bar Association. I would say, do it on Amazon if you’re not part of the membership. I don’t know that you can get it if you’re not part of the American Bar Association, but those are the two places. There’s lots of graphs and charts. So I do encourage if you feel comfortable, you have a good relationship with your manager or your employer, show them the book. Sometimes they need help going through it, especially if they’re a small company. I even talk about how can you discuss this with your employer and not be derogatory? You probably will know more than they do. 99% of the time, you will probably know more. And that’s okay, but you can do it in a respectful way of, “I’ve had this for a while. I knew that I needed to learn and understand what my responsibilities are.” I talk about that, how you can approach it when more than your employer does

Ashley Inkumsah:            Well, I will definitely be purchasing my copy. What advice, because we talked about the fear that people with disabilities live with in the workplace, what advice would you give to those people who are grappling with inaccessible workplace accommodations?

Sheryl Ellis:                        I think number one is understand that they’re just as afraid as you are. They really are managers, especially because most of the time they’re not educated and to understand sometimes their reaction… Not that it’s okay for them to react a certain way, but sometimes their reaction is out of their own fear and not understanding. By doing your homework, understanding a little bit about the ADA, providing the information they need. What your limitations or barriers are, how it’s been challenging for you, what research you’ve done to help you overcome that. These are some of my ideas. It gives them something to start with without worrying about, oh my gosh, have I… Because HR is always worried about, oh my gosh, can I ask this question? Can I not ask this question? So if you provide the information, you take all that.

                                             I had one case where I was helping an employee and I provided the… We practiced what she needed to request. And then HR was like, “Oh, great. Okay, good. Okay, you’ve got it.” She was just so happy. She didn’t have to try to sift through all that information. It really does help. Again, it’s a trial and error. I know that’s the hard part because a lot of people think that, okay, once you ask for that accommodation, that’s it. You don’t need to ask for another. If it doesn’t work, you can’t ask for… That’s not true. Again, sometimes you don’t know what you need, especially if you’re new to having a health condition or something like that. Just know too, both parties have responsibilities here.

                                             So is this not your responsibility on your onus to do everything? The employer has responsibilities too. What I say is, look for companies who already have and will be, I know you probably will ask me about this, having a DEIA plan already has a disability workplace accommodation. I’m sure WID can even tell you a lot of the companies that already are looking at doing this. Because they’ve already seen the value in having these type of employees also. I encourage people to get on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great place to go to find out who are hiring, what is their views and mission on disabilities?

Ashley Inkumsah:            On the employer side, because for those of us, you and I, we’re so immersed in this world of accessibility. It’s almost second nature to us. But for the outside, looking in people that this is not something that they’re used to for employers who might be a little apprehensive, we’re just overwhelmed with the idea of building an accessible workplace. What advice would you give to them? Where should they start in that journey?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, okay, the biggest is understanding the law. Understanding whether it’s my book or someone else’s book or going to WID and talking to you guys, getting information, learning about… Look at the case laws. Case laws are great to explain, to teach you what you should and shouldn’t do. I mean, they’re wonderful. We’ve got a lot of case law out there right now unfortunately. 2022 has been very busy, but that can really help you. Just from the bottom line, okay, this is what the employer did, and this is how they need to do to fix it. So, really seeing what’s in place.

                                             It’s not a matter of just going out and say, oh yeah, we accept individuals with disabilities. Come this way. It takes a little bit more planning. And it doesn’t mean you can’t walk before you have a plan. It’s just, get up to speed. If you’re not up to speed and you have somebody request an accommodation, reach out to one of us and ask us, how do I do this? I just had a company yesterday that had never had a request for accommodation. It was a pretty simple request, but they wanted to make sure that they took care of it in the right way. Sometimes it’s a matter of just starting out that way.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Now my last question for you is, with a lot of companies, the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are very focused in race and gender, sexual orientation, things like that. But disability is often left out of that diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. Why is it important that people with disabilities are included in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace?

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, first of all, diversity is disability. It is part of what we all experience. It is one diverse element that we all experience at one time or another in our life. I think that you hear the plans, the DEI plans. And you’re just starting to hear about accessibility as being, it’s called a DEIA plan. Everybody’s starting to talk about adding accessibility for disability. It’s just a little bit different. You can develop your DEI plan, but when you add the accessibility part, you have to make sure you have some policies and procedures in place. You understand when somebody requests accommodation, what that process looks like. You have a process set up, you have your employees trained, you have your managers trained. So there’s a little bit more backend work to do when you are putting this into your DEI plan, but it absolutely is critical.

                                             You really don’t have true diversity until you include individuals with disability. You really don’t. I think that’s something that you have to be able to consider. If you’re not ready to yet, make sure you do. It’s not just an ethical standpoint like we talked about, it’s economic. People who have DEIA plans are magnets for people. They want to work for companies that are accepting of all different kinds of backgrounds. Customers want to work for companies like that.

                                             They are able to provide customers with different innovative products and services they never even thought of before when you have different backgrounds. So there’s a lot to plan to put into this type of plan, but by twofold, it helps. In every way, it’s a positive thing, but you have to… I’ve seen companies put it out there before really thinking about it, take the time and the money to plan this so that it really does work to your benefit and your employees, and also your customers. That’s what it’s all about.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yeah. And I would add to that and say that in terms of disability, a lot of people belong to intersectional identities. A lot of people who are people of color are also disabled. A lot of women or LGBTQIA people are also disabled. So all of these are separate movements, they’re all one movement. And it’s important to recognize that their strength in identifying that people come from these multiply marginalized identities and including them in the diversity and inclusion.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Absolutely. What you say about that is important too, is that when you’re putting together these plans, make sure they’re part of that. You want a whole different group, you want your leadership team, but you also want your employees who identify in different intersection realities and parts of different areas. That’s where the creativity, that’s where you become the robust plan. You don’t want to be one of these companies. I just heard the other day that, we’re a DEI company. We’re a diverse company. Okay, what does that mean? You got to walk the talk and being able to really plan and do your research before you do that, I think is important.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yep. Actions speak louder than words, I would say that is-

Sheryl Ellis:                        They definitely do. And I think we’re coming along. Having the big organizations that are really seen like Microsoft and Walgreens and Facebook and Amazon, having these companies that are already on the frontier, because they’re so large, they had no choice. They were forced into doing this, but they’re seeing their own, they’re reaping benefits from them. Of course, they had the money to do this, but this allows for a lot of things to already been work through before some of the smaller to medium sized companies do this. And even if I know that you have people from all over the world, whether you have to apply to state laws in the United States or a different country, there’s still things that we are doing here in the United States that could be applicable in those areas.

                                             So your laws may be a little different, but again, it’s the whole idea of how do we, as a company and as individuals with disabilities in different intersectionality or from different backgrounds, how do we all work together and where do we see everybody’s benefit? We all come with all this experience and knowledge and innovation that coming together can really make for a spectacular experience for people at the company, the customers and the clients. But it does take planning. It does take work to get there.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Yep. Accessibility is everyone’s job. Disabled people, non-disabled, we all come together to… We have that one common mission of making the world accessible for people with disabilities for sure.

Sheryl Ellis:                        I think the remote work has really opened that up a lot. I do. I think that, again, you have to do your homework. Not to promote my book, but whether it’s my book or there’s other information on how to prepare for asking for remote work. Not just asking for it and expecting it, but how can you remotely work, provide that you have done the work that you need to do and be able to prove you’re doing the work. So there’s just a lot, and some of the technology out there is so exciting. I can’t even keep up with all the technology of allowing people to work in so many different ways. I think this is a… I heard somebody say the other day, it was like, “This is a really good time to have a medical condition or disability or health condition.” Because the technology out there has made it so much easier to be able to focus on your work. So I think it’s an exciting time.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Absolutely. I think now more than ever, people are embracing remote work. And I think that employers need to continue on that trajectory and realize how much that benefits people with disabilities for sure.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Yeah.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Well, I’ve had such a wonderful time. I really, really enjoyed our conversation. It was so fantastic and wonderful to have you on the podcast. It was fantastic.

Sheryl Ellis:                        Well, thank you so much for actually asking me questions for the employer and the individuals with disabilities. Because I think it’s one of those that everybody needs to understand from all different sides and stuff. So thank you for the questions you asked also. And I hope that it did give some people some insight on how to move forward with some of this. So thank you so much for having me.

Ashley Inkumsah:            Thanks again to the wonderful Sheryl Ellis for this very insightful conversation about workplace accommodations. It was such a pleasure to chat with someone with such a unique expertise as a person who has both facilitated and asked for accessibility accommodations. I also want to say thanks to you all at home for tuning into today’s episode. You can find transcripts and American sign language interpretations for today’s episode and all of our past episodes at www.wid.org/what’s/up/wid. Looking so forward to chatting with you all again on the next episode of What’s Up WID.

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