Tykiah Wright aims to remove barriers for people with disabilities looking for work

For more than ten years TyKiah Wright has been at the helm of one of the nation’s top nonprofit organizations with a mission to provide internships for minorities and people with disabilities.

As founder and CEO of WrightChoice, Inc., she is a thought leader, trail blazer and advocate who is committed to diversity and developing the next generation workforce through internship placement and professional development training. TyKiah consults with companies nationally on “disability-inclusive” diversity strategies and works with community partners, including COWIC, to ensure internships and job placements to minorities and people with disabilities. She travels nationally to educate, motivate and inspire audiences at college campuses, corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

Recently named one of the 2016 YWCA Women of Achievement, TyKiah says that though more companies are willing to have the conversation about hiring people with disabilities, there is a still a long way to go in utilizing the skills and life experiences of this group of eager workers.

Q: What are some of the top barriers that people with disabilities face when looking for jobs?
TyKiah Wright: When seeking employment people of disabilities are confronted with attitudinal barriers which stem from the lack of education and exposure to a qualified talent pool. Until we acknowledge and address the presence of unconscious biases with recruiters and hiring managers the barriers will remain constant.

Q: How can employers be more aware of including more people with disabilities in their searches for employees?
Wright: First they must recognize that people with disabilities are the largest minority population that exist with more than 57 million Americans. Yet, we have the highest rates of unemployment even amongst degreed candidates. Second, they must establish hiring goals and share the message of a company-wide commitment to increasing hiring people with disabilities. Intentional engagement is key, efforts such as partnering with organizations that have a captured population of qualified talent is a proven strategy.

Q: What are some strategies employers can use to retain employees with disabilities and help them thrive within the company?
Wright: The best strategy for retention is an authentic message of inclusion. Making sure that all employees feel valued and respected and are considered for advancement opportunities are strongly correlated with retention.  Establishing Employer Resource Groups is a national best practice with a growing trend of creating disability focused groups.  This is an opportunity for companies to invest in its employees and hear from a collective voice what their needs and concerns are.  Strategies for the retention of people with disabilities are aligned with those from other diverse backgrounds.

Q: What should hiring managers consider when setting goals for hiring people with disabilities?
Wright: When setting goals for hiring people disabilities managers should consider establishing ongoing awareness training that leads to creating a culture of inclusion. They should also consider their own biases, seek to address them and approach the hiring process with creativity and an open mind.  Being able to think outside of the box and having true commitments to hire makes attaining these goals an easier process.

Q: How many companies did you engage with over National Disability Employment Awareness Month?
Wright: My October calendar gets full pretty quickly. October 2015 was an exciting month because we were still in the midst of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the month I facilitated trainings, keynotes and webinars for companies including Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati, United States Government Accountability Office, Cardinal Health and The Ohio State University.

Q: What are your goals concerning job opportunities and awareness for job seekers with disabilities in 2016?
Wright: My goal is to always promotes the inclusion of people disabilities and those from other diverse backgrounds in the workforce.  I do a lot of work with college students with disabilities making sure that they are prepared and connected to internship opportunities, with hopes of fostering a smoother transition post graduation.

Q: Do you see the needle moving as far as diversity when it comes to hiring people with disabilities? What will it take to get there?
Wright: Honestly, I do not see the needle moving with any significance. When President Obama signed an Executive Order revising Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act mandating companies that had federal contracts to increase their employee base to 7% people with disabilities this was a step in the right direction.  But the companies that are meeting their goals are those who already had strong commitments to inclusion. We still have a long way to go with educating employers, eliminating fear and promoting our true effects on cost saving, profitability, productivity, creativity and innovation.

Read more of our February 2016 Newsletter