UNT to hold employment seminar for young adults with disabilities

What:           “Prep for Success” — A free seminar at the University of North Texas that is designed to prepare young adults with visible or hidden disabilities for employment. Sponsored by UNT’s Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation and the Texas Workforce Commission, among other sponsors.                

When:          April 28 (Friday)                         

Where:         Room 314 (Ballroom) of UNT’s University Union, located at 1155 Union Circle.

Parking:       Available in the Highland Street Parking Garage and Union Circle Parking Garage. For information, go to http://transportation.unt.edu/visitor-information.

Cost:            Free, but participants must register online by 5 p.m. April 21 (Friday).

More information: Contact the Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation at 940-565-2488 or dar@unt.edu.

Finding and adjusting to that first job after college graduation is stressful for most students, but a student with a disability faces even more stress as he or she considers how the disability may affect required duties and any accommodations an employer may need to make.

The Prep for Success Employment Seminar at the University of North Texas April 28 (Friday) will help young adults who are new to the workforce determine how to disclose a disability to employers and request accommodation, as well as learn skills for stress management and successful job interviews. The free seminar will be held from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. in Room 314 of UNT’s University Union, which is located at 1155 Union Circle in Denton. Participants must register online by 5 p.m. April 21 (Friday).

Prep for Success is sponsored by UNT’s Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation. Linda Holloway, department chair, said the idea came from students in Tuesday Night Flights, an organization for UNT students in the autism spectrum. Tuesday Night Flights will have a panel discussion during the seminar.

“With one out of 68 children in American having an autism spectrum disorder, the number of college students who are on the spectrum is increasing. We have very talented and bright students who are academically successful, but may have trouble getting hired because they often have difficulty with the interview process,” Holloway said.

For those on the autism spectrum and those with other hidden disabilities, the accommodation may be as simple as setting out step-by-step instructions for a task, according to UNT sophomore biology major Liz Rhoads. Rhoads is the vice president and marketing and public relations director for Tuesday Night Flights.

“Even though I’m on the spectrum, I’ve learned so much about it and how different autism is for each person,” said Rhoads, who added that she’s had part-time jobs and employers have “valued me for my attention to detail and my focus.”

“Routine is important. I go into the same Starbucks every day and my drink is already waiting for me, because I order the same thing every time,” she said.   

Holloway said that because Tuesday Night Flights students may not pick up on social cues or have trouble keeping eye contact or engaging in small talk, they model and coach each other on social communication, such as how to give feedback and how to consider another’s perspective.

“Their motto is ‘I’m not the only person on this planet’ — a reminder to consider the needs of others,” Holloway said.

She notes that a large gap exists in employment of Americans with disabilities – visible or hidden – and those without disabilities.

According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, only 20.4 percent of people with disabilities, ages 16 years old and older, were employed in February 2017, compared to 68.4 percent of those without disabilities. The Department of Labor also reports fewer college graduates with disabilities were employed than other college graduates.

Holloway said the gap exists not because college graduates with disabilities lack skills or desire to be employed, “but rather is reflective of the stereotypes and attitudes that some employers have about people with disabilities.”

Participants in Prep for Success will receive information on job interviews, including wearing the right clothing; disclosing hidden disabilities and understanding their rights and responsibilities as employees from representatives from the Texas Workforce Commission and the UNT Career Center. The seminar will also include information on employers’ rights and responsibilities, including providing accommodations.

“Many of the topics we’ll present will benefit any student preparing for the first job after college,” Holloway said.

For more information, contact the Department of Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation at 940-565-2488 or dar@unt.edu.

By Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions