TARGET Center 20th Anniversary Celebration Opening Ceremony: Jason Olsen, part 1

TARGET Center 20th Anniversary Celebration Opening Ceremony: Jason Olsen, part 1


(APPLAUSE) Thank you Morris. Woman gestures with her hands. And now, we are also honored to have in our presence today, Mr. Jason Olsen as our keynote
speaker. Jason Olsen began working for the Federal
Government at the beginning of 2005, following a successful college internship program. His first five years of Federal employment was spent at the Social Security Administration in the Office of Employee Support programs and in an office devoted to aiding people with disabilities in their efforts to become employed for the first time or to return to successful
employment. Upon leaving Social Security, Mr. Olsen began a job at the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and focused on the development of improving the national
employment policies affecting workers with disabilities. Mr. Olsen worked, his work has focused on the successful employment of individuals with
disabilities and he is the founder of the Federal Employees
with Disabilities, acronym FEDS which is a not-for-profit organization focused on ensuring that the rights, privileges, benefits and opportunities for people with disabilities employed
by the Federal Government are equal to those of their Federal Sector peers. He is a passionate advocate for all individuals with disabilities and views employment as an option that should be available to all those that desire it. I present to you today Mr. Jason Olsen. (APPLAUSE) He makes his way on stage. Can you see me okay, back there? He adjusts the microphone and his placement on
stage. I’m making my own accommodation, give me a
moment. He adjusts the microphone and his placement on
stage. Okay, sorry Derek, you don’t get to see how
pretty I am today, but I’ll come back around. So hello and welcome. Good morning everyone. I don’t know you guys had a hard time finding the place this morning like I did, apparently when
you’re doing your Google search you really want to
make sure you put the words “USDA” next to the
Target Center otherwise you might end up in Minneapolis, Minnesota watching the Vikings play at their Target Center. But I did know there was a problem when I put it into the Garmin and it said there was about a
seventeen hour drive to get here. (LAUGHTER) And I know darn good and well that taking the
Red Line in to work every day that it only takes what, twelve to fourteen hours to get into the city?
(LAUGHTER) Is that about right? And you know, but I am really happy to be here
today. It’s not very often that I get to highlight best practices like this. I think it’s just kind of the nature of the beast of organizations like Federal Employees with Disabilities, Blacks in Government, Federally Employed Women they seem inherently to spend
a lot of your time focusing on and discussing
what’s not working. What’s affecting your constituency in a bad way
and trying to get them the opportunities that everyone else seems to take for granted. So that’s why when I was given the honor to
come here today to speak to you at this great occasion
about something that is working so well, I was very happy to accept. Oh look at you! Let’s see here, is it on? Hello. Don’t do nothing? I’m not doing nothing. Is that working now? Alright, that’s the fastest accommodation I think I ever got! (LAUGHTER) Alright, so great occasion, I think that’s where I left off right? This place is awesome, it’s special, da da da da. Alright, but you know it wasn’t too long after we started FEDS that myself and the Board noticed
that there were really two barriers that people with
disabilities faced the most. The first one is, of course, attitudinal, you know, people not thinking that people with disabilities could compete with people who don’t have disabilities or that it was going to be some huge problem to have them working for them, just be a really burdensome procedure. The second was really accommodations, that’s
the thing that we heard probably right after the attitudinal issues. Just to give you a few of the things that we’ve heard about, some of the things that people have
said is, we’ve seen employees who are afraid to ask for
an accommodation. We’ve heard of agencies not willing to provide
one. We’ve heard of disagreements between what
constitutes reasonable. We’ve heard about managers who don’t
understand the process, or the process taking too long, or people who are afraid to disclose to their manager that they have a disability and need an accommodation. Some people even had a fear that their manager would share their personal information with their
peers at work. And sometimes it’s just a mix of these things that create a huge issue. So there were the two things, so you take the attitudinal barriers and you mix that in with the accommodations so let’s just pretend we toss
something like the Target Center into the middle of that. So when you have something like the Target
Center, now the employee knows that there’s a process
in place. The employee knows that there is a professional evaluating their needs. The employee doesn’t have to fear having their
personal information being shared with anyone else. The employee can get training on their accommodation and I like to emphasize that
because sometimes the organizations say “Here’s your accommodations, good luck”. So that’s a great thing to have in place. The employer, or in this case the manager, could
be relieved that the process is not on their shoulders anymore, it’s something that’s not burdensome to
them anymore. And really what that does is that allows the employer to focus on the employee’s talent as
well as the work that they’re producing. I think we’ve all seen time and time again that the way to change someone’s opinion is through
exposure. …does a wonderful job of eliminating
misconceptions and by eliminating the barriers that accommodations pose, it makes that pathway
easier for the manager to go down. You know that’s just a few of the reasons that an
office like the Target Center can have such very big impact
on employees, because when something like that
exists it makes it easier for both sides. Sometimes I do worry that people underestimate
the value of something, an office like the Target
Center. So when you encounter something like this, I can’t emphasize it and stress it enough, how really great it is to have something like this at an organization. It truly demonstrates what can exist when
agency leadership makes a commitment to inclusion and to make
sure that disability is part of diversity. Don’t be going to sleep, I’m getting to the good
stuff! I do somehow wish that this commitment would
morph into some kind of virus and infect the rest of the leadership at different agencies. I probably shouldn’t say that, where’s D’Ann? He looks around for D’Ann. Okay, we don’t have any press here, right? I don’t want to see the headlines tomorrow
saying “FEDS President curses leadership with costly
virus!” No? Okay. Alright granted part of it would be true, I am the
FEDS President and I do wish the leadership would
catch some kind of an accommodation bug, like USDA
did twenty years ago. But the one thing that wouldn’t be true in that
headline is the cost issue. I think a lot of people jump to it being something costly. And actually the Job Accommodations Network puts out numbers all the time that says it’s simply is not true. Probably about half the people don’t need accommodations and the half that do cost around five hundred bucks and that’s a single cost. So really it’s not that cost prohibitive to do things that are right for employees. And Jan was kind enough to give me two
examples, the first one, an Administrative Support person with hearing loss has difficulty responding to emergency signals and communicating using
the telephone. As a reasonable accommodation, the agency provided an amplified headset and strobe light for the employee’s workstation. This strobe light will let the individual know
immediately when he was working at his desk and an alarm
was activated. The employer was able to meet the employee’s accommodations needs. The employee and the supervisor were both satisfied and by providing the accommodation, the employer was able to function to his maximum potential. That accommodation they reported, costs about a hundred bucks. In the second one, a veteran, we all love the veterans, a veteran who was working had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a traumatic brain
injury. Woman gestures with her hands. He was sensitive to certain environmental noises. The office has recently been remodeled and
rearranged. The employee was experiencing anxiety, due to the audio and visual distractions around his
cube. I think I have that around my office as well. You guys get that? People standing outside your cube and you’re
like, He gestures with his hands. “Move on!” But for him, reasonable accommodation, they
gave him some headphones to cancel out some of the
white noise and they put some noise reduction barriers
around his workstation. The employer stated that he and his supervisor
were happy with the outcome and the organization
was glad to say that they accommodated a veteran. And that all cost them about three hundred and fifty dollars.

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