In recognition and support for the National Disability Employment Awareness Month initiative, we spoke with Robin Davis-Moreno, Supervisor of JVS SoCal’s Disability and Assessment program. Robin trains and works closely with a team of professionals in assessments and providing vocational evaluations and resources to Southern Californians in need.
Robin, thank you for the services you provide to our communities and for your time for this interview. Why did you choose this work and what are some rewarding aspects of it?
I have always enjoyed working with people, especially those who need assistance with being self-sufficient in life. I have worked with everyone, from men and women who are experiencing homelessness, to victims of domestic violence, and those with drug addictions. I decided to go into the area of Rehabilitation Counseling because it allows me to help those who want to move forward in life regardless of their current circumstances.
What are some misconceptions people have about working with individuals with disabilities?
In general, people think that a person with a disability is lazy or “developmentally delayed” –Not the words used for DD (Developmental Disabilities) — but you get the idea. People also look at them as being “special” and undeserving of a position in their company.
Many people seem to think that a person who looks “normal” is just faking a disability. Overall people think that the only disabilities that count are when a person is totally blind, deaf or in a wheelchair.
People don’t understand the complexities that go with a disability. They also assume that people with disabilities are helpless and need extra help. In one case I heard someone saying that an office paper cutter needed to be moved because of my clients. That person felt that my clients would purposely hurt themselves with a paper cutter.
What would you say to them?
It depends on the situation as there is no one answer for another person’s ignorance. I use the word ignorance because that person chooses not to learn about the person with a disability. They go on their own assumptions and move on regardless of how they make the person with the disability feel.
I have found that the younger generation 25 – 35 are more apt to those with disabilities and are more inclusive than their older counterparts. So, to answer the question about what response I would have, all I can say is it depends on the situation. The best I can do is educate that person and hope that what I’ve taught them something new and that maybe they would look at that person [with a disability] in a different light.
How can employers contribute to an inclusive work environment?
For an employer to contribute to an inclusive work environment, that employer must look at the workspace as all inclusive, meaning that all office equipment is ergonomically sound for all employees.
An employer should ensure that all staff are aware of and trained about various types of disabilities and how to work with a person that has one. In some cases, an employee may have to work from home most of the time and an employer should be able to have access to their coworkers via virtual meetings.
An employer should make the employee feel valued and a part of the team.
Thank you for this Q&A Robin.
About JVS SoCal’s Disability Services
JVS SoCal proudly serves our community by operating the Sunny and Alvin Grossblatt Skills Assessment Center. This facility specializes in the use of assistive technology and staff is trained in ergonomics. When it opened in 1989, it was the first facility in Southern California offering full vocational evaluations to individuals who are fully blind.
The Department of Labor’s theme for this year’s NDEAM is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” in this initiative we are invited to reflect on the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professionals like Robin Davis-Moreno are devoting the time and efforts needed to support the recovery of California in 2021 helping individuals referred through the California Department of Rehabilitation, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS).