Xerox’s disability outreach program gives returning soldiers (and others) the support they need in the workplace.
America’s newest veterans, those who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have sought compensation for injuries sustained during their service at more than double the rate of soldiers returning from the Gulf War.
Advocates for veterans believe that this occurs, among other factors, because many returning injured vets cannot find work. What these vets need, advocates argue, are companies that can support them as they adjust to living with their physical and psychological wounds and transfer the skills that they mastered in the military to a workplace setting.
In 2008, Xerox Corporation began a military, university and disability outreach program in North America to expand and better track recruiting and retention efforts for transitioning members of the military, veterans, their families and also individuals with disabilities not related to military service. Xerox has collaborated with over 700 community and veteran agencies nationwide that refer potential employees to Xerox.
“Our activities have included hosting open houses in Lexington, KY, Colorado Springs, CO, and Tigard and Portland, OR, to familiarize local organizations with our operations,” explains Carla Webster, program manager for military, university and disability outreach at Xerox. “We have also conducted pre-employment workshops to help referral candidates better showcase their skills and qualifications. These collaborative efforts enable reaching and recruiting more people with disabilities, while helping us fulfill a need in our communities and promote a diverse culture in our workplaces.”
With each hiring of a person with disabilities, Xerox has found ways to make the company more accessible. For example, to better accommodate a visually impaired employee in the Lexington customer care center, Xerox began coordinating with counselors from the Kentucky Office for the Blind (OFB). This led the company to install visual enhancement software in the facility, helping to expand job opportunities to others who need visual assistance for testing during the interview process and to fulfill their job responsibilities as employees.
In December 2013, the OFB honored Xerox with the Partnership Award for the company’s contribution to its mission: providing opportunities of employment and independence for people with visual disabilities.
Carla Webster recognizes that Xerox’s new approach to hiring has brought amazing employees to the company. For example, Audrey, who was diagnosed with vitamin D resistance rickets that has curtailed her bone growth since an early age. Audrey supports her 4-foot-2-inch frame with crutches. She has helped Xerox implement training programs in various U.S. locations and enjoys the direct relationship between training and improved employee service.
“I understand first-hand the self-consciousness people with disabilities may experience; I sometimes still wonder how my size impacts people’s perception of me and my abilities,” Audrey said. “I enjoy playing a part in the success of the variety of people who come to Xerox, from entry-level employees to professionals who were displaced from their previous jobs due to age or disability. My physical challenges have never been an impediment to Xerox offering opportunities for growth, and I do my best to let employees know that Xerox will give them more, if they want more — it depends on their drive. We’re here to support and develop them.”
In 2015, Xerox had hired more than 2,400 employees in the United States who self-disclosed that they are individuals with disabilities, and 1,700 veterans, many who are among those employees with disabilities.