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Survey Results: The President's Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities

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The President’s Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities recently conducted a survey to assess the prevalence of, and climate for, UNH employees with disabilities. About 700 people (17 percent) responded to the survey aimed helping to guide programming and policy initiatives in the coming years. 

“UNH has never done a survey like this before so we had no idea what to expect,” says Daniela Adler, co-chair, President’s Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, and associate director of the Center for Academic Resources. “We were pleased that so many employees took the time to answer the survey and provide thoughtful responses.”

Key findings
Accessibility:

  • Just under half the respondents felt that overall accessibility at UNH is good or excellent (49.6 percent), 40.9 percent felt overall accessibility is fair to poor, and 9.5 percent had no opinion.
  • Campus accessibility was further broken out into physical accessibility, sensory accessibility, and technology accessibility. A majority of the respondents reported that physical accessibility at UNH was either excellent or good (58.2 percent).  Between 30-38 percent of respondents feel that sensory accessibility at UNH is excellent or good.  Only 38.6 percent of all employees felt technology accessibility is excellent or good.

Training:

  • Just under one third of employees (32.2 percent) have been offered training about working with people with disabilities and one quarter of employees have participated in some training about working with people with disabilities. 
  • There are no statistically significant differences among employees with and without disabilities in terms of being offered or participating in trainings.

Workplace attitudes and climate:

  • More than 40 percent of all respondents reported having a co-worker with a disability.  Just over 5 percent of respondents have observed harassment or similar unfair treatment of employees with disabilities.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of respondents with a disability reported that they did not feel accepted in the workplace. However, 16.5 percent of respondents with a disability reported having experienced discrimination at work based on disability and 13.9 percent reported having experienced harassment or similar unfair treatment in the workplace based on disability.
  • Of respondents with a disability, 55.6 percent know how to file a complaint about job discrimination based on disability at UNH; 42 percent believe UNH does an effective job responding to complaints and concerns based on disability.

Knowledge of disability issues, resources and policies:

  • 87.3 percent of all respondents believe they are knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about workplace disability issues and 92.4 percent of respondents with disabilities believe they are knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about workplace disability issues. 
  • 76.8 percent of all respondents feel their supervisors are knowledgeable about workplace disability issues.
  • A majority (nearly 70 percent) of all respondents are aware of the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the rights and responsibilities of employees with disabilities at UNH. 
  • Just over 60 percent of respondents know where to find UNH policies and guidelines on job accommodations and employees’ rights and responsibilities if injured on the job.
  •  A majority of employees report being aware of many of the UNH units which provide resources relating to disability.  Some respondents commented that even though they do not have knowledge of some of the specific units, they are confident they could find them if necessary. 

Accommodations:

  • Just over half of the respondents with disabilities know how to request a job accommodation.
  •  67.5 percent of respondents with disabilities have self-disclosed their disability to their supervisor. Of those employees who have not disclosed their disability, 38.5 percent are concerned that self-disclosure will negatively affect them. 
  • Among employees who requested an accommodation, 97 percent received an accommodation. However, the question as written did not reflect how many times the request was made, if it was initially refused or if the employee received the specific accommodation requested.  It is clear from the comments that some employees asked for accommodations multiple times or were offered what they perceived to be inappropriate accommodations. 

UNH Manchester

  • While just 2 percent of UNH faculty and staff are employed at Manchester, 9 percent of our respondents are employed at Manchester.  Since the number of respondents on the Manchester campus is small relative to Durham, we cannot break down questions by campus and disability status as the cells would be too small to report without breaching confidentiality.  Instead, we have highlighted some of the differences between Manchester and Durham in accessibility, training, workplace attitudes/climate, and knowledge of disability issues.
  • The differences between Manchester and Durham seem to center on accessibility and training. 
    • Employees at Manchester report higher accessibility ratings as well as more training opportunities around working with people with disabilities.  These differences could be due to different physical and building environments.   The relatively small size and frequent interactions among faculty and staff likely contribute to improved communications in the workplace.

What are we doing well? 
On numerous occasions employees cited the inherent challenges of being in the Northeast and on a campus built before the era of accessibility. Many of the positive comments surround what is currently being changed, and look to the future. Of particular note are the comments praising the sensitivity and commitment to providing quality services to people with disabilities displayed by Transportation and Dining Services.

Recommendations
One of the primary goals of this survey project was to collect information so that the commission can develop programs and initiatives that address access for and acceptance of employees with disabilities at UNH. With this goal in mind, we respectfully submit the following recommendations:

  1. Increase participation of people with disabilities in the planning and design phases of new or renovated physical spaces, programs and events based on a review of current practices.
  2. More than 40 percent of respondents rated campus accessibility as fair or poor.  To address this issue we recommend the following:
    • Evaluate the walkways, reduce or eliminate uneven paths.  Develop policies that address obstacles on the pathways including vehicles, bicycles and skateboards, and a means of enforcing those policies.
    • Evaluate all new construction and renovation projects to ensure that the acoustics of the room reduce or eliminate ambient noise. 
    • Provide more education and training around the the use of amplification and assistive listening devices.
  3. While the university does provide a range of training opportunities, only 25 percent of respondents have participated in such trainings. The university as a community, including managers, faculty, staff, and students can benefit from more training and information. We recommend the following training initiatives:
    • Disability in general (relating to employees and students), including a broad understanding of what disability is and where to find more information on specific forms of disability.  With this should be training on person-first language and general sensitivity training.  Understanding was a main theme that came out as an area at UNH that could be improved.  Many of the employees noted that they would like to see better understanding of disability so as to be more accepted and more comfortable.
    • Collaborate with the EEO/ADA Compliance Officer to review information and training currently available to employees concerning their rights and responsibilities about workplace accommodations.  Make recommendations on content and distribution of the information based on the review. Possible topics include but are not limited to:
      • For managers: how to handle requests; how to create a safe environment for disclosure (to make sure employees don’t fear negative consequences of disclosure) and accommodation requests.  Develop guidelines for supervisors to use when approached by an employee about an accommodation. 
      • For employees: how to make requests, deciding what a reasonable request is and the best way to make that request, and how to file a complaint. Only 55.6 percent of respondents with a disability report that they know how to file a complaint about job discrimination based on disability.
  4. Refer the very specific concerns raised by UNH Manchester to the UNH Manchester HR partner and Facilities Maintenance manager.
    The President’s Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities is divided into three working groups: programming, communication and physical access.   The recommendations contained in this report will be referred to the appropriate work group for action.

For more information go to http://www.unh.edu/cspd/.