Inclusion for Employees with Chronic Illness & Disabilities

A conversation with Hannah Rose Olson, Founder & CEO of Chronically Capable.

Read About the Episode

Hannah Rose Olson makes an iron-clad case for why talent acquisition professionals and people leaders must include professionals with chronic illness or disability in their hiring decisions and DEI efforts.

Changes in the hiring landscape due to Covid have created a pressing need for many companies to increase headcount dramatically, especially professionals in tech and tech-adjacent roles, perhaps faster than perhaps ever before. 

According to Olson, this population brings immense value to the workplace. And the recruiter who ignores that does so at their own professional peril. Moreover, a company seeking to foster DEI can’t neglect people with chronic illness and disabilities and expect to be truly inclusive. 

Chronically Capable is a platform that helps connect skilled professionals who live with chronic illness or disability with employment opportunities across disciplines and industries.

60% of our population lives with at least one chronic illness. Of those people with chronic illness, 70% of the illnesses are invisible.

Hannah Rose Olson

Founder & CEO, Chronically Capable

Olson's Founding Story

Olson understands what it means to live with a debilitating chronic illness. She also knows what it feels like to experience discrimination because of it. When she graduated from Boston University, she was fighting complications from Lyme disease and required an IV of antibiotics for several hours a day.

Having already accepted a job, she soon realized that her new boss was not okay with it.

Struggling with feelings of isolation, Olson was alarmed at the disparity between the needs of the chronically ill and disabled communities and employers’ awareness and willingness to support these individuals.

Olson wants to create a world in which people are not afraid to alert employers to their chronic illness or disability. And she envisions a new world of work in which employers understand they’re missing out financially and culturally if they dismiss this population.

“I became determined from that point on, to really tackle this upfront and to create a platform that would actually help people like me, and so three years in, I’m grateful to be working on this product and to be building something for people out there struggling like me.”

Chronic Illnesses & Disabilities in the Workforce

The terms, “invisible illness” or “invisible disability,” refer to a broad range of conditions that aren’t apparent to the eye. That includes diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain conditions, psychiatric illnesses and even cancer.

A chronic condition is one that requires ongoing medical attention. The CDC reports that chronic conditions are among the leading causes of death and disability in the US.

The first step may be for employers to understand the prevalence of these conditions. In the US, over 150 million adults live with a chronic illness, and over 60 million adults live with a disability. Of these, many people live with invisible illnesses or disabilities. Therefore, people from this population are likely already in your workforce, whether you know it or not, says Olson.
Listen to the Episode

Tipping the Balance Toward Inclusivity

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for disabled and chronically ill persons is more than double that of non-disabled individuals.

The American with Disabilities Act will be 31 years old this July. It recommends that companies “not only recruit but promote and retain individuals with disabilities in their workforce at a level of 7%,” Olson states. But only 13% of domestic businesses have reached this target.

Olson built her platform to create change. Given that competition for talent is steep, she may be uniquely positioned to make employers more inclusive and aware.

“Have an eye out for injustices people with disabilities face. But get to know the person first, their disability second. They bring amazing traits to your workplace and culture.”

Olson’s Key Takeaways

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