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Earlier this week, as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the EEOC held a "live Twitter chat" where members of the public could ask questions about disabilities and employment that would be answered on Twitter by EEOC Chair Jenny Yang and Commissioner Chai Feldblum.
So what did we learn from this event? Here are a few takeaways:
Not to be snarky, but I had to wade through a sea of #EEOC4NDEAM hashtags on Twitter to find the questions and answers. If your company ever decides to do something like this, post a summary on your website afterward so that others can quickly and easily learn about the conversation.
In response to this question:
We talk about getting PWDs hired...how about getting them promoted? #EEOC4NDEAM-- Paul Fogle (@PaulFogle) October 28, 2014
The EEOC responded with this:
Mentoring programs? Employee training? Really? That's great and all, but it's not terribly specific. (Then again, Twitter isn't really the place for an in-depth discussion, so maybe that's the problem.)
This is about the only substantive thing we learned, in response to the question: "what is being done re: transportation? it is the number one barrier to employment." To answer the question, the EEOC posted a press release discussing how the DOT is making $100 million in grants available for the purpose of helping less advantaged people get access to public transportation.
That's actually laudable, and the question-asker is right: Lower income employees often have to use public transportation to get to work, which takes a lot of time and impacts their ability to get jobs.
There was this question:
you can't come to work for significant period; your doctor can't identify a release date; are you a qualified disabled person? #EEOC4NDEAM-- JJ (@JJReston) October 28, 2014
Then this answer:
But that answer wasn't really what the questioner wanted to know, as evidenced by this follow-up:
Which went unanswered. It was a somewhat specific question, but that's what this was about, right? As it turns out, not so much. The three or four questions that did get asked, and re-tweeted (and re-tweeted some more) were mostly about public policy, not actual people with actual problems.
Which lets you know that, if your company ever decides to do this, you should make clear what the goal of a "live Twitter event" is. Either it's to address some big policy issues and get some P.R. in, or it's to actually solve problems. The EEOC's press release said that the purpose of the event was to "focus on the federal government as a model employer of people with disabilities," but what does that mean?
You know what? The live-tweet format is probably a good way to raise general awareness about an issue (like employment disability), but its pragmatic use is pretty limited.
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