National Tour Educates American Companies on Hiring, Retaining Employees with Disabilities
SIMSBURY, Conn., May 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — The Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE: HIG – News) and Sandy Dukat, a U.S. Paralympic bronze-medal alpine skier spoke today in Annapolis to 50 employers and group benefits brokers and consultants as part of a national effort to positively change perceptions and behaviors toward people with physical challenges through educational and participatory events that promote hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.
The Hartford is promoting awareness among Americans — particularly within the business community — about the value employees with disabilities bring to the workplace, and encourages strategies that foster return to work and accommodations for these individuals. Today’s session provided two continuing education credits for benefits producers who do business in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Sandy Dukat, U.S. Paralympic amputee skier said, “I am an elite world- class athlete, a social worker and a successful public speaker because I have always focused on my abilities instead of my Disability. Making that choice has enabled me to see and seize opportunities that might not otherwise have been available to me. Working with The Hartford, my aim is to help educate American companies about the value in creating a workplace that embraces individual abilities and empowers each employee to succeed, regardless of a physical limitation.”
Carol Harnett, M.S., assistant vice president of The Hartford’s group benefits division, told the audience that with Americans’ health on the decline and related costs continuing to climb, employers need proactive, long- term strategies to address the trends. “We have seen the ‘disabled’ and they are us,” she said.
“The same issues that account for the majority of employer medical costs – – musculoskeletal and cardiovascular problems, mental health issues such as Depression, gastrointestinal and respiratory issues — are leading causes of chronic work limitations and disability among the working population. Employers need to understand these trends to develop strategies for retaining a qualified work force and better controlling costs. Inevitably, these solutions will include accommodating and returning to work employees with visible and invisible disabilities,” Harnett said.
The Hartford’s national effort includes continuing education credit seminars for benefits producers and consultants; educational, solutions-based presentations to employers; and participation in disabled sport competitions that demonstrate what it is like to have a disability and to overcome it. The Hartford also sponsors world-class Paralympic competitions to further showcase its commitment to the disabled community and to raise awareness of the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.
“The athletes of U.S. Paralympics give a human face to the issue of disability in America,” said Harnett. “Our audiences recognize these individuals have overcome a variety of physical disabilities from congenital disability to cancer to spinal cord injury to name just a few — and have achieved exceptional levels of success in every aspect of their lives. They are active, productive and contributing members to society and the work place. The biggest potential limitation to what an individual with a disability can achieve is the negative perception others have about his or her abilities. Time and again when these athletes share their stories, we can see perceptions shift before our eyes.”
Harnett is a clinical physiologist and The Hartford’s national practice leader for group disability and life insurance. Her experience encompasses more than 10 years in industrial Rehabilitation, sports medicine and physical medicine. She is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Health and Productivity Management, the National Advisory Committee for the Certification of Disability Management Specialists Commission, the Disability Management Advisory Board of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals and a meeting subcommittee member of the President’s Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities.
The Hartford is a leading provider of group disability insurance through its subsidiary, Hartford Life Insurance Co. and is the founding sponsor of U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee founded to provide funding and elite competition opportunities for world-class athletes with disabilities.
The Hartford is one of the nation’s largest financial services and insurance companies, with 2003 revenues of $18.7 billion. The company is a leading provider of investment products, life insurance and group benefits; automobile and homeowners products; and business property-casualty insurance. The Hartford’s Internet address is http://www.thehartford.com/Auto-Insurance-Investments-Retirement
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Kristin Flyntz David Lafrennie