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Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 9:54 AM

I recently read an interesting article on Engineers with disabilities trying to get jobs. I have to admit I am disappointed it is so difficult for them and I admire their tenacity. It is well known that there are Racial and Gender inequalities in Engineering as well.

I just find it all very wasteful. It's hard enough to find talented, dedicated engineers. When these biases create this type of hiring imbalance, it isn't just those who experience the bias that lose. We as a society rob ourselves of talented, driven engineers and the insights they bring.

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#1

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 9:59 AM

The label <...disabilities...> grates: an individual who has difficulty getting into and out of a building without supplementary equipment merely has a challenge that is unusual, after all. These things are fairly routinely overcome these days, mainly due to the ingenuity of Engineers. On that basis, it is difficult to define the label.

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#2

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 11:07 AM

I've seen and read similar.

It has nothing to do with the individual with the disability.

It has to do with accommodating the disability.

An example, a company where I worked, had just put up a large building (an OEM) just prior to my employment there, where engineering was on the second level.

On the prints even though it had planned it as Engineering being located there, it did not list it as Engineering but storage.

The reason, so they didn't have to put in an elevator.

There is also a belief, that because of the disability, they are less efficient.

Now its easy to say this is terrible, so I like to pose a hypothetical question to ask yourself this truthfully.

If your are hiring, and someone lists that they are disability, would at any time during the hiring process, would a disability weigh for/against when hiring?

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:22 PM

"If your are hiring, and someone lists that they are disability, would at any time during the hiring process, would a disability weigh for/against when hiring?"

It should weigh in ONLY if it directly affects the applicant's ability to fulfill the job description AS WRITTEN.

So someone who is legally blind cannot be considered for a position that requires driving a vehicle, as it is impossible for that person to possess the appropriate license.

A person who is red-green colorblind cannot be considered for a graphic designer position, as his disability impacts his ability to 'evaluate new and existing designs for form, balance, color, and clarity."

A person who is wheelchair-bound cannot load parcels unto a UPS truck, since the job description entails "standing, bending, kneeling, and lifting items of up to 70 pounds."

A wheelchair-bound person CAN perform design work, as that can be done at a computer or drafting table, and does not require standing or heavy lifting.

"On the prints even though it had planned it as Engineering being located there, it did not list it as Engineering but storage.

The reason, so they didn't have to put in an elevator."

And now they get to enjoy the expense and disruption of retrofitting an elevator into the building when a mobility-restricted Engineer applies. To a lawyer, looking at the actual use compared to the floorplans would make the ruse as obvious as a "No Cripples!" sign proudly placed above the front door. Why do companies insist on taking the short-view, "Penny-wise and dollar-foolish" approaches?

Post-ADA Commercial and Industrial building constructions should plan on being ADA-compliant from the start, even if they don't fully implement them at construction. A two-story building? build an elevator shaft into the blueprints, even if you don't put the elevator in and wall up the doorways. that way installing the elevator later is much easier. And why not consider installing the elevator from the start, to use for 'light' cargo? An employee can move a heavily-laden utility cart worth of equipment and/or files between floor much faster using an elevator instead of making multiple trips up and down stairs.

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#5
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:28 PM

It should weigh in ONLY if it directly affects the applicant's ability to fulfill the job description AS WRITTEN.

No, I did not ask legal interpretation, let me reiterate the question

"If you are hiring, and someone lists that they are disabled, would at any time during the hiring process, would a disability weigh for/against when hiring?"

What would you do?

sorry about the earlier typo's, I corrected them

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#6
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:45 PM

"If you are hiring, and someone lists that they are disabled, would at any time during the hiring process, would a disability weigh for/against when hiring?"

I also like to add that I intentional put in "for/against" to the question, which I'll explain later. Its basically what I observed and interpreted.

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#17
In reply to #6

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:20 PM

Ah, I misinterpreted the question, my apologies.

If *I* were doing the hiring, I would only look at the disabilities to see if they caused a problem with the job description. Once I was satisfied that the applicant with disabilities is capable of doing the job, then in my mind, for the purposes of comparison against the other applicants, they become a silver-skinned toaster with no name but bearing a serial number that is the product of two primes, just like everyone else. (I find it the best bit of mental gymnastics for me to eliminate internal biases. It eliminates any thoughts about skin color, biological sex, culture, political leaning, or religion. And by using the 'product of two primes' serial numbers, it removes any bias I may add in assigning the temporary ID's; the ID numbers are all 'equally special' and none have a greater significance than any other to me.)

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:47 PM

Any responsible hiring manager has to take into account all the qualities of the job applicant as they relate to the requirements of the position.

It would depend on what the engineer was expected to do.

I had a wheelchair bound designer working using AutoCad® to design wet process equipment once when I did 6 months as a contract operations manager. A few ramps and some other small accommodations were all that he needed. Otherwise he just sat at his terminal and did his job.

Some reasonableness on the part of the applicant is also required to not apply for a position if they cannot fulfil the obligations.

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#8
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:51 PM

Any responsible hiring manager has to take into account all the qualities of the job applicant as they relate to the requirements of the position.

I agree, also you just gave me a way to rephrase the same question. Here it is.

You are down to 2 applicants. Both equally competent to do the job. One has a disability. Would you put any weight on disability in the hiring selection?

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#11
In reply to #8

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:06 PM

You are down to 2 applicants. Both equally competent to do the job. One has a disability. Would you put any weight on disability in the hiring selection?

Flip a coin. Honestly. I feel if two candidates are that equally competent, flipping a coin is the only fair solution.

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#14
In reply to #11

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:13 PM

Fair.

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#18
In reply to #11

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:21 PM

I'm not sure that the losing job applicant would be delighted to hear that he was not chosen for a position based on the outcome of the flip of a coin.

"Sorry Bob, you were heads and it came up tails. Better luck next time."

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:25 PM

I think a hiring manager would never reveal that. But I would doubt that it does happen due to a flip of a coin considering the equal competencies.

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#37
In reply to #11

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 3:34 PM

By stipulating equal competency, that really does take it down to the coin toss on who gets offered the position (first). Maybe cheat and offer it to both, and then which ever one starts up with "I gotta have more pay than you are offering" is ruled out?

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:10 PM

If you are asking me? In my former positions, hiring mostly design engineers, I can honestly say no it would not matter, either way.

It would matter if I were hiring a field engineer who was expected to crawl around on and under equipment. I'd expect that a person with a physical handicap would recognize their own limitations and not bother to apply.

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:15 PM

It would matter if I were hiring a field engineer who was expected to crawl around on and under equipment. I'd expect that a person with a physical handicap would recognize their own limitations and not bother to apply.

that easily eliminates the candidates.

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#21
In reply to #8

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:27 PM

"You are down to 2 applicants. Both equally competent to do the job. One has a disability. Would you put any weight on disability in the hiring selection?"

Now the question is simple enough for even a birdbrain like me to understand.

I would not put any weight on the disability.

Although, some biases run deep; there is a chance that, equally competent, the one who told the best joke/anecdote/story during the interview and job walk-through would be seen as a little more favorable. It's not a strong bias, but it's there, like choosing between two secretaries, one who types at 305 words per minute, and one who types at 307.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:32 PM

Now wait a minute!

You choose secretaries by typing speed?

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#24
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:49 PM

Nowadays it's knowing how to ream out a plugged Keurig tube....

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#27
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 3:29 PM

Assuming all other factors are equal.

Although if ALL other factors are equal, then the two candidates are probably twin sisters, and I wouldn't be able to tell if they were 'tag teaming' the job to avoid using sick days. A variance of +/-2WPM on the sample document means nothing. With the variance in real documents, you'd see a +/-7-10WPM from document to document.

(Now if this were the 1950's, there WOULD be ways to tell the two apart on the job, but those ways are now considered A) rude, and B) harassment, so I won't bring them up here.)

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#23
In reply to #7

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:45 PM

Any responsible hiring manager has to take into account all the qualities of the job applicant as they relate to the requirements of the position.

Or just the possibility of it happening? which is unfair.

In my earlier years, ... what happens if one adds weight of the possibilities that the engineer need to go out to the customer for filed assessments. It wasn't uncommon for us to do and it was difficult for a physically fit person to do.

As an OEM, this was pretty common practice. But for others engineering houses, just the possibility of this occurring, may affect it.

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#25
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:57 PM

I started my career with a very large corporation.

Their HR department was very thorough and if the scope of the position changed after hire, that employee would not have been forced to operate outside the limits of the original job description.

It was so large that when you needed a new worker, you requisitioned one from HR.

Some time later, your new hire and an HR person would appear. "Here's Brad, your new technician". That was it, and the first time you ever laid eyes on Brad.

Not sure how a small company would have handled that. It would depend on the ethics of management.

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#26
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 3:09 PM

On a smaller OEM company like what I mentioned earlier. 60-70 employees that would comprise of 4-7 engineers @ $20-25 million/year.

It would carry more weight, just due to the smaller size of engineering.

Where I am now. 200 Employees, 11,000??? employees world wide... I can say that disabilities would weigh pretty heavy.

But she (HR Executive) just retired, so... I can now give them the benefit of a doubt.

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#10
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:54 PM

To answer your question directly, if the person is the best one qualified for the job, I'd hire them.

(I worked on the ADA back in the early '90's and also did a lot of work with Computing Access for Disabilities). There are amazing people out there that have developed abilities that you and I will never master!

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#36
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 3:31 PM

I would not, nor would the company I am working for, but we are city government, and as such we have stringent rules about discrimination. In fact, the city goes out of its way to accommodate new or existing employees with physical challenges.

I would not base the hiring decision on whether or not someone has a "disability". If they are truly disabled, then they are not able to work. If they have a physical challenge, then may be weighed against the job description, and what is known about the activities of such a post. What is far more important: the content of the character of the engineer being hired, the content of their creativity, the magnitude of their ability to adapt (not just themselves, but an entire organization) to fluxional aspects of the work environment now, and in the foreseeable future.

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#38
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 3:46 PM

"If they are truly disabled, then they are not able to work,"

or

"If they have a physical challenge,"

that's semantics. I know of people who lost a limb (leg) - one you wouldn't even realize and is working construction, while others are fully disabled with a back injury. Yet, they'd go riding their hog on a 1500 mile trek to Sturgis claiming it feels good on their back.

And others who are not handicapped and no longer take the ride to Sturgis because it's too hard on them.

As for your comment of:

"What is far more important: the content of the character of the engineer being hired, the content of their creativity, the magnitude of their ability to adapt (not just themselves, but an entire organization) to fluxional aspects of the work environment now, and in the foreseeable future,"

I have something to add about that, but no time right now. Maybe later this week.

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#9
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 1:54 PM

There is also a belief, that because of the disability, they are less efficient.

Now its easy to say this is terrible, so I like to pose a hypothetical question to ask yourself this truthfully.

If your are hiring, and someone lists that they are disability, would at any time during the hiring process, would a disability weigh for/against when hiring?

I think you ask a fair question. I find these types of discussions can get confusing because we may be picturing different things when we say "disabled". Let's say specifically the applicant is hearing impaired, which is to say there obviously won't require major construction changes to the office building but clearly some accommodations will need to be made (special phones for instance).

In this scenario, I think my honest response to your question is, I would not consider the disability. In the interview I'd want to know about their background experience, engineering knowledge, and attitude. If I thought they were a good fit, I'd figure out the accommodation afterwards, feeling that a good employee is worth a bit of upfront expense.

In fairness to you, you might have been picturing a different type of disability, so I'll ask you what you think regarding this particular scenario.

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#13
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Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:12 PM

Sorry if I'm derailing this... but this is a good topic you raised.

It is difficult question, and it can get a little mucked up. When I was hiring for engineering 20 years ago, I never had to ask myself this because that opportunity never arise.

And I also have to admit, in my younger days, I would say, I would be bias and pass over the disabled candidate. I just glad, I never had to make that decision.

Today, I like to think it would be different, I no longer am looking to avoid any type of possible negativities. Only because, I've seen the positive outcomes in would I saw as the most negative environments that I never expected. And its all from experiences I had.

I like to add, it is unbelievable if anything else the amount of loyalty and/or work ethic one can get by just giving a person a chance, but the candidate has to show he/she is up to the task and challenge.

I find that a diversity in engineering is great, just from different perspectives.

It's new ideas and avoids 'group think'.

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#20
In reply to #13

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:27 PM

Not at all, this is a great discussion. I totally agree with everything you just wrote. Like you said, you can get a lot of loyalty and work ethic by just giving someone a chance.

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#3

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 12:13 PM

A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job despite having a disability. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.

Your Right to a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans ...

As 911 said, some employers may feel that any accommodation would pose an undue hardship.

I don't know how the incoming administration will deal with this. Let's hope they continue to support the reasonable accommodations for disabilities so that these deserving individuals can contribute to society.

There are unethical lawyers out there, in California and in Arizona who are fleecing small businesses for as much as $5,000.00, sometimes for only having a nonconforming sign. This happened in my city to hundreds of small businesses.

Arizona attorney general intervenes in flood of lawsuits over ...

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#16

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 2:15 PM

I don't understand, you could replace the word 'Engineers' with just about any other worker type and have the same problems as this sort of thing is common in most if not all industries.

The same thing happens with gender and even height and looks to various degrees, it's just that those with 'disabilities' (be they physical or mental) are much more obviously biased against.

It is a shame, but it is (to an extent) both human nature and cultural bias.

It is not all bad news however, Steven Hawking is one good example off the top of my head, another was John Forbes Nash Jr.

John Forbes Nash Jr

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#28

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 5:05 PM

A long, long, long time ago, I was pitching at a Little League game and a kid came to the plate on crutches. I took it easy on him and sent a nice fat slow ball right over the plate...he hit the damn thing right out of the park. That changed my thinking!

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#29

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 5:27 PM

'Why hire an Engineer with disabilities?'

Because that is the only kind of Engineer that exists.

No Engineer has ever or will ever master all abilities. Thus, every Engineer has and will have disabilities.

Hiring should be based on abilities necessary for or useful for the job.

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#39
In reply to #29

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/28/2016 4:16 AM

Well said. GA.

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#30

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/22/2016 8:32 PM

Personally I have never seen anyone turned away from a job for a actual disability of any sort.

What I've seen and even had the displeasure of having sat in on first hand is seeing well experienced highly qualified and outgoing peoples resumes tossed in the garbage because they were 'overqualified' for the position they had applied for.

What made them overqualified was the simple fact that those who presently held the hiring and firing position knew damn well that those applicants could easily take their undeserving positions from them. To be honest the only reason I had managed to get into the job position I had at those places was from having submitted substantially dumbed down resumes myself and had slipped under their radar in the interview which once my knowledge and skill sets had been realized I was let go for 'unrelated reasons' AKA 'totally made up Bullsh!t'.

So, do employers discriminate against disabled people? I honest don't know. But if asked if employers will discriminate against prospective employees they see as threats to their own position in a company, Most definitely and if I have seen it first hand more than once I have to suspect it happens a lot.

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#31

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/23/2016 6:25 AM

How can Engineers possibly have <...disabilities...> (rhetorical question - NNTR)?

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#32

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/23/2016 9:55 PM

It is interesting that the writer of this post is not aware that people with " Disabilities " do not consider themselves disabled, they feel that they are, " Challenged ".

The sentence should be rewritten as, " Engineers with physical challenges trying to get jobs.

My first interaction with a physically challenged individual was in high school. I became friends with a guy ( Marty )who was visually challenged, because of myopia, he needed to wear a bioptic to see correctly. Although he was 16 at the time, his parents would not agree to his getting a driver's license, so we got a couple of friends together and using an old car, taught him how to drive. When he went to the DMV, the examiner asked him to read the Snellen chart, he said he couldn't read it, then the examiner asked him what time it was, he looked at the clock on the wall and said 3:15, the DMV then issued him an unrestricted driver's license.

You could imagine his parents surprise when he drove up to the house in a 4 door sedan !

When I was 17 1/2, Marty introduced me to a gentleman named Norm Kaplan, ( a this time I was recovering from a compound fracture and I had a cast on my leg ) I met Norm at The Foundation for the Junior Blind's camp Bloomfield in the Santa Monica mountains. Norm never looked at my leg when he hired me as a camp counselor/ camp maintenance person.

Soon I would see why. The next day hundreds of Challenged children from all over the United States and some from other countries arrived at the camp for a summer vacation. Years later many of these children would become homemakers, attend vocational schools and become college graduates.

Today they work in all faucets of the employment spectrum. My friend Marty went on to work with Development challenged children and those involved in the Special Olympics program, this eventually led up to being named Employee of the Year in a school district with over 20,000 Employees.

Marty currently works full time and has a part time business where he trains kindergarten aged students how to use laptops, tablets and Desktops.

Would you hire an engineer with Disabilities ? , why not, considering the multitude of challenges they had to overcome to get there, they might just be one of your most valued Employees.

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#33

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 10:00 AM

I just wanted to mention if anyone is viewing this thread is looking for resources for themselves or disabled friend or loved one, here is a list:

https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/foundations/us-organizations.php

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 10:20 AM

Wow, I should read my comments more carefully before posting. I hope you guys could figure out what I was trying to say in that comment. That link goes to a page with a list of organizations that work with, and advocate for the disabled. Here it is again:

https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/foundations/us-organizations.php

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Why Hire Engineers With Disabilities?

12/27/2016 1:55 PM

Wait, it's not a friendship and dating site tailored for those searching for disabled companions?

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