From the CEO: Disability Employment Awareness Month

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An experienced woman florist helping young employee with Down syndrome in garden centre.

October is Disability Awareness Month. I was looking for a flash of inspiration for this month’s newsletter, so I Googled “Disability Employment Now.” I hoped I would see some articles of research that had eluded my barrage of newsletters and blogs on the topic of disability.

Google makes suggestions of questions you might have to guide your search. These are often driven by what others have asked. I was amazed to read what was suggested.

  • Are disabled people less likely to be hired?
  • What is a good job for someone who is disabled?
  • Why do employers not want to hire disabled people?
  • Why are people with disability (this is verbatim, not a typo) not employable?
  • How do I get a job with a physical disability?

Skip Google…I will share with you my answers to these questions.

 Are disabled people less likely to be hired?

YES. Only a third of working-age people withe a disability are currently employed. This is an untapped workforce.

What is a good job for someone who is disabled?…any of them….it depends on their interests! Let me remind you the ADA states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Either on their own or with the help of a job coach, there can be a limitless number of possible accommodations, especially with the use of adaptive technology. Often the disabled person has a lifetime of problem-solving skills and they bring that creativity and skill set to the workplace. Some employers start with a trial or internship when pairing a person seeking employment with an available position.

Why do employers not want to hire disabled people? Actually, smart employers who have already hired people with disabilities have learned that they DO want to hire them. Some documented positive outcomes in hiring the disabled include

  • enhanced corporate image by the public/increased customer loyalty
  • increased retention rate
  • higher productivity
  • enhanced corporate pride with the demonstrated social responsibility

Why are people with disability not employable?

There are several answers to this…but the obvious one is “they are employable; they just haven’t encountered the right employer yet.” If enough people preserve the belief that the disabled are not employable, then it is more likely that those with disabilities will believe it to be true. Too many employers have no or limited experience in hiring disabled persons. Fear of the unknown is a giant barrier to many things in life. Transportation can be a huge barrier, but not one that is insurmountable.

To the employer who is wondering about hiring the disabled, let me encourage you to ask yourself these questions.

What barriers do you present during the application process?

If there is only one way to get a job with you (i.e., online application, face-to-face interview, written skill test, etc.), then you are telling many potential employees that they are not welcome at your company.

How safe do you make it for the employee to disclose to you their disability if it isn’t visible?

The question to ask is NOT “do you have a disability?” Instead, try “what accommodations can we provide that can help you be successful as a part of our team?”

Have you proactively considered doing an accessibility audit of your workplace?

You walk through the same door every day. You may not be aware of the path that a potential employee travels. You may not know the fine motor skills or visual acuity required to fill out an online application. We have resources in Northeast Indiana who would welcome providing you with feedback on how you can proactively eliminate the barriers for a variety of disabilities. The League, Goodwill, Turnstone, and virtually every disability provider would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about adding quality employees to your workforce. Don’t google it….ask!