The Benefits of Employing People with Disabilities
As a disability advocate and writer, I have observed that many people with disabilities have training and want to work but are unemployed. Here's why this largely untapped resource can benefit the workplace.
In the past, some non-profit organizations have addressed the issue of the employment of people with disabilities by creating "sheltered workshops." Unfortunately, these workshops exploited disabled people by paying them very little for what often turned out to be repetitive, boring, dead end jobs. Disability advocates have protested the lack of pay and advancement, and many workshops have been closed.
- Only 17.6 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2013
- 34 percent of disabled workers were employed part-time, compared to 19 percent of non-disabled workers who were part-time
- 15 percent of disabled workers were employed in local, state, or federal government, similar to employment rates of non-disabled workers
- Workers with disabilities are more likely to be employed in the transportation, production, and material moving occupations
- Workers with disabilities are less likely to be in professional, management, and related occupations
- Workers with disabilities are more likely to self-employed
- Disabled people represent the single largest minority group in the U.S. who is looking for work
- More than 65 percent of working age disabled adults are unemployed
- One-third of working disabled adults earn an annual income below the poverty line
- Workers with disabilities are nearly twice as likely as non-disabled people to have an annual household income of $15,000 or less
One estimate by disability experts predicts that the number of people with disabilities will double in the next 20 years such as:returning veterans, people with acquired disabilities such as injuries, disease, or chronic illness, aging workforce, and young people with disabilities entering the workforce for the first time.
The Benefits of having disabled people in the workplace
job seekers are eager to work and to give their employers their best.
They appreciate the opportunity to work and are much more likely to be loyal to the company they work for and be punctual,,hardworking, productive, and loyal..
Here are some other benefits.
Good qualifications: Many people with disabilities have good qualifications to offer in the workplace. The number of disabled people with trade certificates is slightly higher than in the general population.
Nearly one-fifth of people with disabilities have a diploma or college degree, which is the about the same number as non-disabled people in the workforce.
Financial incentives: The U.S. and some other countries offer incentives for companies who hire disabled. For example, the U.S. government offers a Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
The tax credit encourages the employment of nine targeted groups of job seekers by reducing the employer’s federal income tax liability. The liability may be reduced by as much as $2,400 per new worker hired.
Governments also provide special incentives such as funding part of the disabled worker’s wages for a specific amount of time.
Disabled people may also serve as interns or trainees through a variety of programs and scholarships offered by government and non-profit organizations.
Innovation: Disabled people face challenges every day such as getting around in a wheelchair or physical mobility issues. They can also be innovative in the workplace.
Low employee turnover: Employee turnover can cost companies a lot of money during the recruitment, interview, and screening process. Disabled workers are much more likely to be loyal and stay on the job.
Reliable and dedicated employees: Many workers with disabilities are hard-working and take pride in their jobs and the companies that employ them. They are highly motivated to do a good job. They have much higher attendance records and stay up to five times longer in their job positions.
The U.S. Department of Education rates disabled employees as average or above average in productivity and quality of work, performance, attendance, and flexibility. Many have high work productivity rates.
Creates a more diverse workplace: The unique experiences and views of disabled workers adds to the workplace. They can also provide insights on how companies can better serve people with disabilities.
Community recognition: Customers want to support companies that will employee disabled people. They will see these companies as caring entities in the community. Hiring disabled workers creates a more positive public image, and may make the company more attractive to business associations, customers, or prospective employees.
Perceived barriers to hiring people with disabilities
Cost: Some employees feel that accommodating people with disabilities into the workplace is expensive. In fact, most accommodations do not cost much. Most accommodations are simple such as amplification on phones for the hard of hearing, amplification for the visually impaired, or hands-free infrared pointing devices for people with mobility issues.
U.S. businesses can deduct the cost of accommodations such as installing ramps or removing architectural barriers on their tax return and may be eligible for a disabled access credit. A Canadian agency says that only 20 percent of disabled employees require accommodation on the job and that the cost for 65 percent of them were between $1.00 to $500.
Some businesses are afraid that having disabled employees will make them vulnerable to potential lawsuits. In the U.S., workers can file complaints of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Other countries have human rights legislation to protect disabled workers.
Misconceptions and stereotypes: Unfortunately, some employers do not think that people with disabilities are capable of being successful on the job. Some employees may fear that disabled employees will require a lot of sick time off work or that they not be as productive as their non-disabled counterparts.
Some companies look upon hiring people with disabilities as an act of charity. This kind of condescending attitude is not conducive to an accepting environment.
In spite of great strides in disability rights in the last 25 years, most disabled people are under-educated, underemployed, and poor. Much more needs to be done by the disability community and governments to educate employers about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. These efforts can start with training and apprenticeship programs for young school graduate who are just entering the workforce.
Employers need to have resources that can provide them with information about reasonable accommodation, and on how companies can work with disabled employees, and training in disability etiquette. Companies also need businesses with disabled employees to mentor them. They also may need support to navigate the many programs and benefits that are available to companies who are willing to hire disabled workers.
Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor
Busting Myths About Hiring People with Disabilities, Huffington Post, Mary Bailey
Benefits of Employing People with Disabilities, Disabled World
Disability Stats and Facts, Disability Funders Network
Six reasons why hiring disabled is good for business, The Chronicle Herald