Twenty-nine years ago, Congress enacted the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and other aspects of community life. Since then, public policy at all levels has demonstrated growing support for the employment of people with disabilities, as part of a broad societal shift toward promoting these Americans’ independence and full participation in mainstream society.
People with disabilities continue to be the most unemployed and underemployed population in the United States. In this tight job market, they represent an untapped labor pool offering valuable skills, qualifications, and assets for employers.
Today more than ever, businesses need people with a demonstrated ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances. And perhaps more than any other group, people with disabilities possess precisely these attributes.
December 2018 Disability Employment Statistics | Ages 16 years and over
Labor Force Participation
• People with disabilities: 20.7%
• People without disabilities: 68.4%
• People with disabilities: 7.9%
• People without disabilities: 3.5%
On a daily basis, people with disabilities must think creatively about how to solve problems and accomplish tasks. In the workplace, this resourcefulness translates into innovative thinking, fresh ideas and varied approaches to confronting business challenges and achieving success.
What's more, research shows that consumers both with and without disabilities favor businesses that employ people with disabilities. But while research shows that a workplace inclusive of people with disabilities is good for business, not all employers know how to effectively recruit, retain and advance such individuals.
When it comes to doing business, inclusion of workers with disabilities offers a competitive edge. By incorporating people with disabilities into their human capital strategies, employers expand their pool of talent, skills and creative business solutions.
As the baby-boomer population ages and continues employment, the prevalence of disability management in the workplace continues to be a significant issue for employers. Disability management should include etiquette strategies that foster inclusion of people with disabilities in employment settings.
Appropriate disability etiquette allows all employees to be more comfortable and productive. For employers wanting to successfully integrate people with disabilities into their organizations, the following etiquette strategies may be useful.
Several recruitment strategies can increase an organization’s access to potential applicants.
• Post job openings with local disability organizations and college and university career centers. Advertise vacancies within disability-related publications, websites, and job fairs.
• Include details about the job location in all postings and highlight accessible features of the location, if appropriate.
• Indicate the availability of flexible working conditions, including telecommuting or flexible scheduling.
• Only include qualifications in job postings that are actually required for the available position. Require equal qualifications of all job applicants, regardless of disability.
• Advertise the organization as an equal opportunity employer.
• Establish internship and mentoring programs targeted towards youth with disabilities.
A study published in the New York Times in 2015 acknowledged that employers were 34 percent less likely to hire an experienced job candidate with a disability. Quite often, employers do not understand how to provide accessibility to people with different abilities, worrying that it will be arduous and costly.
Learning how to recruit, interview and accommodate disabilities enriches the workplace and provides value to both the employer, and the employee. As an example of strategies to enrich your talent pool:
Scheduling the Interview
• Let applicants know accommodations can be provided upon request and who to contact for more information. This is crucial for both visible and non-visible disabilities.
• Mobility may be a factor for some candidates- and for others it may be an issue of being able to hear on the telephone well enough to converse confidently
Greeting the Interviewee
• Be aware of the interview location’s accessible features including restrooms, drinking fountains, entrances and exits
• Speak directly to the interviewee instead of any companion, personal attendant, or interpreter, when greeting the person for the interview.
- Always ask similar questions of all interviewees, regardless of disability. Conduct the interview emphasizing abilities, achievements, and interviewee qualities.
- Treat all interviewees with respect.
- Select an interview location with adequate lighting.
- Speak directly to the interviewee instead of any companion, personal attendant, or interpreter throughout the meeting.
Additional factors in consideration may include how to accommodate a disabled employee or how to provide inclusion into the workspace and existing team dynamic. Guidelines and references are plentiful, with resources for the practical, financial, personnel and legal facets of employing those with disabilities:
Full range of guidelines are provided via the Job Accommodation Network here.
• Disability Employment Policies in Practice Photographic profiles of individuals with disabilities working in a variety of occupations and industries
In short, disabled employees can be just as competent at their jobs as the next person. Really, there are more advantages in hiring this underemployed segment of the population as employees than disadvantages. They can benefit those around them and help supply a more diverse, engaged, and equal-opportunity work community!