This article originally appeared at www.collegerecruiter.com/blog/2019/09/19/employing-people-with-disabilities-shouldnt-be-a-challenge/
Employing People with Disabilities Shouldn’t Be a Challenge
While there has been an increased effort over recent years to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, the focus has been primarily on gender and ethnic diversity. That leaves out a large and important group—people with disabilities. Although the Americans With Disabilities Act became law in 1990, many would agree that employers have failed to live up to the promise of this act.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29 percent of Americans ages 16 to 64 with a disability were employed as of June 2018, compared with nearly 75 percent of those without a disability. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities who are actively seeking work is 9.2 percent—more than twice as high as for those without a disability (4.2 percent).
Fortunately, a recent study (the first of its kind) has dispelled many of the misperceptions about employing people with disabilities. In fact, the results, as reported by Accenture and the American Association of People with Disabilities, show that companies that hire people with disabilities outperform other organizations, increasing both profitability and shareholder returns. More specifically, revenues were 28% higher, net income was 200% higher and profit margins were 30% higher.
As it turns out, employing people with disabilities is good business.
“Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture, and they’re a large consumer market eager to know which businesses authentically support their goals and dreams,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., Disabilities Rights Attorney, American Association of People with Disabilities. “Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of social responsibility and mission-driven investing.”
So, how do job seekers with disabilities find opportunities, address their disability with potential employers and advocate for inclusion? We talked to two experts on the subject to answer some common questions. While you’ll find more agreement between our experts than not, there are some differences in opinions, which provides some thought-provoking insights to consider.
1. Should job seekers with disabilities bring these to the attention of a prospective employer and, if so, when and how?
Paula Golladay: This can be a touchy area, and one that’s very personal. Overall, you are not required to disclose the fact that you have a disability, unless hired under the authority of Schedule A. Schedule A refers to a special hiring authority that gives Federal agencies an optional, and potentially quicker way to hire individuals with disabilities. The other exception is if your disability requires a special accommodation. For instance, if you have a mobility issue, you need to disclose this to ensure that you can gain access to and navigate the building. In general, I tell people to wait to disclose their disability until they must do so, because, unfortunately, people still have biases.
Gerry Crispin: Absolutely and fearlessly. It’s better to learn whether acceptance is an issue as quickly as possible. However, timing is essential. If the hiring process will require an accommodation for testing, interviews, etc. then you must make the disclosure upfront. If an accommodation to the job itself will be necessary, then I’d suggest discussing the disability at the end of the interview as a precursor to employment—assuming you’ll be offered the job. If your disability/different ability is not relevant to the job, than it should not be an issue. If you demonstrate that you have trust issues before there is evidence to be concerned, then you’re leading with a negative attitude. Let the employer’s representative, the hiring manager or the recruiter be the one to accept your disability, or not; selecting you based on your ability to do the job alone, and then manage the evidence they present regarding acceptance accordingly.
2. Is it easier for those with disabilities to find career-related employment with some employers than others and, if so, how should job seekers identify which employers are more likely to hire someone with a disability?
Paula: Yes. For instance, the federal government has a mandate to hire a certain percentage of people with disabilities each fiscal year—12% with non-targeted disabilities and 2% with targeted (more severe) disabilities. Of course, some federal agencies do better than others at fulfilling these requirements. And, certain jobs have medical or physical requirements to consider. In addition to the federal government, I would look for a business that owns one or more contracts with the federal government of at least $10,000 annually. These companies must meet similar hiring mandates. Do your research. Disability.gov lists information on user-friendly sites designed for those with disabilities. Also, every public college or university is required to provide career services for people with disabilities.
Gerry: There are many ways to find employers that are more likely to hire those with disabilities. Employers typically want to publicize their commitment to diversity and hiring candidates with disabilities. If you do some research and look at the career section on companies’ websites, you may find evidence such as photos of employees with disabilities, testimonials, videos of employees with disabilities doing their jobs, and employee affinity groups dedicated to mentoring and promoting opportunities and acceptance of people with disabilities. Companies may also display awards they’ve received from national disability organizations or feature case studies. In addition, you may note whether the company is involved with community activism and/or philanthropy that is consistent with the values of people with disabilities.
3. Some employers, particularly those which are small, have little experience managing employees with disabilities and so may be reluctant to extend an offer of employment to a disabled job seeker. What should a disabled job seeker do when they encounter such an employer?
Paula: Technically, that’s discrimination, but it’s usually very difficult to prove. Certain questions are illegal, in which case you are within your rights to say, “You can’t ask that.” For example, an employer can describe the job and ask if you are able to perform the functions, but cannot ask “Are you disabled?” or “Have you ever filed a worker’s compensation claim?” The best thing to do is to be your own advocate and demonstrate that your disability doesn’t affect your ability to do the job. It may not be fair, but it is a reality that disabled persons must often go the extra three miles to prove themselves. Come to interviews prepared to address potential issues. You must sell yourself and your ability to do the job. In truth, your attitude can be your biggest barrier or your greatest asset. Be knowledgeable and confident in your behavior.
Gerry: Ask them “Are you aware if any of your employees have friends or relatives with disabilities—here or, perhaps with a different employer? What have you learned from them about how people with disabilities want or need to be treated?” Their answers will tell you whether it’s useful to move forward.
4. Is there a difference between diversity and inclusion and, if so, what?
Paula: Oh, yes there is! As mentioned in the introduction, employers are making an effort to increase diversity, but when it comes to making people feel included, they often fall short. For example, if there’s a meeting or a company function that an employee with a disability is unable to attend due to accessibility or telecommunications issues, then the company is not being inclusive. It could be as simple as making restrooms accessible, or more complex, such as offering accommodations for those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, or those with cognitive issues to take part in presentations, meetings, etc. To advocate for inclusion and acceptance, you must own and accept your disability. If you can’t accept your disability, then how can you expect others to do so? Overall, it’s important to be positive and address issues professionally.
Gerry: I’m told there is, mainly by folks who believe that diversity is too aligned with more traditional issues around race and compliance. To me, inclusion tends to point to how we are all diverse…and the same. If there is a difference, then diversity tends to focus on what we can see—observable behavior, gender, skin color, etc., while inclusion offers a path to how we might all behave to ensure we understand, respect and learn from our differences.
Right now, the labor market in the U.S. is very tight, and yet, many people with disabilities remain unemployed. The Accenture analysis reveals a very inspiring statistic: Hiring only 1% of the 10.7 million people with disabilities has the potential to boost the GDP by an estimated $25 billion! Perhaps, once companies begin to realize the economic benefits, as well as the fact that diversity of all types provides fresh insights (especially into developing and marketing products and services that meet the needs of diverse consumers), they will embrace the idea of creating both diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Paula B. Golladay
Paula Golladay’ s previous employment was within the profession of a Sign Language Interpreter for over 25 years. Currently, Paula serves as the Schedule A Program Manager for the Internal Revenue Service. She has helped the IRS develop leveraged partnerships nationwide to include, but not limited to, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations vocational rehabilitation centers that foster employment for Individuals with Disabilities (IWD). Paula has developed presentations that encompass all aspects of disability employment. In addition, she has presented on topics such as disability culture and diversity and inclusion. Paula has been recognized by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal and private sector organizations as a subject matter expert regarding Schedule A hiring, promotion and retention. She has participated in local and national workshops both within the interpreting field and employment arena. Her expertise regarding how to prepare a federal resume is well recognized by established partnerships.
She has presented previously at Deaf/Hard of Hearing In Government, now Deaf in Government, Amputee Coalition of America, Freddie Mac, Internal Revenue Service national and local conferences. She has been an invited panel member for various college and university disability awareness events. She has presented at Veteran’s Day events, as well as several National Disability Employment Awareness events. Paula is one of the contributors of the development and evaluation of the anticipated OPM Special Placement Program Coordinator training curriculum.
Paula has received several awards in her career as the Schedule A Program Manager. In 2018, she was honored by receiving The Careers and the disABLED Employee of the Year award.
Gerry Crispin describes himself as a life-long student of how people are hired.
He founded CareerXroads in 1996 as a peer community of Recruiting leaders that today, in its third decade, includes 130 major employers who are devoted to learning from and helping one another improve their recruiting practices for every stakeholder…especially the candidate.
In 2010, Gerry co-founded a non-profit, Talentboard, to better define and research the Candidate Experience, a subject he has been passionate about for more than 40 years. Today the ‘CandEs’ has firmly established itself around the world and establishes benchmarks for employers each year in North America, Europe, Asia and soon South America as a ‘bench’ that shares their Candidate Experience data and competitive practices.
In 2017, Gerry helped launch ATAP, the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals.