27 Years Later: Where Are We Now?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law 27 years ago, and since then many people living with disabilities have seen improvements in their overall quality of life. However, one area that is lagging behind severely is employment. For example, around 22.8 million individuals with disabilities who are 16 years and older are not working, even though most would like to be. Talent shortage is often a concern for businesses, and individuals with disabilities remain a largely untapped talent source (Heasley, 2014).
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and we need this month because people with disabilities still experience exclusion from employment opportunities across all sectors. You may know of some businesses and organizations that welcome people of all abilities but, unfortunately, many will disregard a candidate with a disability for untrue and biased reasons such as, “They won’t be able to do the job as well as someone without a disability”.
Why Hire People With Disabilities?
NDEAM challenges the notions that people with physical or intellectual disabilities can’t bring valuable skills to a team. We see the strengths and talents of our participants at Hand-in-Hand every day, and it’s our hope that if they want to work, they will easily be able to find a job, but this can’t become the reality until those who are in the position to hire employees start hiring individuals with disabilities. And there are plenty of reasons to hire them, including they possess valuable skills and knowledge, they have equal or better safety and retention rates, and 92% of customers are more likely to repeat support to companies known to hire people with disabilities.
Need more convincing? According to the “Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” report, organizations that hire people with disabilities find:
Highly motivated employees add benefit to an organization’s team
Organizations demonstrate an inclusive and diverse culture that’s attractive to potential employees
Customer satisfaction is improved
In this same report, most employers found:
Employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities were dependable, engaged, and motivated, and had great attendance, attention to quality, and high productivity
Their experience with these employees was very positive and exceeded their expectations
There were less challenges than they thought there would be, especially if employees were matched with the best position and they were guided during onboarding
One of Hand-in-Hand’s goals is to help participants become more independent and learn new skills in the hope that they will be able to apply what they learn to a job someday. Some of our current and past participants have found success in job hunting, but others are discouraged by the lack of businesses that will give them a shot. This month, we encourage you to rethink your notions of what people with disabilities can do, and if you own a business or are in the position to hire employees, consider adding these valuable workers to your team. You just might find all the benefits we mentioned in this blog post and more once you open up your team to include people of all abilities, skills, and strengths.
 Heasley, Shaun. “Kids’ Autism Care Runs $11.5 Billion Annually, Study Finds.” Disability Scoop. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.