Not only are the disabled a minority group that represents 22% of the current workforce, but misinformation and stereotypes hold this group to just over one and half times the unemployment rate (for those able to work) of the non-disabled workforce, aged 16 and over. These statistics are published by a division of the Department of Labor, with other studies of the same nature stating figures of unemployment rates closer to two or three times that of those non-disabled.
However accurate, this same division of the DOL, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), is taking steps to educate the masses on the high potential talent pool that disabled workers represent. Naming October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the option to purchase a poster for your organization has been made available through the DOL website.
Disabilities at Work (DAW) is another resource to employers looking for more education in the processes and incentives associated with hiring disabled workers. DAW partners with employers, allowing those in support of disabled workers to display the DAW logo as proof, which, according to their website, will result in the "potential for increased customer patronage". This potential is derived from the fact that "the largest minority group in the country, people with disabilities, their family members, service providers and other supporters, control more than $200 billion dollars in discretionary income - an amount that exceeds that of the highly coveted teen market."
In addition to appealing to a new sector of consumers, employers have the opportunity to support a worthy cause and the potential to secure hard working, long-term fits for their organizations. Also, there are possible tax incentives that can be obtained by hiring disabled employees. With that knowledge in hand, what causes the apprehension towards bringing on disabled employees? The majority stems from myths and stereotypes about disabilities and those living with them.
MYTH: Hiring employees with disabilities increases workers compensation insurance rates. FACT: Insurance rates are based solely on the relative hazards of the operation and the organization's accident experience, not on whether workers have disabilities.
MYTH: Employees with disabilities have a higher absentee rate than employees without disabilities. FACT: Studies by firms such as DuPont show that employees with disabilities are not absent any more than employees without disabilities.
MYTH: Persons with disabilities are unable to meet performance standards, thus making them a bad employment risk. FACT: In 1990, DuPont conducted a survey of 811 employees with disabilities and found 90% rated average or better in job performance compared to 95% for employees without disabilities. A similar 1981 DuPont study which involved 2,745 employees with disabilities found that 92% of employees with disabilities rated average or better in job performance compared to 90% of employees without disabilities. The 1981 study results were comparable to DuPont's 1973 job performance study.
MYTH: Persons with disabilities have problems getting to work. FACT: Persons with disabilities are capable of supplying their own transportation by choosing to walk, use a car pool, drive, take public transportation, or a cab. Their modes of transportation to work are as varied as those of other employees.
MYTH: Considerable expense is necessary to accommodate workers with disabilities. FACT: Most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and the cost for those who do is minimal or much lower than many employers believe. Studies by the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network have shown that 15% of accommodations cost nothing, 51% cost between $1 and $500, 12% cost between $501 and $1,000, and 22% cost more than $1,000.
Findings in similar studies by associations and universities, such as the Michigan State University, support these facts behind the myths as well as dispel additional ones.
Even if you do not have the ability to recruit and hire disabled workers for your company, you can show support in other ways. Prepare Now and Community Connections, Inc. offer services to the disabled and their families and both accept donations. Check your local community organizations for volunteering opportunities - many companies set up incentive programs or pay continuation during volunteering hours for employees that give their time to affiliated charities.
For more help on hiring disabled workers, ODEP offers wealth of helpful information and direction regarding recruitment and employment. An inspirational novel was also published about Habitat International, Inc., highlighting their success with employing disabled workers. The novel, Able!, is available through most retailers.
Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration. When she's not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.
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