Disability Employment: Pros & Cons of Hiring Disabled Workers

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Fewer than 20% of Americans with disabilities were employed in 2019. The employment rate for those without a disability was over 66%, reports the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Considering these facts, it's fair to say that disability employment is still associated with social and economic marginalization. However, hiring people with disabilities will not only expand your talent pool but also promote diversity in the workplace and drive business growth.

The Truth About Disability Employment

The employment of people with disabilities is still taboo. Some companies simply don't know where to start, while others assume that it may increase their expenses.

According to a survey by Accenture, less than one-third of disabled adults between the ages of 16 and 64 were employed in 2018. More than 75% of those without a disability in the same group had a job.

Although it's not required to hire people with disabilities, job discrimination against this group is illegal. Furthermore, these individuals often receive sub-minimum wages because of a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Disability Employment Benefits Your Business

As Accenture notes, companies that employ workers with disabilities have 28% higher revenues and 30% higher profit margins. These people represent a vast untapped market. If U.S. companies would be more willing to offer employment opportunities for these qualified people, they would have access to more than 10.7 million job seekers with diverse skills, talents and abilities. The GDP could reach $25 billion if just 1% of this group joined the workforce.

Popular brands like AT&T, PepsiCo, CVS and Microsoft implemented disability hiring programs that contribute to their global success. Microsoft, for example, features a training program for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as ability hiring events designed to attract qualified job applicants with disabilities. These types of placement programs are highly effective. This approach, including an accessible application process, could help your small business thrive and create a more diverse workplace.

Just because someone is in a wheelchair or has trouble moving his arms doesn't mean he can't be an exceptional accountant or data scientist. Except for physical jobs, disabled employees can perform most jobs, from software engineering and customer service to market research. Hiring people with disabilities may improve your company's bottom line, strengthen your brand and reduce turnover rates.

Qualify for Tax Incentives

The U.S. Department of Labor and other state and federal government agencies provide disability resources to help employers hire and accommodate disabled workers. Companies that employ people with disabilities may even receive tax incentives.

For example, small businesses can receive up to $5,000 to cover the expenses incurred for the purpose of making the workplace more accommodating for job seekers and employees with disabilities. If, say, you invest in workstations for disabled employees, you can claim tax credits for providing reasonable accommodation.

These initiatives are in line with the regulations imposed by the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination of disabled individuals at work and in public places. Employers that hire individuals from certain target groups, such as disabled veterans, may also qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

The risks of hiring people with disabilities are pretty much the same as those incurred when hiring non-disabled individuals. While it's true that some disabilities may result in a slow pace of work, you can make adjustments in your workplace to better accommodate those employees and boost their productivity. Plus, many people who are disabled feel that they need to work harder to prove themselves in their role, so they might actually do a better job than their peers.

A common concern among employers is that disabled workers are more prone to discrimination and prejudice, but this isn't necessarily true. If you have a positive company culture and your employees respect each other, there shouldn't be any issues.

As far as accommodation goes, nearly 60% of accommodations for disabled workers cost nothing. The rest would cost only $500 per employee, which is still very low and may help your small business qualify for tax credits.

Make Your Workplace Disabled-Friendly

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for workers with disabilities. The adjustments you need to make depend on the disability and the limitations it imposes. Simple changes, such as adding ergonomic workstations and wheelchair ramps, can make all the difference.

For example, an employee with visual impairment may benefit from using screen-reading programs. Workers with dyslexia will find it easier to do their jobs if you allow them to use monospace fonts. Those who are hearing impaired may prefer to use computer programs that replace sound with images or text. You may also need to implement a more flexible work schedule for those who are under medical treatment or who cannot sit for long periods.

The best thing you can do is to talk with your employees. Ask what adjustments they need to work comfortably and perform at their peak. The U.S. Department of Labor website features a list of employment services, disability resources and job platforms for job seekers with disabilities, so you may want to check it out to learn more.

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About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.