Remember the old slogan, “Hire the handicapped?” Doesn’t exactly make you think of talent or competitive advantage, does it? Older approaches to promoting employment for people with disabilities relied upon charity and pity to get their message across. No wonder many businesses and employers were hesitant to buy into such approaches. Intuitively, they knew that neither their issues nor those of job seekers/employees with disabilities could be addressed with programs playing upon pity and helplessness.
Today, our approaches have taken an exciting new road. Employers realize they can benefit by having a workforce that taps into the talents of everyone, that connects with all customers, and that prepares the business for the workforce of tomorrow.
Some employers maintain that there are no qualified candidates with disabilities available. Today, people with disabilities are nearly at par with others in terms of their skill and educational levels. Thanks to laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and the Higher Education Act, people with disabilities who are now entering the workforce have had more access to educational opportunities than any prior generation. According a 2010 survey conducted by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability, 82% of people with disabilities indicated they had completed high school (as compared with 89% of those without disabilities). This compares with only 61% of people with disabilities completing high school in 2004. For higher education, 19% of people with disabilities reported graduating from college in 2010 as compared with 27% of those without disabilities. This compares with only 14% of people with disabilities completing college in 2004 (Kessler & NOD, 2010a). Also, more people with disabilities are enrolling in college (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, Knokey & Shaver, 2010). According to National Center for Educational Statistics, 707,000 students with disabilities were enrolled in colleges throughout the U.S. during the 2008 – 09 academic year (Raue & Lewis, 2011).
Veterans with disabilities bring a great deal to the workplace. In addition to job skills gained while serving in the military, they are resilient, flexible problem solvers and team players. Special hiring guidelines and incentives are in place for hiring veterans with disabilities. Check out the veterans toolkit for employers on this site for more information.
Any organization that has federal contracts may need to comply with upcoming federal contractor guidelines for disability inclusiveness practices in their workplace. These new guidelines are designed to enhance the recruitment, hiring, and accommodation of people with disabilities. More information is available on the OFCCP webpage.
There are a number of recruiting resources for employers trying to source qualified candidates with disabilities. These are given in the resources section of this tutorial.
Kessler Foundation & National Organization on Disability. (2010a). The ADA, 20 years later. Retrieved from http://www.2010disabilitysurveys.org/indexold.html
Newman, L., Wagner, M., Cameto, R., Knokey, A-M., and Shaver, D. (2010). Comparisons across time of the outcomes of youth with disabilities up to 4 years after high school. A report of findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2.)(NCSER 2010-3008). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Raue, K., & Lewis, L. (2011). Students with disabilities at degree-granting postsecondary institutions (NCES 2011–018). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.