Champion Disability Inclusion to Bring Much-needed Change | DCR Workforce Blog

Champion Disability Inclusion to Bring Much-needed Change

October 2015 was proclaimed the National Disability Employment Awareness Month, urging all Americans to embrace the talents and skills of individuals with disabilities and to promote their right to equal employment opportunity. Let us all recognize that human beings have many aspects to them and may not be branded by just their disability. A disability need not push a person to be unemployed, underemployed or dependent on Social Security disability benefits.

But, facts belie these beliefs when we look at the status of persons with disabilities, who make up almost one-fifth of America’s population.

  • Unemployment among the disabled is twice that of people without disabilities
  • For women and minorities with disabilities, the unemployment rates are even higher.
  • The disabled are offered limited access to skills training.
  • Many report being discriminated against, due to unfairly low expectations.
  • Many do not attain jobs which suit their capabilities.
  • Many individuals conceal their disability, if possible, in order to find employment.
  • When employers request applicants to voluntarily self-identify their disability in order to meet their affirmative action goals, they find that they have few takers. Most disabled workers distrust the motive behind such a request and fear discrimination.

This reality completely defeats the aims of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which aimed to fulfill the fundamental American promises of equal access, equal opportunity, and equal respect for all. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) requires all federal contractors (and their subcontractors) to establish Affirmative Action Plans and hire people with disabilities to achieve a seven per cent utilization goal. This has helped bring more persons with disabilities into Federal service than at any point in the last three decades, but this has not proved sufficient to meet the needs of everyone.

Companies must be creative and accommodating when offering employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. There is a lot of help to be had from different sources and various federal initiatives.

Follow these steps to transition to a disability inclusive employer:

  1. Contact the various organizations which are committed to the task of assisting employers who wish to train, recruit and hire individuals with disabilities. Take advantage of the publicly funded supported employment services and benefit from their expertise.
  2. Organize mentoring sessions for the decision-makers in your organization to get them on board. Seek their help to formulate your program.
  3. Get the various stakeholders, including yourhuman resource professionals, talent acquisition staff, and supervisory staff, skilled in recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting people with disabilities.
  4. Prepare a path to accommodating the disabled, based on the job descriptions and requirements. Do not make assumptions of anyone’s capabilities or go with stereotypical expectations. Even if your business finds itself unable to accommodate a particular disability, keep candidates in your database for future openings. You may also consider referring them to another employer who would be able to accommodate such a disability.
  5. Showcase the achievements of the workers in your organization with disabilities.
  6. Through the Pathways to Careers initiative, community colleges provide career-enhancing skills development opportunities and industry recognized credentials to the disabled.
  7. Observe and emulate the business practices of others who promote disability inclusion.
  8. Developpaid internships, apprenticeships, and/or on-the-job training programs that are inclusive of individuals with disabilities. Hire contingent workers with specific disabilities as temp-to-perm workers to verify their fit with the task.
  9. Use technology to spread the word. If you use an online career portal, make it friendly and accessible to people with disabilities. Publicize your status as a disability inclusive employer on your external website, social media, and other company materials.
  10. Set program goals. Track them and measure them to make sure that you are achieving them.

October is coming to a close, but the need to support disabled workers is not. People with disabilities add significant value to their workplaces and have proven to be capable and motivated workers. By bringing them on-board, an employer stands to get much more than the investment they are making in accommodating the worker’s needs.

Cite examples of how your workplace has accommodated a disabled worker, and the benefits derived. We want to hear from you.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.