Misconceptions abound when it comes to employment for people with disabilities despite growing awareness and efforts to promote inclusivity in the workplace. These myths often stem from a lack of understanding and can hinder businesses from tapping into a diverse and talented workforce. In this article, we aim to debunk the most common myths surrounding the employment of individuals with disabilities.

Myth 1: People with disabilities aren’t qualified.

Facts: There are many qualified candidates with disabilities that have the necessary education and experience for a variety of jobs. In fact, employees with disabilities often bring innovative, efficient approaches to tasks, offering fresh ideas and methods.

An individual’s disability may have nothing to do with the job they’ve applied for. Moreover, people with disabilities, like any other group, are not a homogenous population. They are simply individuals whose abilities often face societally created barriers.

Quoted in a recent Forbes article, former Connecticut state senator, past Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities, and disability attorney, Ted Kennedy Jr. said, “For too long, people with disabilities—individuals who are perfectly qualified and overwhelmingly willing to work—face enormous barriers to being offered a job.” Kennedy cited a recent study by Accenture which provides “compelling evidence” of the many benefits employees with disabilities bring to the workforce, including an acceleration of overall business performance.

Myth 2: Reasonable accommodation is costly.

Facts: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulates that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” for people with disabilities. Many employers wrongly assume such accommodations are prohibitively expensive. The truth is that accommodation is surprisingly easy in most cases. In a survey of 3,528 employers by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 49.4% reported that the accommodations for employees with disabilities “cost absolutely nothing.” For employers that incurred a one-time cost to accommodate employees with disabilities, the median expenditure was just $300.

Many accommodations for people with disabilities—ramps, close captioning, quiet spaces—also benefit employees without disabilities as well as customers. And, when employees see employers cultivate a sense of belonging, they feel better about coming to work—even when they’re not the ones being accommodated.

The late disability rights advocate Judy Heumann put it this way, “Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives—job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example.”

At the same time, companies who hire people with disabilities are eligible for tax credits and other government initiatives that can totally offset, or even surpass, the cost of accommodation.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, for example, is a federal program that provides employers with tax credits for hiring individuals from certain target groups that have faced barriers to employment, including people with disabilities. Tax credits are also available to improve architectural accessibility, and several states offer their own incentives related to hiring people with disabilities and creating accessible workplaces.

Myth 3: Managers can’t expect the same level of performance from employees with disabilities.

Facts: Job performance of people with disabilities has proven equal to, if not better than, that of workers without disabilities—a fact underscored by studies dating back decades.

In 1990, DuPont surveyed 811 employees with disabilities, finding that 90 percent rated average or better in job performance. Similar studies in 1973 and 1981 found employees with disabilities rated higher than their peers without disabilities. A 2002 study by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center found that employees with disabilities “are as capable and productive” as employees without disabilities, including in the areas of timeliness, punctuality, task consistency, and work speed.

Not only are employees with disabilities highly productive on an individual level, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, businesses that include employees with disabilities see a 72 percent increase in employee productivity.

Myth 4: Companies that hire people with disabilities are less competitive.

Facts: This myth is not only false, the opposite is the case–companies that actively hire people with disabilities perfrom better than peers. According to Accenture’s groundbreaking research, companies that actively employ and support people with disabilities achieve 1.6 times more revenue, 2.6 times the net income, and twice the economic profit compared businesses that do not.

Similarly, a National Institutes of Health Review of 6176 studies found that companies that employ people with disabilities see “improvements in profitability” stemming from profits and cost-effectiveness; low turnover and high retention; high levels of reliability, punctuality, and employee loyalty; and an enhanced company image.

Myth 5: People with disabilities don’t apply for jobs at my company.

Facts: Some employers assume that people with disabilities aren’t interested in working at their companies because few apply. In fact, many online job applications aren’t accessible to people with disabilities. According to a survey by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), 46 percent of respondents rated their most recent attempt to apply for a job online as “difficult to impossible.” Color-reliant applications, poor contrast, mobile device incompatibility, screen reader incompatibility, and rapid auto-timeout presented the biggest challenges.

Ableist language in job ads can discourage people with disabilities from even attempting to apply. Boilerplate verbiage like “must be able to lift 50 pounds”—which may have nothing to do with actual job duties—may deter a highly qualified candidate with physical challenges. While some jobs do require physicality, words matter when it comes to specific physical requirements. For example, will an employee truly need to “walk” or “crouch”? Or will they simply need to be able to move from point A to point B?

The ADA requires employers to provide equal opportunity to people with disabilities, beginning with the application process. The World Wide Web Consortium has published Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help businesses evaluate their website’s accessibility, including online job application functions. When it comes to advertising jobs, The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability  Inclusion (EARN) recommends creating job announcements that emphasize the specific outcomes a job requires, rather than how the duties should be accomplished.

Employment for People with Disabilities: Like Hiring Any Employee

Employment for people with disabilities is like employment for anybody else. Each individual is equipped with strengths, weaknesses, goals, and needs. Much the same as it is with any employee, leveraging the capabilities of an employee with a disability is about identifying strengths and abilities and providing the tools and support they need to be successful.

Let Us Help Solve Your Labor Shortages

The US Chamber of Commerce recommends that businesses turn to experienced partners to tap the many benefits—including tax incentives—of employing people with disabilities. PRIDE Industries has helped hundreds of companies do just that, helping recruit, hire, train, and support this growing and reliable talent pool—free of charge to employers.
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