National Disability Employment Awareness Month’s roots go back to 1945 and it was officially established in 2001 to span the entire month of October to make the needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities known. We all have a responsibility to foster a more inclusive America where every person is recognized for his or her abilities, and this mind frame should carry through into the employment arena.
Unfortunately, many employers and businesses are not aware of the many benefits that come along with employing all types of workers including persons with disabilities. A diverse workforce is one that will cultivate a more culturally dynamic environment, stimulating different viewpoints and adding fresh ideas to the work mix. Jim Sinocchi, director of diversity communications for IBM who is also a worker with disabilities, says IBM hires workers with disabilities because it’s the right thing to do from a business standpoint. He adds, “The problem is that people equate disability with stupidity…This pervasive attitude must be broken for [workers with disabilities] to make a full contribution to society.”
Despite laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring against people with disabilities, the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for people with disabilities at 16.1%. Research indicates employers are concerned that the costs associated with hiring people with disabilities will outweigh the benefits, but studies show the cost of making accommodations for workers with disabilities is almost insignificant.
The benefits of hiring workers with disabilities are surely not insignificant:
- US Chamber of Commerce CEO and president says individuals with disabilities make great employees. Their work ethic has a positive effect on the morale and productivity of other employees. As well, workers with disabilities impact the profitability of business.
- There are tax benefits to hiring workers with disabilities.
- Small businesses can take up to $5,000 off their tax bill for costs related to providing accessibility.
- Employers hiring certain qualified workers with disabilities may be able to claim a $2,400 credit, double that if the person is a veteran.
- Popular culture and professional literature contain numerous examples that describe individuals with disabilities as productive, dedicated and responsible employees.
- In a study of more than 900 supervisors and employers showed that workers with disabilities were rated higher than their counterparts without disabilities on a number of factors including attendance, arriving to work and returning from breaks on time, accepting authority and being accepted by the public.
Though benefits are considerable, the employment rate for people with disabilities remains low. This gap suggests the pressing need to educate the business community about the benefits of having a diverse workforce that includes workers with disabilities, and how these benefits may outweigh perceived costs.