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LAS VEGAS—Officials from the Department of Labor are making the
business case for employing people with disabilities by offering up
several workplace practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining this
underemployed portion of the workforce.
“Everybody is important, and we’re asking you to look beyond the
normal recruitment sources you’re using and reach out to people with
disabilities,” said Colet Mitchell, a policy advisor at the department’s
Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
Disability inclusion can open up the power of diversity to solve
problems as well as provide great untapped talent that employers may be
missing out on, Mitchell told attendees June 29, 2015, at the Society
for Human Resource Management 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition.
And then there’s the matter of compliance for companies that contract
with the federal government. Changes to Section 503 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973—made effective in 2014—require these
employers to take affirmative action steps to employ individuals with
“By identifying, adopting and refining these effective and meaningful
employment practices that welcome people with disabilities, you too can
benefit from having a vibrant, diverse workforce,” Mitchell said.
The strategies include:
Gaining commitment from all levels of the organization.
“Establishing an inclusive business culture begins with leadership at
the highest levels, including top executives, their leadership teams and
boards of directors. Midlevel managers and supervisors, and
particularly human resources staff and other personnel involved in
hiring decisions, must also understand the role they play in
facilitating an inclusive environment,” Mitchell said. Communicating the
company’s goal of an inclusive and diverse workplace to employees at
all levels of the organization is also critical, she added. Mitchell
also recommended establishing a disability-focused employee resource
Reviewing HR processes. It’s important for employers
to review their HR processes, qualification standards and job
descriptions to determine whether they facilitate or impede the hiring
and advancement of qualified persons with disabilities, she said.
Participating in internship, mentorship and hiring programs for students
and recent graduates with disabilities is an important step. “Research
shows that employers that offer internships to people with disabilities
are 4.5 times more likely to hire a person with a disability,” said
Shaun McGill, also a policy advisor at ODEP.
Offering reasonable accommodations. Some individuals
with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations in order to
perform the essential functions of a job. “Most accommodations cost
employers nothing,” McGill said. It’s important for employers to
consider the procedures and administrative mechanisms they use to ensure
effective and efficient implementation of accommodations, he added.
Building a talent pipeline. Companies need to
develop relationships with a variety of recruitment sources to find
qualified applicants with disabilities, McGill said. These can either be
formal partnerships wherein agreements are signed that formalize
expectations, or informal interactions. “The investment will be well
worth the effort. Your company will not only secure access to talent
that it otherwise may have overlooked, but also benefit from other
supports that can assist in effectively integrating job candidates with
disabilities into your workforce,” he said. Recruitment sources include
the Labor Department’s One-Stop Career Centers, state vocational
rehabilitation agencies, state employment agencies, independent living
centers and the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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