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What are some common myths about hiring people with disabilities that impede disability recruiting initiatives?

The following myths may stem from a lack of interaction and experience working with people with disabilities, which can generate negative attitudes. These myths can lead to missed business opportunities when employers ignore candidates with disabilities or choose not to focus recruitment efforts on the disabled population. HR can help support diversity initiatives by identifying these myths, dispelling them with facts to educate managers and executives, and taking steps to help create an inclusive work environment.

Myth #1: People with disabilities are not qualified applicants.

Reality: There are many qualified candidates with disabilities. Employers should not assume that people with disabilities lack the necessary education, training and experience for employment, and would not be able to perform essential job functions. Many times, the only difference is that workers with disabilities might do things differently, which could mean more efficiently and better than what others have previously done in the position. HR can open managers' minds to the idea that new ideas and methods of performing work can come from workers with disabilities not previously provided by nondisabled workers.

Myth #2: Reasonable accommodations are expensive.

Reality: Many employees with disabilities require nothing more than the same consideration an employer may already be providing to its nondisabled employees, such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting or restructured workstations. Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact, a research report from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) updated in 2017, found that more than half of U.S. employers surveyed had zero accommodation costs, and the rest incurred a one-time expense of approximately $500 to accommodate an employee with a disability. JAN provides free consulting to help employers determine possible accommodations based on disability. HR can help managers understand that accommodations are tools to ensure that a person with a disability can be productive in the same way tools are provided to those without disabilities to ensure their productivity. The tools may be different (e.g., a computer with a larger monitor versus a computer with a glare screen, or a desktop versus a laptop to work from home), but they are all just tools to help ensure productivity. Successful organizations invest in all employees and do not limit themselves in finding creative solutions to move the organization forward.

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

Reality: According to the EEOC, "an employee with a disability must meet the same production standards, whether quantitative or qualitative, as an employee without a disability in the same job. Lowering or changing a production standard because an employee cannot meet it due to a disability is not considered a reasonable accommodation. An employer should evaluate the job performance of an employee with a disability the same way it evaluates any other employee's performance." When hiring new employees and evaluating current ones, HR can use the EEOC guidance titled Performance Standards to educate managers that expected levels of performance will be the same for employees with disabilities as all others and can stress that loyalty, dependability and a desire to do a good job are not attributes held exclusively by employees without disabilities.

In addition to dispelling myths, HR can help attract candidates with disabilities by:

  • Using disability inclusion statements in job advertisements and the career section of your internet site.
  • Attending disability-focused job fairs.
  • Posting jobs on disability-oriented job boards.
  • Ensuring applications are in formats that are accessible to all persons with disabilities.
  • Providing reasonable accommodations that the qualified applicant will need to compete for the job.
  • Educating all employees, especially managers, about working with employees with disabilities.

Employers need to realize that, at any time, any employee could develop a disability and require a reasonable accommodation. If a reasonable accommodation is not considered and implemented, the employee may face termination of employment and the business incurs substantial costs to hire and train a new employee. These costs can far exceed any reasonable accommodation provided to keep the employee employed.


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