Are there myths about hiring people with disabilities that impede disability recruiting initiatives?
Several myths exist about employing people with disabilities. These myths can lead to missed business opportunities when employers ignore disabled candidates or choose not to focus recruitment efforts on the disabled population. HR can help support diversity initiatives by identifying these myths, dispelling them through educating managers and executives, and taking some easy 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 persons with disabilities lack the necessary education, training and experience for employment, or that a disabled person would not be able to perform essential job functions. Many times, the only difference is that disabled workers might do things differently. “Differently” could meanmore efficiently and better than what others have previously done in the position. Open managers’ minds to the idea that new ideas and methods of performing work can come from workers with disabilities too and that disabled workers may have ideas not provided by non-disabled workers.
Myth #2: Reasonable accommodations are expensive.
Reality: Many employees with disabilities require nothing more than the consideration you may already be providing to your employees, such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting or restructured workstations. Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact, research from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) released in September 2009, found more than half of U.S. employers surveyed had zero accommodation cost; the remaining 34 percent typically spent approximately $600 to accommodate an employee with a disability. JAN even 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 (i.e., a computer with a larger monitor vs. a computer with a glare screen, or a desktop vs. 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 entitled Performance Standards to educate managers that expected levels of performance will be the same for employees with disabilities as all others, and 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.
Finally, keep in mind that any employee at any moment could develop a disability and require a reasonable accommodation. Many times, these employees face termination of employment, and the business incurs substantial costs to hire and train a new employee, which can far exceed any reasonable accommodation provided to keep the employee employed.