Hiring Employees with a Disability
~ Authored by Shelly Tisius
Good employees are hard to find. Does the thought of hiring employees with a disability further complicate matters? It shouldn’t, but often HR departments are uncertain of what it all will entail. Let’s set aside the fact that it is unethical and illegal not to hire someone simply based on their disability under the ADA. It is human nature to want to avoid the unknown; however, working with someone with a disability is typically valuable for the entire team.
What to Expect When Hiring Someone with a Disability
Hiring employees with a disability should be the same process as hiring employees without. They are just like the rest of us. Some produce quality work, some do not. Some have great attitudes, some do not. If you have hired someone with a disability in the past and they didn’t work out, do not let that stop you. Would you want to pass up the opportunity for the highest performing employee?
Amy (name changed for privacy) is Deaf and blind. She has worked in her positions for over 25 years. Several years in a row she has won the highest performing employee award. She requires sign language interpreting services periodically, and her coworkers had to get used to working with someone who cannot hear or see. Her disability has brought diversity to the team. Everyone adapted to her easily once they learned her needs. Let me repeat that, she is the highest performing employee. She has been for several years. Adapting the environment for her was easy for the team. And it has brought diversity to the team.
There are many examples of Amy’s work ethic. If you could hire your highest performer but they required an accommodation that other employees didn’t require, would you still hire them?
The Cost of Accommodations
Often the topic of costs comes up. “Well, if I have to hire a sign language interpreter, it will cost us money. We just cannot afford that.” If it is possible to diversify your team and earn more profits, would it be worth the change? Is it really an undue burden? Consider this: I have no challenge going out and spending $50 on dinner. But then I am astonished when a new pair of running shoes cost $100. Why? The shoes are meant to protect my feet while I run and will last me 6 or more months while the dinner only lasts a moment. Businesses host parties and other perks with a price tag. They have no challenge justifying expenses on entertainment, but when it comes to an accommodation someone needs to do their job, they consider the cost a burden. Further, it’s true that many accommodations cost money, but not all.
Hiring employees with a disability can be extremely valuable to your team, and the costs for accommodations are far less than the benefit. See if you are eligible for a government tax credit. Hiring someone with a disability may be different than other employees, but is it worth taking the chance of not hiring perhaps one of your best employees?
Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities – Career Cast Disability Network
Office of Disability Employment Program’s Business Sense – Department of Labor
Employement (Title 1) – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)