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Why You Should Hire Workers with Disabilities

Monday, August 30th, 2010

In its first detailed report on the employment landscape for the 27 million working-age Americans with disabilities, the Labor Department says the unemployment rate is still higher for this group. The numbers are not surprising. In 2009, the average unemployment rate for disabled workers was 14.5%, vs. 9% for those without disabilities.

Persons with a disability were also over three times as likely as those without a disability to be age 65 or older. And nearly one-third of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with about one-fifth of those with no disability. (Read the full release here).

The Americans with Disabilities Act is designed to increase employment by prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and requiring employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to help workers with disabilities perform their jobs. But let’s forget the ADA for a moment, and consider all of the substantial reasons to bring more disabled into the workforce.

Workers with disabilities are proven to be loyal employees, which reduces hiring and retention costs. This group has also developed increased abilities in other ways that make them strong job candidates, such as creative problem solving, the ability to adapt to pressures and difficult situations and a knack for using technology that helps them do their job.

For example, people who are blind are able to navigate most of a computer using their keyboard and a software program that reads the screen and computer elements out loud. A worker who is deaf may be highly competent in online communications that are visual, such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing and using the Web.

Tax credits exist to help employers offset the cost of technology and other accommodations. Small businesses for example can apply the Disabled Access Credit to $5,000 in expenses each year, according to the Job Accommodation Network. Interestingly, around 70% of accommodations cost less than $500 while 20% cost nothing, such as free Instant Messaging programs from Yahoo! and AOL.

Forward thinking companies are making strategic efforts to bring more disabled people into the workplace. Hire Disability Solutions partners include prominent companies like AT&T, Pfizer, and Tyco. These companies have recognized the value of diversity that not only transforms a workplace but can also enhance its products and services by leveraging this group’s unique perspectives and putting their pulse on marketplace needs. After all there are 54 million Americans with disabilities, not including children with special needs, an aging population, and thousands of newly returned veterans with service-related disabilities.

If you’re an employer take the first step towards eliminating unemployment for people with disabilities. This is a loyal group that wants to be at work, and who will spend their working hours proving to you why they were the right hire for your company. This is what every employer aspires to as they build their workforce, so tap this market and get a head start.

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