According to the American Council of Life Insurers, one in three people between the ages of 35 and 65 will become disabled at some point in their working years. For this reason, and because many people with disabilities are already in the workforce, it is beneficial for employers to learn the facts about hiring those with disabilities. In the state of Illinois, a collaborative partnership called disabilityworks was formed to aid employers and those with disabilities seeking employment, and to clear up the misperceptions many have about hiring individuals with disabilities.
Myths and Realities
A principal reason that employers hesitate to hire workers with disabilities is simply a lack of education on the subject. Many believe that hiring employees with disabilities will add expenses in terms of increased supervision and lessened productivity, but this is not typically the case. According to a 2007 study conducted by DePaul University and funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO), there is very little difference in productivity and the amount of supervision required between disabled workers and their non-disabled counterparts. A summary of the study concluded that “participants with and without disabilities had nearly identical job performance ratings” and “the difference in amount of supervision required ratings were relatively minor among participants with and without disabilities.”
Some employers mistakenly believe that hiring people with disabilities negatively impacts a company’s safety ratings, but the reality is that companies with disabled workers have similar safety records as those without. Another common misconception is that employers will have to spend a great deal of money on costly modifications and accommodations for their workers with disabilities. But research has shown that most employees with disabilities need very little, if any, additional accommodations. The DePaul study concluded that “very few special accommodations were provided to employees with disabilities, and the average cost of the accommodations was only $313.”
Top 10 Reasons to Employ Qualified People with Disabilities
- Employers must prepare to accommodate and retain experienced and knowledgeable employees. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people between the ages of 35 and 65 become disabled—people with disabilities are already in the workforce.
- Employers with a diverse workforce can more accurately fine-tune their products and services to their customer base: employees with disabilities (EWD) constitute 19.8% of the population and command $220 billion in discretionary spending power, twice the amount of the coveted teen market.
- Research consistently show that employers report equal or better safety records, turnover and absentee rates, job performance ratings, job assignment flexibility, and equal amount of supervision for EWD as compared to their non-disabled peers.
- Researchers find that employers report hiring EWD contribute to improved morale and productivity throughout the company.
- Polls show that 92% of consumers reflect favorably on businesses known to hire PWD, and 87% prefer to do business with these same companies.
- Direct government payments up to $20,000 annually for each qualified employee through programs such as Ticket-To-Work.
- Tax incentives such as the $5,000 Small Business Tax Credit, the annual $1,200- $4,800 Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Architectural/ Transportation Barrier Removal Tax Deduction up to $15,000.
- Various studies have concluded that for each $1 spent on reasonable accommodations, businesses reap $10 – $35 in benefits.
- Approximately 72% of EWD do not require accommodations, otherwise costing $300- $600 on average.
- In certain cases, EWD carry Medicare/Medicaid and do not require employer-sponsored health insurance.
According to the Job Accommodation Network, for every dollar spent on accommodations for employees with disabilities, companies reap $10 to $35 in benefits. It is also worth noting that employees without disabilities often need accommodations as well, from ergonomic office setups to flex-time work schedules.
Benefits to the Bottom Line
There are many ways in which hiring people with disabilities can positively impact a company. The government provides small and large businesses with tax incentives for employing workers with disabilities. When making accommodations such as creating ramps or installing handicap-accessible fixtures, there are a number of tax credits and deductions for employers, as outlined in the chart on the opposite page.
Another way to boost the bottom line is by hiring disabled workers who participate in the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program. This voluntary program was designed to reduce the concerns of disabled citizens about entering the workforce. Those who meet program criteria are issued “tickets,” which can be used to obtain jobs and services from organizations who participate in the program’s employment networks. Those employers and service providers who become part of the Ticket to Work Program are compensated by the Social Security Administration for their participation. Businesses can receive up to $20,000 in direct payments for each of its workers who meet the program’s qualifications. For more details, visit yourtickettowork.com.
In addition to tax credits and deductions, companies that hire workers with disabilities receive greater support from the public. Creating equal opportunities within an organization has been shown to attract customers. According to a national survey that appeared in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 92 percent of consumers reflect favorably on businesses known to hire people with disabilities, and 87 percent prefer to do business with these companies. In addition, the Job Accommodation Network reports that, internally, employee morale and productivity throughout a company are increased simply by having people with disabilities on staff.
A Statewide Resource
For more information about hiring workers with disabilities, Illinois employers can turn to an organization called disabilityworks, a partnership among the IDCEO, the City of Chicago and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Disabilityworks was launched in 2002, the end result of a task force initiated by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on the employment of people with disabilities. Originally a Chicago initiative, it went statewide in 2007, employing a multifaceted approach to reduce the unemployment rate of people with disabilities while helping businesses meet their workforce needs and increase diversity outreach.
The disabilityworks initiative addresses issues of awareness and accessibility, tax incentives, and resources for businesses through workshops, disability sensitivity training, and information and referrals. It employs resource coordinators working in eight regions throughout the state to assist those with disabilities who seek employment and the employers who seek to hire them. Peoria is one of the eight regions with a resource coordinator. Mary Peterson works out of the Illinois workNet Center at 211 Fulton Street in Peoria, and can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at (309) 495-8949.
Among the goals of disabilityworks’ resource coordinators are:
- To address the needs of individuals with disabilities seeking job readiness training and employment opportunities by facilitating access to resources, supports and services that will provide transition to employment
- To serve as a liaison, trainer, educator and resource for chambers of commerce, businesses, community-based service providers, postsecondary educational institutions, small business development centers, social security offices and economic development organizations regarding workforce development disability issues in order to ensure that people with disabilities have full inclusion to employment opportunities
- To provide students with disabilities and career changers with information about postsecondary education and/or vocational training opportunities leading to careers, particularly in industries with critical skills shortages, such as healthcare
- To provide information and referral to individuals with disabilities regarding Social Security Acts such as the Plan to Achieve Self Support, Ticket-to-Work incentives, the Workforce Investment Act, SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and referrals to a SSA benefits planner.
By utilizing these resources, workers with disabilities and employers can find each other. A good place to start is disabilityworks.org, which offers a wealth of information for people with disabilities, businesses and service providers. iBi