October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. National Disability Employment Awareness Month aims to increase public awareness of the positive impact that people with disabilities have when they are employed.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Most people with disabilities are capable of working and eager to contribute to their communities and the economy. For example, some of the disabilities that able and willing workers may have are:
- Brain injuries
- Hearing disabilities
- Mental health disabilities
- Physical disabilities
- Visual disabilities
However, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is high. Many people responsible for hiring lack personal experience interacting with people who have disabilities. As a result, these employers may believe in a number of myths about employing people with disabilities. Here we outline what some of these myths are. We also debunk the myths so that more people can know the truth about working with people who have disabilities.
Myth: Lack of Suitable Job Positions
Some employers assume that a person with a disability would not be able to fill the jobs available in their workplaces. When hiring managers create lists of job tasks, they often think that people with certain disabilities would not be able to fulfill those responsibilities. However, employees with disabilities have many ways of performing tasks. They have used these methods in their daily lives while gaining qualifications, or in previous jobs.
Myth: Lack of education
Despite having disabilities, people seeking employment are well-educated:
- 50% have graduated from high school
- 40% have post-secondary credentials
Canadian adults with disabilities are 66% as likely to have a post-secondary education as compared to other adults.
Myth: Expensive to Accommodate
Employers think that hiring people needing accommodations is too costly. They believe they need to purchase specialized equipment or make other modifications, such as:
In fact, accommodation is quite inexpensive in many cases. Over half of the needed changes cost $500 or less. Most accommodations involve:
- Changing work hours, such as brief but frequent breaks
- Exchanging job tasks with colleagues
- Making small, inexpensive modifications to workstations, such as a raised desk
Less than half of accommodations cost $1,500 or more. However, there are many sources of funding, including government grants, available to cover costs for accommodations like building renovations or computer equipment.
Myth: Increased Workplace Absenteeism
Employers may believe that workers with disabilities will often be absent due to appointments and sick days. However, disability is not the same as illness. Most people with disabilities do not need medical appointments or time off to manage their conditions. In addition, when people do need time off, employers and workers can develop solutions together by creating accommodation plans. Reports prove that people with disabilities have an average, if not better, attendance record compared to non-disabled workers.
Myth: Decreased Productivity
Employers may think that people with disabilities are less productive than people without disabilities. They may hold this belief because some workers need more time than others to learn job tasks. Employers may also believe that people with disabilities are dependent and will need constant help throughout the workday. However, many reports show that people with disabilities are hard-working and independent. Some workers may take more time to learn new tasks, but they complete them as independently as non-disabled workers.
Finding Reliable Information about Workers with Disabilities
Many capable, qualified people are denied the chance for fulfilling work because of widespread false beliefs about what they can or cannot do. Nonetheless, employers can gain access to a talented pool of workers by learning about the real capabilities of people with disabilities. When employers learn accurate information about workers with disabilities, they can begin hiring and accommodating these workers.
If a job applicant discloses a disability on an application or in an interview, employers can question their assumptions. They can ask the applicant how to accommodate. Likewise, they can research by contacting organizations that support people with the applicant’s disability to:
- Search for employment and arrange accommodations
- Gain independent living skills
- Participate in their community through volunteering or leisure activities
Speaking to members of these organizations, or browsing their websites, can help employers better understand how people with disabilities do every-day tasks and live full lives. This knowledge allows employers to realize how well a job applicant with a disability could fit into their organizations.