According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 American adults (about 81 million) are living with some type of disability.

By making the workplace more inclusive for people with disabilities, you can recruit and hire from a large pool of talented employees — the third largest market segment in the U.S. (EARN). Not only do businesses have a legal and ethical obligation to hire people with disabilities, employing people with disabilities also brings new ideas and perspectives, increased productivity, and higher-quality service. Organizational changes to help recruit and retain candidates with disabilities will also help all employees with chronic and mental health issues.

And do you really want to miss out on 25% of the population who might possess the best mix of knowledge and abilities for the position?

Unfortunately, the main objection to hiring professionals with disabilities comes from a fear of disruption to business operations and the costs of “reasonable accommodation.” Employers also feel an uncertainty and hesitancy about how to act around someone with a disability. Most modifications, however, involve only minor adjustments to policies or procedures. It’s easier than you think.

Does your business have a plan for attracting, hiring, and retaining top-tier candidates with disabilities? Work with a certified and accredited PEO like Resourcing Edge to create and implement a plan for building an inclusive workplace for those living with a disability.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Global Diversity Awareness Month! This is the perfect time to learn more about the positive impacts a diverse workforce can have on business and society along with what employers can do to ensure their workplaces are inclusive of individuals with disabilities.

What is a disability?

In order to be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act — the federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities — one must have a “disability.” The ADA defines a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

It’s difficult to determine exactly what qualifies as a disability. The ADA itself does not specifically name all of the impairments that would qualify as a disability. After all, it’s an umbrella term that covers many different impairments, limitations, and restrictions. If you have poor eyesight, that’s a disability that can be corrected with glasses or contacts. If you have poor hearing, that’s a disability that can be corrected with a hearing aid.

Nearly everyone will go through temporary or permanent impairment at some point in life. Thinking about people with disabilities has changed remarkably over time.

There’s a big difference between the essence of who someone is and the disability they have to live with. Some of the most common disabilities include hearing and sight impairment, difficulties walking or climbing stairs, and neurological conditions, such as dyslexia.

A better understanding of individual differences allows us to better address employees’ needs and tap into the strengths they have to offer.

How to Make the Workplace More Inclusive for People with Disabilities

Improve workplace infrastructure

Environment plays a huge role in the experience and extent of disability. Barriers that hinder persons with disabilities include bathrooms and buildings lacking wheelchair accessibility and computers without screen-reading software.

Is your business wheelchair accessible? Is there accessible parking? Are the bathrooms wheelchair accessible?

Train staff on ADA, discrimination issues, and inclusive behavior

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in employment against people with disabilities. If employers, managers, and HR professionals do not know about ADA rules and guidelines, it can be easy to run afoul of the law, which can bring embarrassment and financial difficulties to the company.

It’s important to make sure management and HR know about the ADA and its requirements. Train managers and employees about inclusive behavior and hold them accountable.

Work with a PEO like Resourcing Edge for the training and guidance when it comes to compliance and creating a more inclusive environment for employees with disabilities.

Review your language about people with disabilities

There are certain terms you may want to avoid when talking about people with disabilities. For instance, you don’t want to say a “disabled person” or “the disabled.” There is a big difference between the disability a person has and the essence of that person.

Additionally, medical and legal terms such as “impairment” or “accommodation” may cause offense by suggesting that a person with a disability is somehow damaged or requires special favors. It’s best to avoid these terms if you can and choose words and phrases that are respectful to everyone. For instance, “modification” or “adjustment” may be used in place of “accommodation.”

Also, make sure your job postings use inclusive language. Consider adding a statement saying that qualified individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply and reasonable accommodations will be provided. You may also want to emphasize flexible work options to encourage applicants with disabilities.

Review the recruiting and application process for accessibility

It’s important that your application system is accessible for people with disabilities.

Here are some inclusive hiring practices for applicants with disabilities:

  • Make sure job postings are posted in formats that are accessible to candidates with disabilities. Learn about web content accessibility.
  • Post job openings to nonprofit organizations, disability organizations, and employment programs for people with disabilities.
  • In the job description, state that qualified individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply and reasonable accommodations will be provided.
  • Ensure that all online application systems are accessible to people with disabilities. Learn about accessible job application systems.
  • Confirm that any interview or testing locations are accessible. Learn about building accessibility from the ADA.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Review the interview process for accessibility

The ADA prohibits any employer from asking any disability-related questions before a job offer is presented, except in very specific situations.

Here are some guidelines for interviewing people with disabilities:

  • Be sure your interview process is ADA-compliant.
  • Do not ask any disability-related questions before a job offer is made.
  • Application forms, employment offices, and interview locations should be accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. Learn more about building accessibility on ada.gov.
  • Tell job candidates ahead of time if there will be any tests or tasks involved in the interview. This gives applicants the time and opportunity to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Be prepared to respond to requests for a reasonable accommodation for the interview, such as providing a sign language interpreter, assistance with paper forms, or extra time to complete a test.
  • Describe the interview process to candidates to give applicants the time to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Treat the applicant with the same respect you would give any other skilled professional. Ask only job-related questions, focusing on the applicant’s skills, knowledge, expertise, and interest.
  • Do not try to imagine how you would perform the functions of the job if you had the applicant’s disability. Ask how they would perform the job.

Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy

Prepare for reasonable accommodations

The ADA defines a “reasonable accommodation” as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”

According to the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees must provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities if they don’t cause undue hardship on business operations.

All employers should have a clear process for requesting reasonable accommodations, accessible on recruiting web pages and materials, and available to existing employees.

Reasonable accommodations include:

  • Modifications or adjustments to a job application process.
  • Modifications or adjustments to the work environment.
  • Modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity’s employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment, as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

For more strategies related to reasonable accommodation policies and procedures, visit EEOC.gov or contact the experts at Resourcing Edge.

Contact Resourcing Edge for assistance with ADA compliance and employer responsibilities when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees with disabilities.

Health care access remains a huge barrier

As an employer, there are many ways you can make a difference in the health and happiness of your employees. Offering quality health care insurance is one of them. It’s an extremely important benefit for employees with disabilities.

Unfortunately, 1 in 3 adults with disabilities do not have a usual health care provider (CDC). By partnering with a PEO, you can enjoy access to Fortune-500 benefits at a price you can afford. That’s because Resourcing Edge pools together their clients to increase buying power for things like health and retirement benefits.

According to a 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, 57% of respondents said they had diversity hiring goals, but only 28% had disability goals. And only 12% of companies included disability as part of their diversity efforts. Don’t ignore the large and talented pool of people with disabilities. Gain the competitive edge, remain ADA-compliant, and diversify your workforce by working with the experienced HR professionals at Resourcing Edge.

Contact Resourcing Edge today for more information on ADA compliance, big-business benefits, and creating a more inclusive workplace.

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