In the never ending pursuit of finding the right talent, one large group of individuals is often overlooked, misunderstood or sometimes outright ignored. But the 53 million Americans with disabilities are an untapped resource that can easily meet most challenges in many companies.
The most diverse companies are the most successful. Our experience has been that diversity breeds innovation and innovation is a building block for success. By giving ALL people an opportunity, no matter how society chooses to label them, employers must look beyond the label and directly at the individual. That is another step in eliminating barriers to work for people with disabilities.
Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS) recently started a major push to tap into this labor pool by partnering with hundreds of organizations across the country that assist with the employment and placement of people with disabilities. Through these partnerships we now have more qualified, dedicated and motivated people that will improve our bottom line. We are convinced that these individuals could be successful not only at ACS, but other organizations as well.
Early internal research shows that employees with disabilities are three times as likely to remain employed when compared to the non-disabled population. While it is too early to say for certain why this is so, we have theories based on our initial success. For example, some of our employees with disabilities tell us they have literally been looking for a job for years. That persistence translates into loyalty and dedication once they find a position.
People with disabilities are employed at about half the rate of people without disabilities, according to the Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell University. About 22 million Americans ages 21 to 64, or about 13 percent of the working-age population, have a disability. Only 38 percent of persons with disabilities are employed, compared with 80 percent of Americans without a disability. Among college graduates, 55 percent of persons with disabilities are employed, compared with 83 percent who do not have a disability, according to the Web site Disabilitystatistics.org. There is a large, well educated talent pool of people who are able to make a difference if they can be matched up with the right opportunity.
Despite this large pool of talented potential employees, many employers, hiring managers and recruiters fear there will be an added cost if they hire a person with a disability. Accommodations do not always come with a cost. The Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reported that 68% of job accommodations made cost less than $500.
Many of the accommodations simply require awareness by the employee’s manager. That type of continued education needs to include ongoing training to employees and managers regarding hiring, managing, supporting and promoting people with disabilities.
Some accommodations, actually make recruiting easier. For example, ACS recruiters work with the Kentucky Office For the Blind counselors and blind or visually impaired applicants to identify their unique work skills and how their attributes can best be utilized. By modifying a pre-employment test to utilize alternative technology that makes the testing process more accessible for the blind and visually impaired, recruiters were able to provide Office For the Blind counselors with the necessary tools to conduct the testing at their offices. This ensured that blind and visually impaired applicants had the accommodations they needed at a location where they frequented in order to test and apply for positions, while ACS gained a larger applicant pool.
There may be some costs for some accommodations, but the Job Accommodation Network reports that for every dollar spent on accommodations, the company received $28 in benefits. Open jobs cost companies money – lost productivity, cost to locate, hire and train a new hire and the cost of churning through multiple hires until a good fit is finally found. A dedicated and committed recruiting team is required to make these potential savings materialize.
Knowing where to find people with disabilities and then establishing solid and trusting relationships with agencies that partner with those individuals is the first step. In the first few months of this program’s existence, our team of diversity recruiters has established partnerships with state and local vocational rehabilitation agencies and organizations such as community and local government groups, college disability services offices, self-advocacy, independent-living organizations, as well as veterans’ organizations and others that provide services to people with disabilities such as Goodwill. Once these partnerships are cemented, a steady flow of referrals from these agencies can be expected.
There are countless people with disabilities who have accomplished great things through the years. Franklin D. Roosevelt had polio and used a wheelchair. Ludwig Von Beethoven was deaf when he composed his 9th Symphony. There have also been actors, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners as well. There is no reason corporations can not open their doors to these potential employees. It’s ability, not the disability that matters.
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About our guest Author:
Lora Villarreal is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer for Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS). She is the visionary charged with making ACS’ disability recruiting program successful. Villarreal has more than 20 years of business, human resources, and administration experience.