Organizations are made up of people from all walks of life, all ages, a variety of skills and talents, and hopes and dreams for their future. However, there is a unique group of individuals who were denied the right for employment for many, many years. This group of people is known as people with disabilities. It took years of demonstrating and rallying to convince lawmakers that these people were denied their right to work and could be viable, productive workers who could contribute to the diversity of the workplace.
Against this backdrop, the American with Disabilities Act was first enacted on July 26, 1992 (Mayerson, 1992) which gave people with disabilities a legal standing against discrimination. Up until this time, employers could choose not to hire disabled workers for any reason. Many prospective employers erroneously think that people with disabilities do not want to work. However, this is not the case. People with disabilities want to work, can work, and bring many skills and talents to their jobs. When then President George W. Bush signed ADA 1990 into law (U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, n.d.), organizations were granted access to a group of unique individuals that would provide workers with special skills.
It is important to understand the definition of disability. According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, “a person may be considered as having a disability if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more a major life activitities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (1990). These limitations include challenges with learning, breathing, hearing, walking, talking, and seeing.
In addition, people can have “hidden” disabilities, which are just as restrictive and may keep them from obtaining employment. These disabilities include excruciating pain, extreme tiredness, dizziness, cognitive challenges, brain injuries, learning disabilities, mental health disorders bipolar, ADHD, mania, and more) and hearing and vision impairments (Invisible Disabilities Association, 2016). Other invisible disabilities are muscular dystrophy, arthritis, vertigo, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s, to name a few (Boutelle, 205). Because others cannot see these disabilities, they assume the sufferer is pretending to be disabled just so he or she can be placed on medical disability or to avoid working. According to recent census data, there are more than 56 million Americans with disabilities (Bouetelle, 2015).
Once employers realize the importance of hiring people with disabilities of all types, there are benefits to both the organization and the individuals. Employers can benefit from fresh input from disabled people on how to solve problems, suggest new ways to get tasks done for particular jobs, and develop new processes and procedures. Because of their disabilities, whether physical, psychological, or other types, individuals with disabilities have already learned how to adapt to different situations in their everyday lives. As a result, their input on challenges faced in the workplace would be invaluable. They are not quitters!
Hiring people with disabilities can positively affect a business’s bottom line in the area
of human resources with the continual search for qualified employees. Recruiting and retaining workers with disabilities is one way to deal with the effects of the aging and shrinking work-force. This underutilized labor pool can offer a pool of skilled employees and can help improve employee retention and reduce heavy employee turnover. In addition, companies can receive
tax incentives and technical assistance to provide needed accommodations for disabled people. Though potential employers are afraid accommodations are difficult to implement, this is not the case. Silvia Bonaccio is an associate professor of management who conducted research employ-ment barriers for disabled people. Bonaccio said, “People with disabilities can be valuable contributors to an organization. It is not just providing a job, but the quality of employment that is given to individuals with disabilities that will be most helpful to both the organization and the person.”
Once a company hires disabled people, there are a number of misconceptions that need to be overcome. Employees with disabilities may face these barriers when co-workers may think they are second-class citizens, feel sorry for them, make assumptions about their disability, get upset because they are getting special treatment, or think they cannot actually do their job because of their disability (Work without Limits, 2013). Management and human resource personnel will have to work with employees to make them understand the challenges of having co-workers with disabilities.
In conclusion, people with disabilities are just like everybody else. They want to work and can work, though they might need some accommodations on the job site. Co-workers simply need to treat them just like another any other co-worker. They need to value their input on projects, they need to disagree with their ideas, when necessary, and they should work together for the good of the organization. When people with disabilities succeed, the entire company succeeds. People of all types simply need to work together.
- Boutelle, C. (2015).Overcoming Barriers to Employment for Individuals With Disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/article_view.aspx?article=1407
- Invisible Disabilities Association. (2016). What is an Invisible Disability? Retrieved from
- Mayerson, A. (1992). The History of the Americans with Disabilities Act, A Movement Perspective. Retrieved from http://dredf.org/news/publications/the-history-of-the-ada/
- Office of Disability Employment Policy. (n.d.). Diverse Perspectives: People with Disabilities Fulfilling Your Business Goals. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/
- Work without Limits. (2013). An accessible workplace. Retrieved from http://www.workwithout limits.org/employers/ra/workplace
- U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. (1990). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/1990s/ada.html