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.
In addition, the public also needs to know that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is high. Most people with disabilities are capable of working but they are still out of work. Many people responsible for hiring believe in a number of myths about employing people with disabilities. Thus, people with disabilities are often left unemployed.
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
Employers tend to 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 unique ways of performing tasks. They have used these methods in their daily lives while gaining qualifications, or in previous jobs. Workers with disabilities and co-workers can easily find answers to the question of how someone will accomplish tasks in different ways with the same level of competence.
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:
- Widened doorways
- Accessible bathrooms
- Specialized computer software
In fact, accommodation is quite inexpensive in many cases. Over half of the needed changes cost $500 or less. Most accommodations come down to:
- Changing work hours or job tasks
- Making small, inexpensive modifications to workstations
Less than half of accommodations cost $1,500 or more. However, there are many sources of funding, including government grants, available to cover the costs, such as building renos or software.
Myth: Increased Workplace Absenteeism
Employers believe that new hires will suffer from absenteeism because of appointments and sick days. This, however, is not often the case. Disability is not the same as illness. Most people with disabilities do not need medical appointments or time off to manage their conditions. People who do are responsible about giving advance notice or making up time. Reports have proven that people with disabilities have an average, if not better, attendance record compared to other workers. They are eager to prove their competence and dedication.
Myth: Decreased Productivity
Employers may think that people with disabilities are less productive than people without disabilities. They may think this because of the extra time that may be needed to learn job tasks. Employers may also believe that people with disabilities are dependent and will need constant help throughout the workday to perform tasks that a non-disabled person could do alone. This belief has proven to be false. Many reports have shown that people with disabilities are hard-working and independent. They may take more time to learn new tasks, but they complete them as independently as non-disabled workers.
Things to Remember
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October, we should recognize the positive contributions that employed people with disabilities make to their workplaces. We should realize how many capable, qualified people are denied the chance for fulfilling work because of widespread false beliefs about what they can or cannot do. We should learn about how we can take advantage of a talented pool of workers by hiring and accommodating people with disabilities.