This is the first in a series of articles on employing people with disabilities. Through this article series, one of the primary goals is to dispel some myths and promote employment opportunities for people with a disability in the workplace.
Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
The objective in writing this series is to assist the reader in gaining an understanding of the unique challenges facing people with disabilities in the workplace and understanding the effects of accommodation on employment. With this knowledge, developing a plan for improving employment of people with disabilities by removing barriers may be enhanced significantly.
According to the 2000 census, 63% of people with disabilities, up to age 64, are unemployed. Additionally, according to the census, the mean income of employed people with disabilities is 24% less than non-disabled people. The census information reported that 1 in 4 U.S. companies employ people with disabilities.
What are some of the barriers then to hiring people with disability as reported from the employers viewpoint?
*32% believe that work cannot be effectively performed by workers with disabilities
*17% believe the job seeker lacks the skills, education and experience to perform the position
*40% of employers believe that accommodations are too costly
Now let us consider the statistics reported from the employees view:
*52% say there are no jobs available
*29% report they have a lack of transportation
*22% state there is inadequate training for the position
*23% report a lack of information about available jobs
When interviewing a potential employee, it is important to keep in mind that you are interviewing a person with skills and abilities, not a disability. When arranging the interview, some points to consider are:
*Insure the interview location is accessible
*Offer assistance in completing any forms or paperwork if required
*Concentrate on the applicant's professional skills, abilities and knowledge, not the disability
*Provide an interpreter if necessary
*Ensure you have in depth knowledge of the essential job functions for the position for which you are conducting the interview
After the interview and when considering hiring a person with a disability, it is important to then determine the following:
*can the individual perform the essential functions of the position
Essential functions, in relation to your position, are the fundamental job duties of the position for which the applicant is interviewing.
Focus on the purpose of the job duty and the end result, rather than the manner in which it is performed.
How do you determine essential functions? Here are some preliminary questions for consideration:
1.What degree of expertise of skill is needed to perform the job?
2.Are other employees in your workplace required to perform the same function?
3.Does the position exist to perform the function?
4.How many other people in the workplace are available to perform the function?
5.Would removing the function change the job?
In the next article in this series, we will continue our discussion about employing people with disabilities. We will explore reasonable accommodation and the process, documentation, various forms of reasonable accommodation and what it does and does not include and accommodation costs.
Jamie Charter, consultant, trainer and author, has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employment resource consultants in Soquel, California. Areas of specialization include development and implementation of disability management programs, case management, EEOC/FEHA/ADA consultation, return-to-work facilitation, CalPers job description services, job analyses, conducting training seminars for employer groups on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination and litigation /expert witness services in Forensics.