Dec 01 2014

Employers Recognizing Abilities

It was with great admiration and respect that I recently witnessed a number of instances of employers recognizing the abilities of their employees with disabilities.  In my lengthy experience, I have too frequently seen workers with disabilities placed in positions far away from public view.  But on this excursion through the Northeastern US, I witnessed numerous people with major disabilities working in positions in front of the public.  These encounters gave me hope for the effectiveness, observance and advancement of the ADA regulations that protect and promote people with disabilities in the workplace.

Certainly, people with disabilities don’t generally want to bring attention to themselves; they want to be recognized for what they can do, not for their differences.  But there are some workers you can’t help but see the obstacles they face every day.  And there are those you see working hard, functioning well in their jobs that you just want to applaud – not out loud, but in your heart — for their courage and tenacity.
Each and every person with disabilities deserves a chance to function in the world, and have the same opportunities to prove their capabilities in the workplace.  When there is a match between one’s strengths and abilities and their job, anything is possible.  And when employers and hiring managers recognize those abilities and an individual’s potential, the workplace is better for it.

Part of what was refreshing about the people I encountered was their apparent job satisfaction.  And let’s face it, abilities or disabilities, job satisfaction is hard to come by!  These folks genuinely seemed to enjoy their work, showed unpretentious enthusiasm and demonstrated diligence in their positions.  And while the positions these individuals filled were ordinary jobs with public contact, seeing their success made them extraordinary.

And having done job placement for people with disabilities for many years, I personally know the difficulty in convincing employers to recognize the unrealized potential of a worker with disabilities.  While hiring from this pool of human resources potential is the right thing to do, it frequently took a lot ”selling” to get many employers to take the needed leap of faith and hire people with disabilities.

Because the workers with disabilities I encountered on this trip were part of my daily activities, I didn’t have the opportunity to interview their managers or human resources departments to learn if these employers had to be convinced to hire persons with disabilities over other applicants, or if they did so because they were enlightened about the value and diversity that doing so brings to the workplace.  Regardless of why these hiring decisions were made, I personally applaud these employers’ insight in their hiring decisions, regardless of how much prompting it took, or from whom.

While many corporations have policies that include the regular hiring of people with disabilities, the numbers are still small.  Large scale employers – those with thousands of workers – often have human resources, diversity and disability specialists who are prepared to hire and provide any necessary accommodations needed by their staff.  These specialists empower disabled workers, enabling them to be fully integrated into the workplace and their positions.  Using both standardized and specialized equipment, and sometimes just a bit of imagination, a work space can be customized to suit the needs of most any worker.  And that insight and creativity can mean the difference between worker comfort, satisfaction and engagement, and low productivity and unattainable goals.

Regardless of the size of their organizations, more employers must take steps to increase the number of hires with disabilities.  They need to understand that the costs of doing so are not prohibitive.  In fact, most accommodations can be had for under a couple of hundred dollars, and many for substantially less.  Employers need to use their imaginations to see how effective someone with a disability can be in a particular role, and figure out how to make it happen, and do so without irrational concerns of the implementation costs.

There are so many reasons why employers should open their minds and imaginations to include more workers with disabilities among their ranks.  Workers with disabilities traditionally have low turn-over rates, and take fewer sick days than their abled counterparts. Providing decent opportunities and creative solutions to hiring must be a stronger consideration and a regular part of all hiring initiatives.  I’m delighted when I can report on the successes found in the everyday execution of positive and inclusive hiring practices.  And all employers should find enlightenment and inspiration from those employers that do recognize abilities in their hiring.

For more ideas about hiring people with disabilities and recognizing employers that hire people with disabilities, your job search and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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