Emphasis on Ability

If think you’re having a hard time looking for work, imagine what its like for the many people with disabilities.  What was the first image you had after reading that sentence?  Was it of a person in a wheelchair or on crutches?  Was it of someone who is blind or hearing impaired?  Did you flash on someone with Downs Syndrome or other developmental issue?  How about the person sitting across from you?  She too could have a disability, but to look at her, you wouldn’t suspect a thing.
Every day, qualified job seekers are ignored because of shortsighted employers who refuse to see an impaired candidate’s abilities.   And since the passage of Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of disability.
People with disabilities represent a huge segment of the job seeking population.  For those with obvious impairments (such as the ones just mentioned), as well as for many whose disabilities are not readily apparent, getting and keeping gainful employment is filled with obstacles, ignorance and misunderstandings.  But once on the job, people with disabilities typically maintain lower turnover rates, and demonstrate high levels of reliability and loyalty.
Employers have typically been skeptical about hiring people with disabilities, voicing concerns of impaired candidates’ abilities to perform the tasks.  When employers write and post their job announcements, they are usually just thinking about finding someone who can do the job, not necessarily considering if the position is suitable for someone with disabilities.  Doing so requires an analysis of the essential functions of a job to understand and recognize the real limitations that would keep an otherwise qualified candidate from being successful in that position.
Should an experienced teacher be excluded from hiring consideration because a disability inhibits her ability to write on a blackboard or to stand for long periods of time?  Should a certified public account be ruled out of contention for a job because they are blind or deaf?  Should a data entry clerk with extreme accuracy and speed not be hired because he needs to work standing up?  The answer to these questions is a resounding and emphatic, “No”!
A teacher needs to be a communicator of ideas and information.  A student or teaching assistant could do the writing on the board.  Or, adaptive technology can be used to write and project the spoken word onto a board or screen for all to see.  Whether the teacher is sitting or standing doesn’t otherwise affect their ability to convey ideas and lessons.
A CPA needs to work accurately with numbers.  If that numerical information can be accessed and accurately input through the use of technology, that the individual is blind or deaf becomes irrelevant to their ability to successfully perform that job.
A data entry clerk who can not sit for long periods should not be denied gainful employment because they need to work vertically, especially if their accuracy is unaffected by working in this position.   A small raised platform for a keyboard and an articulating stand or pole mount for the computer monitor will enable and empower the clerk to work on his feet.
The sad part of these scenarios is that the accommodations that enable people with disabilities to perform in the workplace are often not even considered or investigated.  Truth be told, the majority of workplace accommodations can be had for less than $100.00.  Yes, there are some adaptive technologies that cost a lot of money, but in most cases those (seemingly prohibitive) costs do not need to (but should) come from the employer.  If the disabled candidate doesn’t already own or have access to the necessary equipment to perform their jobs, the department of rehabilitation will usually pick up the tab.
And let’s not forget that the not all accommodations cost money.  The most basic accommodations can be provided at no cost – compassion, respect, dignity, courtesy, understanding, and the desire to do the right thing – giving someone the chance to prove what they can do!
Granted, there are exceptions!  Not all people with disabilities can do all jobs.  But with a little creativity and planning, and the use of reasonable accommodations and understanding the essential functions of a job, a lot becomes possible for those who even a few short years ago wouldn’t get the chance to say, “I can do that!”   Let’s keep the emphasis on Ability!!
For more information on employment of People with Disabilities:

US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division:

US Government, American’s With Disabilities Home Page:


Job Accommodation Network:

Jobs for People with Disabilities:


National Business and Disability Council:

Ability Magazine:

You may also want to contact the nearest office of:
Your State Department of (Vocational) Rehabilitation
or local Independent Living Resource Center.

And for more tips and information for employers and job seekers, please visit:  hanklondon.com