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Benefits of hiring workers with disabilities

Question:

I’m often approached by job developers from agencies asking me to hire people with disabilities.  What is the benefit to doing this apart from the feeling of doing something good?

– Chocolatier, Brooklyn, NY

Answer:

I’m all for feeling good, but you have a business to run. The good news is that there is a lot of research suggesting that employees with disabilities have lower turnover, more loyalty, and less absenteeism than typical employees. The challenge is to be thoughtful about how your operation is structured and how to match job tasks to abilities.

While it varies depending on the individual employee and his or her associated job training or placement agency, there may be other benefits to hiring employees with disabilities, including:

  • A job coach to help the employee navigate the workplace.
  • Customized training to help the employee learn the specific tasks required by the job.
  • Subsidized wages. For example, some programs offer an internship paid by the agency for a few months, after which point the employer can choose to put the intern on payroll.

There are also implications for the bottom line, especially for small businesses. There are federal tax credits for providing workplace access to employees with disabilities and the Work Opportunity Credit of up to $2,400 per employee in the first year of employ. Additional state tax credits may also apply.

Dr. Carole Gothelf, Director of Individualized Supports at AHRC, an agency serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York City says, “Businesses should make an effort to get people with disabilities into the mix for a variety of reasons:

First, if the person is motivated to do the job he or she is likely to make a terrific and loyal employee. The self-esteem that they get from a job well done is immeasurable. A job that might be marginal to one person may be meaningful and challenging to another.

Second, this is a social justice movement. If anyone is marginalized, say, for instance, not being considered for a job because of one of their attributes (like having an intellectual disability), we should realize that we are all at risk for marginalization.

Third, disability is the only minority that any of us can join at any time.

If we—or one of our children—walked in their shoes, can you picture yourself discriminated against, invisible or forgotten, excluded from employment? People with intellectual disabilities are ‘every man.’”

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