To Hire or Not to Hire a Person with a Disability? – 5 Myths Dispelled

“Should I hire a person with a disability? Many people with disabilities need jobs and I agree that they should be hired, but maybe not in my company. We don’t have the resources and it probably just won’t work.” This is what many employers here in Vietnam and in many other countries think. But why are employers so hesitant? Are employees with disabilities really not of value to an organization or are employers simply unaware of the advantages of hiring a person with a disability? At Enablecode, we think employers are unaware.

We speak from experience when we say that employees with disabilities can be of great value to a company. All of our web developers have disabilities and they are not a burden at all. They all deliver high-quality work and bring valuable skills to the workplace.

Nonetheless, in Vietnam and many other countries, a large number of persons with disabilities remain un- or underemployed. For this reason, here we will lay out some of the most common myths about disability in the workplace and provide you with the facts about employment of persons with disabilities.

1. Employees with disabilities are less productive than other employees.

rsz_unproductiveYou may think that a disability will prevent a person from doing their job well. Maybe these people won’t want to work as hard as other employees or maybe they’ll simply work too slowly. Well, you are wrong! People with disabilities work just as hard as people without disabilities.

According to the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, for instance, 91% of workers with disabilities were rated as “average” or “better than average”, the same as their colleagues without disabilities.[1] In fact, people with disabilities may even work harder than their colleagues without disabilities. As stated in a 2012 study of employment of persons with disabilities, “many disabled people feel that they need to work harder and perform better to prove themselves in their job role.”[2]

Think about it, if people with disabilities really feel the need to prove themselves, they will definitely be motivated to perform well in their jobs and can thus be expected to be at least as productive, if not more than their able-bodied colleagues.

2. Employees with disabilities are absent from work more often than other employees.

Absenteeism can be a serious problem for organizations. It can be a reason for employers to avoid hiring a person with a disability, as the employer may expect him or her to be sick very often, something that will cost the company a lot of money. This is not true, though.

According to a 2007 study by DePaul University, workers with disabilities actually have lower rates of absenteeism than workers without disabilities. They also tend to stay with the same job longer than other employees. [3] Similarly, in an article posted on the Employ Abilities website, a franchisee of the Canadian restaurant chain Tim Horton’s reports that in 2011, the absenteeism rate among his 33 employees who had disabilities was 0.[4]

We need to remember that, while a disability might limit a person in some ways, it doesn’t automatically make him or her sick, as these statistics prove.

3. It is too expensive to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities.

We know what you may think: “I just can’t afford to hire a person with a disability. He or she will always need help and require special accommodations that my organization does not have the funds for.” In reality, however, persons with disabilities, despite possibly facing certain challenges, have learned to carry out all kinds of tasks independently and  many won’t need any assistance to do their work properly.

Even when they do, this does not need to cost much. A study by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) found that a little over half of all accommodations for employees with disabilities cost absolutely nothing. Most others cost less than $500.

What’s more, these accommodations are not just beneficial to the disabled employee, but also to the employer. According to JAN, provision of accommodations can limit overall costs as it helps the company retain an employee and eliminates the need to find and train a new employee. Moreover, it enhances productivity and boosts company morale.[5] Certainly then, the provision of special accommodations is not a waste of money.

4. Hiring a person with a disability will give my organization a bad image.

Afraid that hiring a person with a disability will hurt your company’s reputation or turn away customers? Well, worry no more!

Unfortunately, it is not illogical to think that customers might feel uncomfortable around employees with disabilities or fear their work to be of a lower quality than that of other employees. However, while losing customers will cost money, not hiring people with disabilities will cost more. You might not expect it, but in the United States, for instance, persons with disabilities together earn over $3600 billion a year.[6]

Additionally, employing persons with disabilities may actually boost a company’s image. As the Use My Ability website explains, “embracing diversity is a major facet of corporate social responsibility, so the ability to accommodate the needs of disabled staff and consumers is an essential process in building a positive image.”[7]

5. Persons with disabilities will stand out from the rest of the employees and will not fit into the team.

Positive morale in the workplace is important to maintain high worker productivity levels. Employers may fear, however, that hiring persons with disabilities will lead to awkwardness or friction between employees with and without disabilities. Maybe employees without disabilities are uncertain about how to interact with their disabled coworkers.

However, persons with disabilities are normal people. While it may take some getting used to for some staff, you can interact, cooperate and work with a persons with disabilities just as you would with any non-disabled person. Once you get to know your disabled colleague, you’ll realize that he or she is probably not that different from you.

In fact, since a person’s disability will lead them to experience certain things in life a bit differently than other people, workers with disabilities may even bring some extra diversity into the office.

Bad imageadapted from Burning Nights (www.chronicpaincrps.com)

So, knowing the facts, it should be quite clear now that persons with disabilities will not be a burden to your organization. Rather, they will be an asset!

[1] http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1723&context=facpubs

[2] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/research/rr77_opening_up_work.pdf

[3] http://bbi.syr.edu/_assets/staff_bio_publications/McDonald_Exploring_the_Bottom_Line_2007.pdf

[4] http://employabilities.ab.ca/2014/01/tim-hortons-hires-people-with-disabilities/

[5] http://askjan.org/media/lowcosthighimpact.html

[6] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.468.2558&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[7] http://usemyability.com/resources/Business-Case-for-Inclusion.html

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