Why Employers Hire People with Disabilities
When working with individuals where the employer will knowingly be hiring an individual with a disability (either because the disability is readily apparent or the individual has chosen to disclose his/her disability), identifying employment opportunities requires that One-Stop staff determine what business needs can be met by hiring a person with a disability. The Institute for Community Inclusion and Boston College Center for Work and Family held focus group discussions with employers and identified three categories of benefits that employers receive when they knowingly hire people with disabilities:
- Benefits Directly Related to Business Objectives - hiring people with disabilities meets the organizations personnel needs by filling vacancies.
- Benefits Indirectly Related to Business Objectives - hiring individuals with disabilities benefits a companys long-term viability and profitability by enhancing the corporate image and demonstrating a commitment to the community.
- Benefits Related to Organizational Values - hiring people with disabilities reflects the organizations commitment to corporate social responsibility, and is viewed as the right thing to do; the benefits to the company are of secondary importance in comparison to the outcomes expected for the employee with a disability and for the community at large.
In addition to the companys values, the decision to hire a person with a disability may be influenced by the personal values of the hiring manager, particularly if they have a family member, friend, or neighbor with a disability.
Through discussions with employers as well as observation, One-Stop staff and the job seeker should try to determine why the business is potentially interested in hiring an individual with a disability.
- If an employer is strictly motivated by Category 1, One-Stop staff and the job seeker will have to demonstrate that hiring the individual will provide direct economic benefit. There will probably be less flexibility around how the job is designed and the individual is supported.
- On the other hand, if the employer is motivated by Categories 2 and 3, the company will likely be more committed to making it work. This presents the opportunity for greater flexibility and more creative solutions. However, these categories should never be viewed as hiring as an act of charity it is simply that the decision to hire is based on criteria other than straight-forward economic return. It is still paramount for the long-term success of the individual and for people with disabilities in general that the job be performed competently in a socially inclusive work environment.
What has been interesting in the experience of those who have spent significant time assisting people with disabilities to find employment, is the number of employers who initially hire a person with a disability for reasons 2 and 3 who were pleasantly surprised that the person turned out to be a good employee. These experiences show that much work needs to be done to change the mis-perception that many people with disabilities cannot be fully productive participants in the labor force.
Based in part on material from: Pitt-Catsouphes, M., Butterworth, J. (1995). Different Perspectives: Workplace Experience with the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities. Boston College