October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and this year’s theme from the
U.S. Department of Labor is “Expect. Employ. Empower.”
Despite the fact that nearly one out of every five Americans has a disability—a total of 56.7 million people—the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is more than double that of the national average. Fostering an office culture that promotes a diversity of talent, qualification and ability has been shown to boost morale, productivity and profitability for all employees.
There are simple steps employers can take to make their work environments more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, workplaces are required to provide reasonable accommodations or “any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job”. This could range from permitting a service animal into the workplace or providing an employee a more flexible schedule, to making entrances wider or providing handrails to make office spaces more accessible.
According to a recent study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network in September 2014:
- Eighty-two percent of reasonable accommodations made in the workplace help employers retain valued employees, the majority of whom are well-educated and have worked for more than seven years.
- Ninety-three percent of reasonable accommodations reported are of no cost to the employer or represent a one-time cost of around $500.00.
- Seventy-three percent of employers report a reasonable accommodation to be very effective or extremely effective.
- Employers report additional benefits to having reasonable accommodations including increased employee productivity and eliminated costs of training new employees.
The key to making to making workplaces more accessible for all is shifting workplace culture to be more inclusive and thoughtful about the value of all employees, and determining how a workplace environment can lead to the most successful employees. Anyone can start those conversations with their employer and with coworkers. Employers have the power to reform their office culture and prioritize inclusivity for people with disabilities by reforming company policy, training managers and educating employees. The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment has resources available at www.whatyoucandocampaign.org, with everyday action steps for what all citizens can do to promote disability employment.
Continue following the Equal Rights Center’s social media pages for relevant news articles on important developments pertaining to disability employment awareness, and share your thoughts with your coworkers and on social media.