Although it isn’t new, I wanted to stress that this “commemorative month” is, in fact, recognized by the U.S. government; it isn’t just made up by activist groups. National Disability Employment Awareness Month was established by Congress in 1988 in an effort “to increase the public’s awareness of the contributions and skills of American workers with disabilities.” The Department of Labor’s website says that “various programs carried out throughout the month also highlight the specific employment barriers that still need to be addressed and removed.”
Before you walk away—because I know this doesn’t apply to everyone right now—I want to point out some things I’d come across within recent months that may surprise you. There are major advantages to employing people with disabilities, as I’ve found, and a clip by ABC delves into the deep-rooted issues with stigmatization and speaking up that still exist.
Employing disabled people has hidden benefits.
- Creativity – thinking ‘outside the box’
Creativity and innovation—the ability to think “outside the box”—are principle forces for businesses of all sizes. The business that can overcome obstacles and build upon its foundation in new ways is the one that sees the greatest and fastest gains. A hidden benefit of employing people with disabilities, their ability to think outside the box is seen but not understood. Books and company profiles that illustrate the astounding benefits of creative people are published by the week, so employees who utilize their creativity on a daily basis can be extra valuable to your business and your bottom line.
- Possible tax deductions
Given that I’m not a tax expert, I can’t say much on this, but since I’m a pro at finding information, I can provide you with this handy link from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It details the Disabled Access Tax Credit, which may be of great interest to any small business owner, as well as two other tax credits.
- More loyalty – lower turnover, absenteeism and tardiness
Many case studies have been quoted, and I see this as something that makes sense but is easy to overlook. People with disabilities tend to be more genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to work, whereas sixteen-year-olds will balk at parents’ demands for getting a job and plenty of people complain about their jobs everyday. Not only do disabled people show more company loyalty, but that dedication flows through their fellow employees before long. One of my favorite case studies (Carolina Fine Snacks) shows a 75% drop in turnover, a 15% drop in absenteeism, and a 30% drop in tardiness (from 30% to zero, if you can imagine). The company also saw a rise in productivity of about 35%.
- More productivity and possibly fewer sick days
Along with less financial burden of issues like turnover, absenteeism and tardiness, businesses employing people with disabilities see increased productivity. Even more, a major consulting firm that works with disabled people reports that some of their staff—85% of whom are disabled—haven’t taken any sick days in five years.
- Better attitudes of employees and customers
You may be inspired by the disabled people you know because they’ve overcome a lot in life. Many people are inspired to do more, if only because they’d feel guilty for taking life for granted. On a Roll Sandwich Shop has seen mostly positive interaction between customers and employees since employing disabled people.
How would you respond?
Check out this video clip by ABC in which a rude customer is set up with a disabled bagger at a grocery store. Both of them are actors, but the session was designed to look at how others would react. As has been explained through the case study of On a Roll, customers won’t likely respond to your employees this way, but it’s disheartening to know that plenty of people still will not stand up for others. The cashier risks losing her job if she speaks up, but the other customers can certainly bring attention to this kind of behavior. And they’ll be heralded for it: Watch the clip.
There is surely more that can be said on the topic, but keep these basic resources and heartwarming stories around to remind you that there really is no reason for inequality in your workplace. For some light reading, be sure to check out the two revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act that were just published earlier this month. Of course it isn’t light reading, but that so much information is available and ignored is something to think about.
I’m sure I’ll have more comments to make on this topic as time goes on, but what are your thoughts? Do you have disabled people on your team, and if so, in what ways have you noticed them making a positive difference? Do these positives outweigh the potential barriers or costs involved in making your workplace accessible?