By Jane Rath, Vice President
New Editions has long been known as a company that embraces diversity and proactively recruits, hires, and advances individuals with disabilities. New Editions is the only small business to receive the 2016 National Organization on Disability’s Leading Disability Employer SealTM for its inclusive hiring practices.
A portion of our disability related work includes helping Federal agencies create inclusive work environments and developing programs and services that support people with disabilities in the workplace. We develop accessible websites for our clients to ensure people with disabilities can access programs, services, training and career information. We also develop accessible office software, ensure assistive technology is available, and create workplace environments that are responsive to the accommodation process to further assist our clients as they include qualified and skilled employees with disabilities.
While we have implemented these practices for ourselves and many of our clients, there remain many employers who have not yet explored the candidate pool of people with disabilities. This is evident in the statistics. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, September 2016 disability employment statistics for individuals aged 16 years and over, people with disabilities have a 19.8% labor force participation rate and an 8.7% unemployment rate (compared to 68.7% and 4.6% respectively for people without disabilities). As the country continues its economic rebound, it is important for businesses to integrate people with disabilities into their workforce in order to take advantage of the benefits and contributions of this labor pool.
There are a number of resources and supports available to help companies as they move toward a more inclusive workforce. For example, the Disability Equality Index (DEI at www.disabilityequalityindex.org) offers a tool for employers to assess their Human Resources policies and practices and identify strengths as well as opportunities for improvement. The Job Accommodations Network (www.jan.org) offers a Workplace Accommodation Toolkit to assist employers in developing and implementing their accommodation processes. The Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network for Disability Inclusion offers business strategies to help employers create an inclusive workplace (http://www.askearn.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/businessstrategiesthatwork.pdf).
Your State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency along with community based vocational rehabilitation agencies offer tremendous supports in sourcing qualified candidates. www.disability.gov offers a wealth of information including information on internship and mentoring initiatives as a method of introducing people with disabilities to your workplace. Finally through organizations such as the Business Leadership Network (www.usbln.org), employers share strategies and successes and encourage their industry colleagues to become more inclusive in their recruiting and hiring practices.
Despite all the resources that exist in the marketplace, the unemployment statistics for people with disabilities confirm that much needs to be done. Many studies point to attitudes and misconceptions regarding the advantages of hiring people with disabilities as the number one barrier. Project Implicit (www.implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest/html) offers a tool for individual managers and supervisors to identify and recognized how their perceptions and implicit biases may be affecting their decisions. Combining the results of the DEI with those from the Project Implicit test can provide an excellent starting point for determining training needs, enhancing policies and practices, including students with disabilities in your internship and apprenticeship programs and other opportunities to see how inclusion works within an organization.