Supporting Individuals with Disabilities in the Workplace – 5 Tips for Employers
Each October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which acknowledges the contributions of American workers with disabilities and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices that benefit employers and employees.
“Our communities and economy are strengthened by the inclusion of all people, including people with disabilities. Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an accessible, equitable economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”
– Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams.
Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than those without disabilities. The U.S. unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is more than twice as high (7.8%) than it is for people without disabilities (3.5%). And, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities is 38%, compared with 77% for those without disabilities.
In order to close that gap, companies must play a proactive role. There is so much upside for them in doing so.
Benefits of Employing Individuals with Disabilities
Companies that have increased their inclusion of people with disabilities were four times more likely to outperform their peer groups.
Increased productivity and job satisfaction
Inclusive workplaces have higher levels of job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.
More innovation and diversity
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities bring diverse perspectives and creative problem-solving to the workplace.
Better corporate culture
Morale increases in inclusive workplaces. Working alongside employees with disabilities – including those with intellectual disabilities – encourages non-disabled individuals to make work more inclusive for everyone.
“What we learned is Samantha added far more to the company than we got back in labor, so to speak,” Saldi said. “Her dedication to work gives her purpose. She’s also the monitor of all nine dogs that we have here so she makes sure that all those dogs are happy.”
–CEO and Founder of SCLogic Michael Saldi. SCLogic employs Samantha Aguilar, who has a developmental disability and receives Employment Services through Bello Machre’s Meaningful Day Services. Learn more about Samantha’s work at SCLogic.
And, workers with disabilities cite improvements including improved quality of life and income, enhanced self-confidence, expanded social network, and a sense of community.
“I love having a home business and how flexible it is and how I can experiment with new products and ideas. It keeps me very busy. I also enjoy interacting with people at the marketplaces.”
–Kelly Sigmon, owner of Kelly’s Homemades and member of Bello Machre’s Meaningful Day Services. Learn more about Kelly, who has Down Syndrome.
“Employment for Jared is important for many reasons. First and foremost, Jared is very capable of learning new skills and simply needs to be in an environment where that’s possible. Second, Jared’s working hours provide him with an opportunity to be engaged in a meaningful way on days when he does not have other activities. Of utmost importance to Jared, his employment provides him with an income that supports his other interests, including disability programming, horseback riding, social activities, and ultimately an income to support independent living.”
–Michelle Parris, mother of Jared Parris, who has autism and receives Employment Services through Bello Machre’s Meaningful Day Services.
Learn More About Bello Machre’s Disability Services
Best Practices for Hiring Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
At Bello Machre, we help adults with developmental disabilities find careers in their communities through our Meaningful Day Services. We do this by providing job coaching, job development, on-site training and support, and employment opportunities. All of this is led by the individual, beginning with asking them what they want to do. They might want traditional employment. Or, they might be more interested in entrepreneurial ventures. If they’re not sure, we help them explore different careers.
Working with the individual, we create a job development plan. We take them on the journey. Where do you want to work? What is your career goal? How can we get there? What skills would help you pursue such a career? We also help secure the support and assistance that might be required on the job. We support individuals with special needs throughout their careers, including coaching them through any situations that might arise and helping them pivot if they decide they want to do something different.
“Ashlie and Mary from Bello Machre have supported Kelly’s Homemades every step of the way by assisting Kelly with product making at home and selling at the farmers market and other craft fairs. They have also helped with researching various places Kelly could set up her micro-business in the community. We couldn’t have been so successful without them.”
-Carolyn Sigmon, Kelly’s Mom
“Finding employment was just the first piece that Bello Machre supported. Ongoing job coaches stop in periodically to check on Jared and get feedback. His employment specialist, Peggy Graves, is also willing to facilitate Jared’s discussions with work regarding scheduled time off, concerns, annual performance reviews, scheduling questions, and more.”
-Michelle, Jared’s Mom
5 Tips to Creating a Supportive Workplace for People with Developmental Disabilities
1. Make Necessary accomodations
JAN’s A to Z of disabilities and accommodations is a great resource. Accommodations that might help include assistive technology and equipment, accessible facilities, and work hours to accommodate specific needs.
2. Train supervisors
Ensure managers understand their role in creating an inclusive culture at work, including providing the appropriate accommodations to employees with disabilities. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has many resources, including etiquette for interviewing individuals with disabilities.
3. Educate employees
Disability training and informal educational events are crucial for showing your company is committed to inclusion. Consider reaching out to a local organization such as Bello Machre (in Maryland) to help with training.
4. Set up an Employee Research Group (ERG)
An ERG will help people with disabilities connect and receive support.
5. Comply with the law
Familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people with disabilities from discrimination. When it comes to employment, the ADA protects job seekers and employees.
The time is always right to discuss the many benefits of inclusivity in the workplace. To learn more about how you can successfully employ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, please reach out to us for guidance. Your business and community will be better for it.