Tapping Into New Labor Pools

November 30, 2020
MRA Edge
Recruiting & Hiring
ADA & Accommodations
Read time: 4 mins

HR professionals are keenly aware that filling positions within organizations has challenges. A worthwhile option that is gaining momentum is hiring individuals with disabilities. It not only widens your talent pool, it has many other benefits like increasing your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, improving employee engagement and retention rates, and it may even have some tax incentives.

sign language

Thankfully, employers are starting to focus less on the disability and more on the ability—the unique skillsets and perspectives employees bring to the organization. Individuals with disabilities offer tremendous value to businesses in every industry.

In the (not so distant) past, employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities were practically nonexistent. Sheltered workshops and group employment that focused on repetitive labor was one of the first opportunities. While sheltered workshops can still be very beneficial, there are millions of individuals with skills that are valued beyond production and assembly lines. 

What can companies do to remove the stigma that is associated with workers with disabilities? Here are a few starters that any organization can incorporate:
  • Review your language. There is a longstanding recommendation of using people-first language, meaning to describe what the person has rather than to assert what the person is. However, many in the disabled community prefer an identify-first description because it acknowledges who the person is. For example, Jane is autistic (identify-first) versus Jane is a person on the autism spectrum (people-first). What’s the best route to take? ASK! It’s always best to confirm what is preferred with each individual.
  • Look at your job descriptions and postings. Make sure there are no barriers. Do your job postings say things like “needs to use a phone to talk with customers” or “must be able to see a computer”? There are many affordable adaptive technologies available, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, where users dictate into Windows-based applications and the software turns the speech into text, and JAWS, a screen reader, where information appearing the screen is read aloud. 
  • Check out your website accessibility. What colors are you using? Do they help or hinder those with visual impairments? Is your site easy to access? Making sure your website is useful to those with disabilities helps both potential employees and current customers.
  • Investigate your area’s vocational rehabilitation program (VRP). A VRP helps individuals with disabilities overcome obstacles to get and maintain a job. Many states have a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for employers that helps organizations:

Recruit qualified workers with disabilities.

Build staff diversity.

Retain well-trained and productive employees.

A lot of employers want to tap into this talent pool but aren’t sure how to go about it. Figuring out what works for your company when it comes to employing people with disabilities is the first step in the right direction.

At our recent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Conference, John Robinson from Our Ability spoke about crafting a plan to employ individuals with disabilities. You can start by taking a look at Our Ability’s jobs database that connects employers and candidates.

Take your recruiting, DEI, and affirmative action efforts to the next level by building a plan for hiring individuals with disabilities. For hands-on help, email Hilary Hauser, Manager, Affirmative Action Services, at Hilary.Hauser@mranet.org.

  • Something to keep in mind when making workplace modifications is to consider going beyond being ADA compliant. Think about things from the standpoint of a person with a disability. Is the coffee maker within reach for everyone? Is the reception desk too high for someone who uses a wheelchair or other assistive device? Little things make a big difference.

  • The time is right to up your affirmative action game plan. The unemployment rate stemming from COVID-19 layoffs and downsizing is alarmingly high for individuals with disabilities.

  • A recent MRA Edge article featured MRA member Davanni’s describing how it has been employing people with disabilities for more than 40 years.

  • The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a free resource that helps employers tap the benefits of disability diversity by educating public and private sector organizations on ways to build inclusive workplace cultures. EARN offers information and resources to empower individuals and organizations to become leaders in the employment and advancement of people with disabilities.

  • Disability:IN is the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. Their network of over 220 corporations expands opportunities for people with disabilities across enterprises. Disability:IN’s vision is an inclusive global economy where people with disabilities participate fully and meaningfully.

  • The Employee Abilities @Work certificate is a free professional development opportunity designed for HR professionals and managers who want to learn more about disability inclusion.


MRA Edge Nov/Dec 2020 cover

Read the full issue.