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Graphic Text: Kessler Foundation

National Employment & Disability Survey Shows Few Companies Have “Disability” as a Part of Their Diversity Efforts

Companies that do include people with disabilities, however, find it successful

Graphic Text: Kessler Foundation 2017 National Employment Disability Survey Supervisor PerspectiveWashington, D.C., Oct. 17 – A new study, entitled the National Employment and Disability Survey Supervisor Perspectives and conducted by the University of New Hampshire, was released in the U.S. Capitol in honor of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The survey showed that very few companies have an intentional plan as a part of their diversity efforts to include people with disabilities. Indeed, while 28 percent of organizations have disability hiring goals, only 12 percent of companies include disability as part of their diversity efforts. In comparison, 45 percent have hiring goals for other types of diversity. Even though disability advocates are saying that disability is part of diversity in the workplace, that message is still not getting across to businesses.

Findings from the study suggest several opportunities to engage employers about specific practices that supervisors find effective for improving their ability to employ or accommodate people with disabilities.

For example, most organizations use different training, accommodation and retention practices, most of which are effective for people with disabilities.

But certain practices considered highly effective for employees with disabilities were underutilize by employers. One striking example is the training practice of short-term outside assistance, which was found to be effective for people with disabilities at 86 percent, but was only maintained by 19 percent of employers. The same applies to the accommodation practice of job sharing, which was found to be effective at 92 percent, but was only maintained by 13 percent of employers.

Many employers still are reluctant to hire people with disabilities for fear of the cost of accommodations. But according to Elaine Katz, Senior VP of Grants and Communications at the Kessler Foundation:

“When you give somebody the tools to do the job, they can do the job well, whatever that tool may be. So again, we’re really excited that this can provide some arguments and concrete evidence that when provider agencies go to make those relationships in the communities, with their business partners, they can say, you know, this is the data we have seen; let’s try it and see how it works for you.”

This 2017 Kessler Foundation Survey is the first national survey to look at the effectiveness of the practices used by employers when striving to recruit, hire, train and retain people with disabilities. The survey revealed areas of opportunity for even greater successes in the workplace.

The survey was administered to 3,085 supervisors from across the country who responded about their experiences in the workplace related to hiring, professional development, advancement and the provision of accommodations for applicants and employees with and without disabilities.

Regarding upper management, the survey has a finding worth highlighting:

“The importance supervisors give to hiring people with disabilities (22 percent feel it is very important) mirrors their perception of upper management’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities (20 percent are seen as very committed). In contrast, supervisors attach much more importance to helping employees with disabilities learn their jobs (78 percent of supervisors feel it is very important, while 43 percent of upper managers are seen as very committed). Similarly, when asked about providing employees with requested accommodations, 66 percent of supervisors feel it is very important, while 47 percent of upper managers are seen as very committed. Taken together, these results suggest that, while many in an organization may support the goal of hiring people with disabilities, when it comes to the details of realizing that goal, there may be less commitment and support than needed from upper management.”

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, said the study demonstrates two very important things.

“One is that when employers try to employ people with disabilities and use best practices, they succeed. The second is that most are not yet trying. It is critical to engage employers to find the best talent out there – which often can be people with disabilities,” she continued. “Indeed, Steven Hawking is unlocking the secrets of the universe from a motorized wheelchair. Billionaire developer Steve Wynn is blind. Shark Tank stars and business leaders Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran have learning disabilities.”

To see the complete study, visit National Employment and Disability Survey Supervisor Perspectives.

Meet the Author

Jeanette Marquez Rocha

Jeanette Marquez is a Policy Fellow at RespectAbility, where she is helping to create an innovative Community of Practice in Long Beach, California. From Mexico, she has three deaf siblings with dreams and goals of their own. Because of them, she has decided to be an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, specifically that society should be inclusive.

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