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How To Hire People With Disabilities

Me:  “Hello, I would like to learn more about the process of hiring someone with a disability.”

Advocate:  “Okay, what do you mean by that?”

Me
“Where do I find them and how can I let them know that I am hiring? I
want to make sure that my hiring practices are fair and equal.
How do I properly train someone with a disability?
Are
there any tax benefits that businesses can take advantage of when
hiring someone with a disability? Can I pay a person with a disability
less than minimum wage if they are very slow?
What are some labor laws and regulations that I need to be aware of?”

– Silence –

Understandably; how would you answer those discriminating questions?

To illustrate the offensiveness, read the questions again in a different context:

“Hello,
I would like to know how to hire an old person. Where do I find old
people? What’s the best way to train them? Can I pay them less than
minimum wage? Would I get tax benefits? Are there any laws or special
paperwork I need to fill out?”

This puts into perspective the ridiculous questions I asked this morning about employing people with disabilities.

We
all agree that diversity is a competitive advantage
and that we cannot
discriminate based on age, disability, national origin, pregnancy, race,
color, religion or gender. We just don’t always live by it.

For progress to occur, we have to continue asking questions and not be afraid of demonstrating how ignorant we are.

Ignorance: the state or fact of being ignorant: lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Yes,
I felt like an idiot
this morning when I realized how offensive and uninformed my
questions were. But if I hadn’t asked
them, I still wouldn’t know the answers.

What is worse:
Offending someone with a question or remaining ignorant and unaware of
your prejudices and stereotypes (for the rest of your life)?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

(If someone asks you
an ignorant question and you feel offended by it, remind yourself: The
person asking simply lacks knowledge, education or awareness, and he or
she would like to learn from you.)

Dialogue is good.

Now back to the awkward question how managers can hire someone with a disability and what I have learned today:

If
you are not already employing someone who has a disability, you should
call your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office (US only) and discuss
how you can improve your bottom line by hiring someone with special
abilities (even if just for a few hours per week). All services provided
by the Vocational Rehabilitation Division are free to the employer (funded through
federal and state monies).

If you cannot imagine how a person with
special needs can fit into your organization (because your business is
“too fast paced or highly technical”), be ready to learn how much you
don’t know. Accommodation Engineers create adaptations to make workplaces and tasks more accessible.

You
do not have to ‘come up’ with a detailed job description or ‘invent’ a
job that a person with disabilities can do. Your local Vocational Rehab
Office can send a productivity consultant who identifies job tasks that
could be done more efficiently and effectively by someone with special
abilities; a win-win situation.

Employees who have a disability
often have a personal job coach who provides training, assistance and
helps the employee to improve his or her job performance. This makes
your job as a supervisor/managers a lot easier. Again, this is free.

On
top of all this, the Vocational Rehab staff will provide guidance in
terms of ADA legislation (so that you do not ‘accidentally’
discriminate) and tax benefits your organization may qualify for. I
guarantee that you will be blown away by how little you know/knew about
employing people with a disability.

Here is what you can say when you contact your local Vocational Rehab Office:

“Hello,
I have a job opening for an hourly/part-time (full-time) worker at my
store/business. Do you know anyone who is looking for employment? Maybe
you can help me find someone who would be a great fit.”
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