This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act), the first civil rights legislation protecting disabled people from discrimination. Today, workers with disabilities have more employment opportunities than ever, but there is still work to be done to advance access and equity in the workforce.
The regulation sets an aspirational IWD utilization goal of 7%. In addition, federal contractors are required to implement effective outreach campaigns & positive recruitment activities and assess the effectiveness of all good faith efforts.
When companies bring together a wide array of professionals, they provide a more constructive and complementary workforce. Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs) are an integral part of this spectrum. Still, it isn’t always easy to incorporate IWDs. Some require specialized equipment and access, but in many cases these additions are inexpensive or eligible for tax incentives. Recruiting IWDs is a worthwhile endeavor that will ultimately pay off. Here are three things employers must keep in mind as they consider recruiting and hiring IWDs:
1. Understand the wide range of disabilities in the workplace.
There is a broad range of impairments or medical conditions individuals may have. While some individuals are born with disabilities, most of the disabilities are acquired or developed during a person’s lifetime. Disabilities can be visible and invisible. For example, hidden disabilities can arise from conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, or other neurological conditions.
The current Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form, also known as “From CC-305” provides a broad list of visible and invisible disabilities. Because some types of disabilities develop due to an illness or accident, there is a high probability that employees could acquire a disability during their employment. To monitor the employment of IWDs in the workplace, contractors are required to invite applicants and employees to self-identify at the pre- and post-offer phases of the hiring process. In addition, contractors must provide all employees the opportunity to self-identify by conducting a survey every five years, and at least once in the intervening years, contractors must remind employees that they may voluntarily update their disability status.
2. Make a business decision, not a legal decision
The reason to include IWDs into the workforce should start and end with improving the organization—not with adhering to employment regulations. Contrary to what some business leaders may think, hiring those with disabilities actually makes good business sense and will not be a drain on the company. Here are some ways to implement effective outreach campaigns and positive recruitment activities:
- Build relationships with state and local Rehabilitations programs.
- Develop disability focused ERGs (employee resource groups) as an effective practice to create a culture of inclusion in the workforce.
- Ensuring online recruitment tools are accessible.
- Centralized funds and processes for workplace accommodations
- Awareness campaign within the organization to increase the self-ID rate.
- Support and commitment form Top-level executives.
3. Prepare the workplace
For some employers, one of the top concerns surrounding employing IWDs is preparing the workplace for handicap access. Some view these projects as an extra cost and an unwelcome burden. According to recent studies by ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy) 59% of job accommodations cost nothing and the median cost of accommodations that do cost, as reported by employers, is $500. Some of the most common types of accommodation are:
- Schedule modifications and leave time
- Job restructuring
- Equipment and products
- Policy modification
To learn more about how to identify the essential functions of a role and engage in an accommodation request process, listen to one of our free webinars on this topic; Accommodations 101.
As it turns out, incorporating IWDs into the workplace is not nearly as arduous as some believe. With a little research, effort, and the help of hiring management software, employers will be well on their way to creating a more balanced and diversified workforce.