In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, prohibiting employers, schools, and public places from discriminating against anyone on the basis of their disabilities, and requiring them to provide reasonable accommodations.
However, even after nearly 30 years with this law in place, many employers still don’t understand their obligations, and often carry misconceptions about hiring workers with disabilities. Let’s take a look at some common myths about hiring employees with disabilities, and whether there’s any truth to them.
Myth #1: It’s expensive to accommodate employees with disabilities
Not true. In fact, most employers (at least 73 percent) will pay nothing at all to accommodate employees with disabilities in the workplace. Of the workplaces that do need additional accommodations put in place, over half of them will incur expenses that total under $500. For more extensive or costly accommodations, the federal government offers tax incentives to help employers make their businesses more accessible.
Depending on the type and severity of the employee’s disability, accommodations can be very simple, such as providing an appropriate chair or color-coding regularly used office items for easier identification. A commonly-requested accommodation is flexibility in hours and work location, which is rapidly becoming a best practice in workplaces for all employees (whether they have a disability or not), and functionally costs nothing to provide.
Myth #2: Employees with disabilities can’t perform their job tasks without a lot of help.
False. In numerous studies on this question, the findings have been clear: managers rate their employees with disabilities to be as productive and valuable to the workplace as the rest of their colleagues. Managers also generally find that their employees with disabilities do not require any more management or support than any other employee.
According to workplaceanswers.com, “The majority of people with disabilities can perform their jobs without any assistance and prefer to be responsible for themselves. Also, they should have the same expectations and work requirements as employees without disabilities so that they can participate in the full range of human experiences—including success and failure.”
Myth #3: If you hire an employee with a disability, the ADA prevents you from firing them.
Also untrue. Employees with disabilities can be fired or laid off just like any other employee, as long as their termination meets one of these three conditions:
If the firing isn’t related to the employee’s disability.
If the employee is not performing their job tasks up to standard, even with necessary accommodations.
If the employee poses a threat to the safety of the workplace as a result of their disability.
Myth #4: Accommodations for an employee with disabilities have to be available to all employees.
Nope. The employee’s disability allows them the right to have accommodations that do not necessarily apply to your entire workforce. For instance, if you have an employee whose disability requires accommodations such as limited on-call availability, the option to keep a snack at the workspace for their blood sugar, or telecommuting on certain days of the week, you are not required to offer those considerations to employees without disabilities.
That being said, there are many benefits to incorporating more flexibility in terms of work location and hours for your entire workforce, where possible. Parents of young children, employees with aging parents, and younger workers (millennials and Gen-Z) regularly list workplace flexibility as among the top benefits a workplace can offer. Providing this option to your whole staff will give you a significant recruiting and retention advantage.
Myth #5: If a person with a disability applies and interviews for a position at my company, I’m required to hire them.
This is also incorrect. When you’re hiring a new employee, and you interview a candidate with a disability, you’re not permitted to take their disability into consideration as a reason to disqualify them for employment. Instead, as with any other employee, you should solely look at their ability to succeed in the position.
What can employers do to create a more accessible and diverse workplace?
Creating a diverse workplace has far-reaching benefits, both for the productivity and innovation of your internal teams and for your reputation as a fair employer. Any misgivings managers and colleagues may have when adding a person with disabilities (or any other kind of difference, for that matter) to the team are generally a result of misunderstanding, not malice. Regular diversity and inclusion training can be useful to any workforce to help clear up any misconceptions about co-workers with different backgrounds and experiences.
Most workplaces could also benefit from a more robust mentorship program. Including employees of all backgrounds, abilities, ages, and skill levels in this kind of initiative can go a long way in terms of creating an inclusive environment, and it’s a wise investment in the professional development of your most valuable asset: your employees.
To learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, be sure to refer to the official website: ADA.gov.
When you walk into the Kroger in Martinsville, Virginia, there is a Courtesy Clerk who stands out in the front end. He says hello to each customer coming and going, he is often dancing, and he always has a smile on his face. Danny has been working for Kroger for almost 3 years and the love for his position is evident. He puts his natural customer service skills to use during every shift while bagging groceries, retrieving merchandise, and pulling carts. Before working at Kroger, his work history consisted of sheltered employment working below minimum wage. Danny worked with his Vocational Counselor, Teresa Anderson, to try different jobs to see what he felt would be a good fit. He then worked with his job coach to complete applications and interviews, which led to being hired by this employer. Teresa helped him learn bagging techniques and handling the multi-tasking his position involves. Danny also learned about parking lot safety, looking both ways as he crosses the street a…
Meredith started working with her vocational counselor, Nancy, in 2012, to acquire assistance in job placement. Meredith lives in Wakefield, Virginia, which posed problems because of its rural nature and lack of job opportunity. She also didn't have access to a car and needed a job within walking distance-- and she found just that.
Virginia Diner is a long-standing old-fashioned diner in Wakefield, and it happens to be Meredith's great-grandaddy's. She had her heart set on employment there. It was perfect; she walks to and from work, and her mother works close by and can check up on her. Meredith currently works there as a busser-- her job includes cleaning tables, restocking items, and making sure the restaurant runs smoothly.
Nancy says, "[Meredith] loves her job and enjoys making her own money. Meredith loves to stay busy." In fact, she excels at her job, earning Employee of the Month in January 2015 and she received a gift card as a reward. Nancy also notice…
and Nancy began working together at the end of October 2017.Jorden lives in Capron and the nearest town
with employers is Franklin.As part of
the vocational services process, Nancy arranged an opportunity for Jorden to
explore what a Courtesy Clerk does, and Jorden really enjoyed the experience.The primary purpose of this experience was to
give Jorden the opportunity to “try on” a position to determine if the job
duties were those he liked and would be capable of doing.In the process, however, it demonstrated to
the manager firsthand how capable he is at doing all required job duties,
which worked out well!The manager of
the Farm Fresh in Franklin was
impressed.Although Jorden is
personable, he may have had difficulty conveying his abilities in a standard
interview.In this situation, the Manager
spoke with Nancy and Jorden after the assessment about open positions, and
offered Jorden a job.
the Farm Fresh in Franklin closed, and Jorden was forced to look for new