The ROI of Hiring Technologists with Disabilities
By Debra Ruh, Founder of TecAccess, CEO and Founder of Ruh Global Communications
Employers looking to gain a strategic edge may find that hiring technologists with disabilities provides an attractive return on investment. Technologists with disabilities give everyone from private industry to educational institutions a way to improve the accessibility of their technology, hire a diverse workforce, and drive in more business by focusing on social responsibility and inclusion.
Individuals with disabilities represent a huge market segment and a large untapped workforce. Additionally, with the recent amendments to the ADA and the updates coming soon to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, technological accessibility needs to keep pace with the new legislation. These developments will require employers to address accommodation issues in the workplace, something that can be helped by having employees with disabilities in high tech and management positions.
However, disability related myths can impede this process. I worked with one large company that basically said, “We are going to decide what jobs can be done by persons with disabilities and then direct individuals with disabilities to those positions”. But it’s not the place of the employer to determine what jobs people with disabilities can do. An employer simply need to make sure that its HR systems and processes are fully accessible, and if a candidate applies and is qualified for the job, interview them and hire them to do the job. Period.
Employers can make a wise investment in hiring technologists with disabilities. A recent Department of Labor report indicated that workers with disabilities consistently meet or exceed the job performance of coworkers without disabilities. One good example can be found in a Canon facility outside of Chicago that began refurbishing cameras. They hired people with intellectual disabilities and the first year the program saved over $19 million. They also noticed that the plant’s overall productivity increased at a higher rate than other locations. Employees at the plant also reported increased morale and pride to work for the company. Such intangibles can be valuable to employers seeking a competitive edge in the marketplace.