Disabled but Not Unable

A well-selected workforce is essential to the running of a good business. Crains New York Business in “Giving disabled workers a new start” (June 29, 1998; page 11) addresses “alternative employment” due to the changing nature of disability. The availability of technology that llows disabled people to work with supports has increased opportunities for employers and employees alike. Simple adjustments such as magnetic telephones or magnifying glasses are minimal in cost, contrary to the overall industry misconception that accommodations are high-priced. To overlook the disabled population limits an employer’s pool in terms of selecting qualified employees. “Integrating Disabled Employees”, a research study conducted by The Department for Education and Employment in the United Kingdom took a close look at the cost and benefits of employing individuals with disabilities. Findings released in March 1998 indicated that the financial benefits of hiring disabled workers far outweigh the initial cost. In fact, a large majority of employers incur no additional expense in employing the disabled. The typical cost of an accommodation was $200 while the typical benefit was calculated at $10,000. Often “mainstream” employees reap the benefit of an accommodation as “secondary beneficiaries” of those accommodations. For example someone with back problems takes advantage of a specially designed chair. Screen savers were initially developed in response to complaints from workers who claimed disability as a result of the job. Wrist supports were developed in response to workers who complained of what was later identified as carpal tunnel syndrome. These accommodations are now found in every workplace to the advantage of all employees. When recruiting, it is well worth the effort to seek out people with disabilities. Due to discrimination in employment people with a disability will sometimes seek assistance in finding work from their local Office of Vocational and Rehabilitation, VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for People with Disabilities), and college offices for students with Disabilities. These are all resources available to recruiters. Disabled people are committed and outstandingly loyal and most often a reasonable adjustment takes imagination, not money. It is well worth the investment.

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Doreen D. Gibbs is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) experienced in developing programs to assist individuals with disabilities to return to work. She trains potential employers in the recruiting, training, placement and support of chronically underemployed and undeserved populations. As the founder of G & G Geriatric and Disability Care Management, Inc., she provides ongoing technical assistance to companies, and serves as a liaison between the for profit and for profit communities in the formation of successful partnerships.

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