Quick Facts 2: Realities of Hiring People with Disabilities: Myths & Facts – Problems & Solutions

by Jennifer McDonough and Josh Taylor

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Smart business people continually strive to improve customer service and employee relations. When the customer or employee has a disability, simple etiquette can pave the way for a successful relationship.

Myths & Facts

Myth:  It is expensive to accommodate workers with disabilities.

Fact:    Most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and the cost for those who do is minimal or much lower than many employers believe. Studies by the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network have shown that 59% of
accommodations cost nothing, and 36% said a one-time cost was involved with a medium cot of $500.  Findings from ODEP JAN Study (9/30/2018) “Workplace Accommodations:  Low Cost High Impact”           

Myth:  Most employers think it is to difficult to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities.

Fact:    The majority of employers who had made accommodations found that the median cost of the accommodation was $300. Benefits included retaining a valuable employee and increased productivity.

Myth: Employees with disabilities will use more sick leave and won’t be as productive as other employees.

Fact:    Employees with disabilities have the same absentee and sick rates as non-disabled employees. Industry reports consistently rate workers with disabilities as average or above average in performance, quality and quantity of work, flexibility to demands, attendance and safety.

Myth:  Persons with disabilities are unable to meet performance standards, thus making them a
bad employment risk. 

Fact:    In 2010, Hernandez and McDonald found that job performance was similar for employees with and without disabilities working in health care, retail, and hospitality.  Brooke and colleagues (2018), in a review of the employment records of 139 individuals with autism, found that 104 achieved stable long-term employment, with a majority of those receiving only minimal long-term support.

Problems & Solutions

Problem:   An assembler for a furniture manufacturer has spinal degeneration, uncoordinated gait, and balance difficulties. The limitations involve walking, carrying materials, and balancing.

Solution:   Installing a plywood platform to raise part of the work station, suspending tools from the ceiling to balance their weight and using a cart to move assembly parts. Cost: $200

Problem:   A greenhouse worker with an intellectual disability has difficulty staying on task and knowing when to take breaks.

Solution:   At no cost to the employer, a job coach provided initial training. The worker then set reminders on his phone to stay on task and indicated break time.  He also carried a set of laminated cards which showed the basic list of tasks to be completed. Cost: $50

Problem:   A worker with traumatic brain injury (TBI) is employed at a bank, processing checks and other transactions. Items must be numbered and placed into a sorting matching tray in a special manner. The problem is periodic confusion due to memory loss and weakness in one side of his body.

Solution:   A job coach/trainer supplied by the rehabilitation agency assists in special training in task sequencing, and equipment is adjusted to accommodate weakness. Cost: $0

Problem:   A computer service technician with cerebral palsy loses function of the lower extremities. The job related problems include bending, stooping, balancing, and getting underneath the mainframe equipment to perform needed repairs.

Solution:   An automotive repair creeper is purchased and modified with back support to enable the employee to slide easily under the mainframes. Cost: $30

Problem:   A radio broadcaster/announcer who is blind needs to read the AP wire news desk material.

Solution:   The employer connected a Braille printer to the incoming news service, and installed a switch to move from regular printed material to Braille. Cost: $1,700

Helpful Hints

Get executive commitment
Having commitment from the top sends a clear message to senior management about the seriousness and business relevance of this issue. Also, top-down commitment will reinforce the desired outcomes and assist in conveying the expectation of cooperation, involvement and commitment on the part of senior management and their staff.

Incorporate disability into existing diversity committees
This group is usually composed of a vertical and horizontal cross-section of the organiza-
tion and can help analyze assessment data and make recommendations to top management.

Design relevant, interactive applicable training
The purpose of good training is to not just increase awareness and understanding about disability, but to also develop concrete skills that employees can use. Starting with awareness training and advancing to knowledge training and training that builds specific skills is common.

Ensure integration
Integrate the concepts, skills and results of your disability efforts into the fabric of the organization.

There are a number of organizations that can assist your company in the successful integration of people with disabilities into your workforce.


If you have questions please contact:
Valerie Brooke at vbrooke@vcu.edu

Virginia Commonwealth University, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (VCU-RRTC) is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution providing access to education and employment without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran’s status, political affiliation, or disability.  The VCU-RRTC is funded by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (ID #VCU-18-09) and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number #90RTEM000301-00).  NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).  If special accommodations are needed, please contact Valerie Brooke at (804) 828-1851 VOICE or (804) 828-2494 TTY.