Employers who include employees with disabilities in their workforce enjoy win-win situations. Employers get employees who are as productive as any other employees, with good attendance records and loyalty to the job and the company. Employees with disabilities gain self-esteem and a paycheck that can lift them out of poverty.
The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has identified six elements that contribute to creating a win-win situation:
Employers who include these six elements in their personnel program improve their chances for creating win-win situations. Below, in their own words, are examples of actual win-win situations
- Company Commitment: The employer's commitment to hire and accommodate people with disabilities must come from the top (the President, CEO or owner) and be communicated clearly and often to all levels of the organization. Supervisors and managers who know they have the support of the boss can confidently include people with disabilities in their workforce.
Broad-based Recruitment: Employers must recruit people with disabilities for all positions, including management. The employer should send vacancy announcements to disability-related organizations and agencies, and should state that the employer encourages people with disabilities to apply.
Interviewing and Hiring: Interviewers and hiring officials should be trained to comply with federal and state disability nondiscrimination laws. During the hiring process employers should clearly identify the essential functions of all positions and use them as the criteria for making hiring decisions. Candidates with known disabilities must be evaluated on the skills, training and abilities they present, including their ability to perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodation. Employers should be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations for the hiring process to applicants with disabilities, when needed.
Willingness to Make Accommodations: Proper workplace accommodations enable an employee with a disability to perform the duties of the job fully and competently. Finding effective accommodations is a process, and many resources exist to assist employers with this process, including the employee with a disability.
Access to Training: It is important that all training programs and materials, including those that prepare employees for advancement, be available and accessible to employees with disabilities.
Awareness and sensitivity: Because negative or paternalistic attitudes toward people with disabilities are sometimes present in the workplace, it is important that employees, supervisors and managers receive information and guidance on the myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities. Accurate information about the facts and realities for people with disabilities can help create a positive atmosphere in which the employee with a disability can demonstrate his or her abilities.
Eagle Communications, Inc., Fort Dodge, IA
Eugene "Gene" Van Grevenhof owns Eagle Communications, Inc., which remanufactures used cartridges for laser and inkjet printers. The company employs six workers (five with disabilities) and serves clients in about a dozen states.
Head technician Douglas Ray Klass has a back injury. The business had to make only a few accommodations for Douglas, such as raising his work bench up on blocks and having co-workers help with heavy lifting.
Gene Van Grevenhof, owner: "Douglas is my head technician and right-hand man. When I am gone, he has all the authority I do. Accommodation for him was just common sense; I haven't put any money into it. For example, we buy workbenches manufactured at a standard height. Then we make it a comfortable height for workers by raising the bench or cutting its legs so they don't have to bend over while working."
Douglas Ray Klass: "I rebuild printer cartridges. I never did anything like this before, so it was a learning experience. I like challenges. I went around looking for work, but after employers found out I had an injury, they said 'I'll let you know.' The unemployment office told me about a man who had a back injury himself who was hiring people with back injuries. So I checked into it."
Defense Contract Management Agency, Department of Defense, Boston, MA
Molly Reece, who has cognitive disabilities resulting from Down Syndrome, has worked for 10 years for the Legal Office of the District East Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). She has received two promotions.
Molly has the responsibility for ensuring that thousands of legal papers are copied, ready for trial, faxed and filed correctly. She logs and organizes documents, including financial vouchers and uses many computer software programs. Molly takes slightly longer to train and supervise, but otherwise needs very little extra assistance.
Bruce Krasker, Chief Counsel: "If you want to know how much I trust Molly, she does all of my travel vouchers and it's my money. She copies complicated documents and returns them to us tabbed correctly without holes in important words. She takes terrific pride in her work. We're a legal office, and accuracy is critical to us. A missing paper could cost us a trial."
Molly Reece: "I like my work very much. People give me their work, tell me what to do and then I do it for them. I do the TDY's (travel vouchers) and put them in the computer. I do the PCS (permanent change of station). I have to log them in and get them ready for mailing. I get the form signed, and then they get their money. I had no computer skills when I came. Now I use the computer all the time."
McCrone, Inc., Centerville, MD
McCrone, Inc. is a civil engineering firm specializing in land surveying, development and planning for commercial and residential sites. The firm has more than 100 employees and does most of its work in Maryland.
The company became interested in Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the late 80's, but was having difficulty finding qualified people. McCrone discovered that the Maryland Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) had a CAD training program. The company interviewed and hired Jeff Moore, who had become a CAD trainee as part of his rehabilitation after an automobile accident. Jeff, who is paralyzed below his breastbone, does survey drafting for McCrone.
Michael Whitehill, Vice President and Branch Manager: "Jeff is sought out by project managers because of his productivity and high level of accuracy. He is the person responsible for coordinating the civil engineering drawings (plats). He has an incredible drive for success.
"It's completely naive to assume that the importance of accommodations is only for people with disabilities. In 1990, we built a new building for our company and found that the access accommodations made the building more livable for everyone.
"We were able to establish a remote telecommute with Jeff in the early 90's because it is not necessary for him to come to the office to do his work. As a result of our experience with Jeff, we ramped up our sophistication in telecommuting for many other employees as well."
Jeffrey Moore, Engineering Technician: "I like what I do. Mostly, I like the people. I never really asked for accommodations; they sort of came my way. For instance, I sat in on the design meetings when we designed our new building.
"I decided to get a computer at home so I could continue working after leaving the office. There is nothing that I can't do at home that I can do at the office. And some of my co-workers live close enough to me that they can bring things back and forth from the office, which works out really nice."
For additional information
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN, a federally financially assisted service of ODEP, is a toll-free resource regarding questions about job accommodations, or about the employment sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Employment Assistance Referral Network (EARN)
EARN, a contracted service of ODEP, is a national toll-free telephone and electronic information referral service for employers who are seeking to hire workers with disabilities.
866-EarnNow (866-327-6669) (V)
This publication is available in alternate formats.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy, July 2001