New Report Exposes Top Three Disability Hiring Myths

By , March 11, 2013

A newly released report from The Conference Board underscores what we at Think Beyond the Label have been saying all along: You CAN quantify the value that people with disabilities bring to a company.

In “Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging, and Advancing People with Disabilities,” The Conference Board, a non-profit business association, explores how people with disabilities can be part of the “talent solution” for corporations. Companies that participated included Alcoa, Bayer, CVS Caremark, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Discovery Communications, Goldman Sachs & Co., KPMG LLP, Lockheed Martin, Mattel, NY Life Insurance, Office of the Comptroller of Currency, Pennsylvania Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Defense, and Waste Management, Inc.

The report says there are extensive benefits available to a company that employs people with disabilities, such as diversifying the talent pool and even saving money. For example, there are many untapped educated minds in the pool of candidates with disabilities. In financial terms, multiple federal tax breaks incentivize hiring people with disabilities to protect the bottom line (for more details, see Think Beyond the Label’s Hire Gauge). Additionally, new technology and telework opportunities create cost-effective accommodation measures from which both people with disabilities and employers can easily benefit.

Busting the Top Three Myths

While your workforce probably already includes people with disabilities, many companies are simply unaware of the degree to which people with disabilities can help strengthen a workforce—and therefore, are unmotivated to seek them out. In fact, 77% of the companies surveyed in this report are still not hiring people with disabilities.

Why? It’s more than likely that hiring departments are still hung up on old HR myths, three of which this report dismisses with statistics and studies. The most significant myth is that hiring people with disabilities is a charity case, or is “the right thing to do.” This is not true: People with disabilities are a strong investment, and are “equivalent or, in some respects, superior to their peers without disabilities,” says the report, using factors such as loyalty, productivity, tax incentives and more. For more on the business case breakdown, check out Think Beyond the Label’s Business Case.

The second big myth exposed is that federally required accommodations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act will hurt a company’s bottom line. Data compiled from several studies in the report show that 49.4% of surveyed employers reported zero direct cost from hiring and accommodating a person with a disability. The median cost was $600 across employers surveyed who cited accommodation costs. An accommodation such as allowing an employee to telecommute, or to modify their job duties to match the worker’s abilitiies, does not have a dollar sign associated with it.

The third myth is the assumption that people with disabilities are less educated. While overall the population of people with disabilities is less educated than the rest, this report shows that 8.3% of people with disabilities in the U.S. who are unemployed and seeking employment have a bachelor’s degree or higher under their belt (compared to 4.5% of those seeking employment and with no disability). Also, active duty enlisted service members are 12% more likely than their civilian competitors (age 25 and-over) to have at least a high school diploma upon entering the workforce as a veteran with a disability.

Taking the next step

Hiring departments can gain a lot from this study, but the most important takeaway is that the myths surrounding hiring people with disabilities really need to be done away with. People with disabilities add significant value to the workforce, as reports like these have shown over and over again.

Think Beyond the Label wants to help employers find and hire the best talent, including qualified people with disabilities. We are a resource for both learning about hiring and supporting this underrepresented talent pool, and we have lots of initiatives to get employers on the path to hiring, from accessible online career fairs to corporate sponsorship programs. And if you’re a job seeker, register with us so we can connect you to companies that want to engage you. Come join our community today, and together, we’ll bust myths and change the hiring landscape for people with disabilities.

Author: Barbara Otto

Barbara Otto is the CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, which manages Think Beyond the Label.