HIRE LEARNING

Why People with Disabilities Can’t Find Work

By , August 5, 2013

A new study commissioned by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business gives a solid theory on why job seekers with disabilities still are not fully represented in Corporate America—and what needs to be done.

The Wharton study recommends several tangible ways for employers to change their hiring practices to include people with disabilities—many of which Think Beyond the Label has been advocating since its inception in 2010.

At Think Beyond the Label, we already know that people with disabilities can offer employers high return on investment by way of their qualifications, high retention rates and tax breaks among others benefits. However, this study contends, ROI alone is not enough to change corporate hiring behavior.

So what’s the holdup? First is the lack of disability representation both from the internal HR staff and external hiring resources To reach this group, Think Beyond the Label offers a quarterly online career fair, powered by Brazen Careerist, which gives HR managers a networking platform for reaching qualified candidates with disabilities and building their pipelines. You can register for the next fair in October here.

The second issue facing job seekers is negative misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities, especially among small and mid-size businesses. Dispelling myths is a large part of the Think Beyond the Label program. We offer employers tools like Hire Gauge, and work hard to promote the business case for hiring people with disabilities on our website and social channels.

A great way to eliminate negative perceptions is to show successes, the Wharton study shows. “Companies might be persuaded through presentation of … real-world examples of disabled people who achieve at a level that matches or exceeds that of non-disabled people,” the report states.

Think Beyond the Label is on it! We regularly publish success stories from employees with disabilities (and their employers) from large companies like Ernst & Young and Microsoft to small firms like Pearl Interactive. Read them all here.

We’re also proud of our national television ads, first aired in 2010, that encourage people to, well, “think beyond the label” when it comes to stereotyping workers with disabilities.

A great idea from the report: Rebrand people with disabilities. Where some minorities (African Americans, LGBT, etc.) have a cohesive and highly visible brand particularly in the job market, disabled workers cover a vast spectrum and have less of a unified identity, the Wharton study says.

Part of Think Beyond the Label’s tactic for this challenge is maintaining a comprehensive media platform that brands people with disabilities as a part of a capable and competitive workforce. Through blogging, social media, corporate partnerships and plenty of mentions in large and small traditional media outlets, TBTL aims to rebrand employees with disabilities as a unified, ready workforce.

The findings from the Wharton study ultimately admit that the workforce still has not achieved the necessary representation of diversity through people with disabilities. The best practices are what they always have been: Dispelling myths, promoting the business case and making hiring resources available to employers. And yes—we’re on it!

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Author: Barbara Otto

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