The involvement of persons with disabilities in the workforce structure is one of the top priorities of the society that adheres to the principles of non-discrimination at work and corporate social responsibility. Since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the nation had significantly progressed towards the protection of persons with disabilities and special needs against discrimination. By numerical indicators provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016), 146,962 are employed in the United States today. However, the population of Americans with disabilities comprises approximately 54 million individuals (HR Professional’s Toolbox, 2011) and is projected to increase. Organizations in general and human resource practitioners, in particular, should adjust their hiring practices to the employment needs of people with disabilities.
The Importance of Having Disabled Individuals in the Workforce from the HR Perspective
The inclusion of disabled individuals in the workforce encompasses positive social, economic, and organizational outcomes for companies and human resource management. From social and ethical standpoints, the involvement of people with disabilities contributes to their identity development, self-realization, and integration into society (HR Professional’s Toolbox, 2011). Hiring disabled persons ceases further segregation and isolation of this population, dismantles psychological barriers between them and the health workforce, and evokes in their senses of usefulness and full-fledged integration into society.
Also, people with disabilities constitute a unique source of diverse talents, experiences, and skills that can bring substantial benefits to organizations, their customers, and other employees. The diversification of the workforce via hiring disabled persons can be identified as a key element of business success. Companies obtain valuable human resources who can work efficiently despite some features related to the presence of the disability.
Strategies for Selecting and Recruiting Disabled Individuals
Recruiting and selecting are functions of human resource practitioners which should be based on the principles of the assurance of equal employment opportunities and non-discrimination. Selection is a process of identifying individuals with required skills, knowledge, proficiency levels, and other characteristics that will ensure the attainment of organizational goals. While selecting and recruiting disabled persons, HR professionals should pay attention to applicants’ qualifications instead of disabilities.
Specialized sites on the Internet provide useful information concerning employment issues, legislative procedures of hiring, available vacancies, well-crafted job descriptions, and so forth. The use of such nationwide electronic services as the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) and the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities considerably facilitate the processes of recruitment and selection, providing information resources to applicants with disabilities and their potential employers (Department of Labor, 2011).
In addition, the collaboration of HR professionals with career advisers and vocational rehabilitation agencies allows determining disabled job seekers whose skills and abilities are congruent with organizations’ employment opportunities and provided working conditions (IN.gov, n.d.). Specific workforce needs can be easily met by identifying disabled individuals with relevant qualifications and knowledge (DOL, 2011). Taking into consideration the fact that persons with disabilities sometimes experience difficulties in the course of their professional self-determination due to both objective and subjective reasons, these collaborative efforts will be instrumental in disabled people’s employment endeavors.
Interviewing an Applicant with Disabilities
To determine if an applicant with disabilities possesses all required skills and knowledge, human resource professionals conduct job interviews. The interviewing procedure should be performed in conformity with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to prevent any possibility of discrimination, prejudgment, or intolerance. Questions should be purposefully developed in advance so that an interviewee will feel comfortable. Instead of focusing on an applicant’s health-related problems, an employer should examine the correspondence of his skills and knowledge to a particular job or position. There is a list of points for discussion that prohibited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) during job interviews. While asking questions or discussing application-associated problems, “employers should adhere to the same disability etiquette as in other interactions with people with disabilities” (DOL, 2011).
Strategies for Retaining Disabled Individuals in the Workforce
The following strategies help organizations retain talented professionals with disabilities (HR Professional’s Toolbox, 2011; DOL, 2011):
- Reasonable accommodation. While hiring a disabled person, his needs should be comprehensively assessed by involving a novice employee with disabilities, HR personnel, and an immediate supervisor to ensure reasonable accommodations and determine what should be adjusted to eliminate possible problems (IN.gov, n.d.).
- Workplace flexibility. This multidimensional strategy includes the adaptation of a schedule to needs specific to a disabled employee, adjustment of the working place, or customization of job responsibilities (IN.gov, n.d.). Workplaces should be supplied with equipment relevant to the physical characteristics of people with disabilities.
- Disability etiquette promotion. This strategy is aimed at creating conditions and environments comfortable for communication and interactions with disabled coworkers (DOL, 2011). Rules of conduct and tolerant behaviors, appropriate vocabulary, and methods of work organization should be communicated to all personnel.
- Training programs. Each job requires specific knowledge, well-developed skills, pertaining abilities, education, and particular personal characteristics.
Given the intrinsic motivation of employers to provide their organizations with the most highly qualified and skillful personnel, training programs for employees with disabilities are widely implemented. Training should be organized to meet disabled professionals’ educational needs and correspond to their abilities. The provision of relevant material and technical conditions and ongoing psychological support is obligatory.
Employees with disabilities should be completely aware of available benefits and existing programs of graduate and undergraduate training at colleges and universities. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is an Internet-based organization that provides disabled persons with various training modules (DOL, 2011). For instance, before employment, an applicant with disabilities can attend either optional or compulsory sessions on improving professional abilities and communication skills. Pre-employment training in the workplace ensures successful adaptation of employees with disabilities to a new working environment, preventing their turnover.
At the early stage of employment, experienced and deliberately prepared mentors can be appointed to monitor the work of disabled novices and assist them to transit to a new position. Trainees with disabilities become better aware of a new job, communication within an organization, and (DOL, 2011). Mentoring also entails multiple benefits for an organization, such as improvements in workplace culture, leadership development, knowledge sharing, expansion of collaborative interactions, growing workforce diversity, reduced rates of turnover, and many others.
Summing up, employment opportunities for disabled people are a paramount and topical social problem. Despite the magnitude and circumstantiality of the United States’ national legislation on the employment of disabled people, there is still much to do regarding this issue in the American community. Consolidated efforts of social agencies, medical institutions, educational establishments, representatives of communities, and various public organizations will contribute to the inclusion of disabled individuals in society.
HR Professional’s Toolbox. (2011). Human resources guide to employing people with disabilities. Web.
IN.gov.(n.d.). Myths and facts about people with disabilities. Web.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Employment status of the civilian population by sex, age, and disability status, not seasonally adjusted. Web.
US Department of Labor. (2011). Hiring people with disabilities. Web.