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Hiring Disabled People is Proving Beneficial to Both Employers and Employees

After opening Hidden Manna Café, a social service agency asked Glynis Harvey and Mark Cagley about the possibility of hiring a person with disabilities. Harvey and Cagley, parents of twin sons with autism, understand that it is difficult for people with disabilities to find employment. They also know how hard disabled persons work once they secure a job. Harvey’s responded to this question of employing disabled persons with “As long as you are willing to work, we are willing to work with you.”

The falling unemployment rate among people with disabilities suggests that more and more employers are seeking out disabled people to work for them. Many companies note disabled workers are enthusiastic, loyal, and sometimes more capable than anyone for a particular job title.

President and CEO of the social services agency New Star, Dan Strick, has noticed a rise in the number of employers hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities over the past year and a half. 'It's changed his view of life': Companies find hiring autistic employees has vast benefits »

The tight job market is causing employers to be more open minded about hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Positive reports from companies already employing disabled workers show that this practice is just getting started and will continue to spread.

Many companies turn to people with disabilities to fill a wide range of jobs. A professional services firm EY is setting out to open a NeuroDiversity Center of Excellence in its Chicago office. EY has about 25 employees working in similar centers and is looking to add 10 to 15 more to the Chicago center in January.

Working with EY’s autistic employees has proven very beneficial to the company’s bottom line. Many of these employees are hyper focused and learn two times faster than a typical worker. Visual learning developed for the NueroDiversity Center have proved beneficial for all employees, not just those with disabilities. In addition, communication in the workplace has been greatly improved because people with autism tend to be very literal.

Carlos Cubia, Walgreen’s chief diversity officer explains, “It started out as something that was kind of socially responsible, but really turned into a high-productivity initiative, because these folks stay longer, don’t miss work, and retention of these employees is higher than folks without disabilities. It’s really helped the bottom line in a number of ways.”

Employers often stray from hiring people with disabilities because they are fearful of the liability such people may bring to their company. Transportation is another hurdle that causes issues. Many disabled people cannot drive, and many jobs are not reachable by public transportation.

Federal labor law allows for employers to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage, a practice opposed by many who call it unfair. The Down syndrome group is working to end the subminimum wage discrepancy with a Senate bill in the committee process.

Supportive services, such as job coaches and customized planning will play a crucial role in giving disabled persons the option to seek competitive employment. Some worry that earning too much will threaten their government benefits, but free specialists and ABLE accounts are two ways for disabled people to maintain their benefit eligibility.

Five of Hidden Manna’s 26 employees have disabilities. Working in a restaurant environment has caused these employees to blossom. They have a strong work ethic, are very friendly, and are learning to be more social with each shift in the workplace.

The bottom line is that companies are seeing the value of disabled employees and are increasingly hiring from this pool to the direct benefit of the company. The important thing to note here is that both employers and employees benefit from the hiring of disabled people. The companies get the work they need, sometimes better than a typical worker, and the disabled people learn to grow and blossom in the workplace.

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