Employers looking to gain a strategic edge may find that hiring technologists with disabilities provides an attractive return on investment. Technologists with disabilities give everyone from private industry to educational institutions a way to improve the accessibility of their technology, hire a diverse workforce, and drive in more business by focusing on social responsibility and inclusion.
Individuals with disabilities represent a huge market segment and a large untapped workforce. Additionally, with the recent amendments to the ADA and the updates coming soon to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, technological accessibility needs to keep pace with the new legislation. These developments will require employers to address accommodation issues in the workplace, something that can be helped by having employees with disabilities in high tech and management positions.
However, disability related myths can impede this process. I worked with one large company that basically said, “We are going to decide what jobs can be done by persons with disabilities and then direct individuals with disabilities to those positions”. But it’s not the place of the employer to determine what jobs people with disabilities can do. An employer simply need to make sure that its HR systems and processes are fully accessible, and if a candidate applies and is qualified for the job, interview them and hire them to do the job. Period.
A recent Department of Labor report indicated that workers with disabilities consistently meet or exceed the job performance of coworkers without disabilities. In addition to increased productivity, it has been shown that companies with a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities, have increased morale and pride amongst all employees. Such intangibles can be invaluable to employers seeking a competitive edge in the marketplace.