Don’t be blind: disabled workers are an asset!
I recently heard two similar stories on the struggle to access or stay in the job market for handicapped people. The first one is about someone who already had a job, but suffered from an accident and found himself in wheelchair. His position didn’t require any particular movement or mobility, as it was an office work, but still he encountered some limitations from his employer and felt his position within the company was diminished. Sadly this happened at a big industrial corporation that claims to do a lot for handicapped people in its Corporate Social Responsibility webpages…
The other case I heard was about a person who has been treated for mental illness but is now completely stable. He attended a job forum for handicapped people and when he explained his situation, the councillor in front of him didn’t even inquire about his qualifications, and bluntly said “but Sir, you have absolutely no chance of finding a job!” That’s definitely not the kind of opinion that would help someone with mental sensitivity to give them confidence and optimism!
The fact is that in most developed countries, people with disability have an unemployment rate at least twice that of those who have no disability (Business Disability Forum). This clearly is a case of double prejudices. Not only do disabled people have to cope with their handicap, deal with many difficulties in their daily life, but they face huge obstacles in trying to have a job and a position in the society.
This is all the more unjustified as so many things prove that people with handicap are at least as efficient as their non-disabled colleagues. As Chief Executive Officer of Gold Star Surgical Manufacturing (Veterinary & Surgical Instruments Manufacturer) Sikandar Hayat once said: “persons with disability had proved to be more efficient, punctual and dedicated employees despite of their disabilities and were a source of inspiration for their non-disabled fellows.” This is further proven by facts: in 2007, American online pharmacist Walgreens created a distribution centre with more than 30% disabled workers. The result? The centre operated 20 percent more efficiently than other similar centres!
As UK’s Business Disability Forum explains, employing disabled people has many positive impacts on organisations: taking disabled people into account when developing new technologies helps in developing features for a broader market, and is positive for non-disabled people who also beneficiate from it, as a study from Microsoft (quoted by BDF) shows. As an example, Cornerstone's Talent Management platform is compliant in the US with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which ensures that all user features are accessible to people with disabilities.
In addition, retaining employees that have become disabled has a great influence on global employee engagement, as it shows the company cares for its team members. In addition, the organisation is rewarded by even stronger commitment and productivity. Contradicting every stereotypes, some reports show that handicapped people have lower levels of sickness and unscheduled time off!
The last benefit for organisations is reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility in general. We know that investing in CSR has a double impact: it has been proven that CSR pays for itself, but also that it has a huge correlation with employee engagement. Good news: that’s true! “The more employees are aware that their company is proactively pursuing worthy environmental and social activities, the more they are engaged.” And I don’t need to add that employee engagement itself results in higher productivity (more than 30% according to Harvard Business Review!)
It all fits: disabled employees have an uphill struggle to find a job, but will be even more motivated and engaged when they get offered one. This shows true consideration to those with disabilities and is proof of your commitment to employees’ well-being in general, thus resulting into higher job satisfaction and productivity. So what are you waiting for?