How Are Employers Doing?

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is staggering when compared to people who are able bodied (see the latest DOL statistics here). However, that does not mean that progress is not being made by both private and public sector employers.
Cornell University conducted two research initiatives to examine employer practices in response to the employment provisions of Title I of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related civil rights legislation. Cornell interviewed by phone a random sample of human resource and equal employment opportunity personnel from the public and private sectors. Key findings of those initiatives are discussed below.

Meeting Accommodation and Access Needs of Applicants and Employees with Disabilities:
Listed below are the 11 areas of accommodations and five access areas outlined in the study and the percentage of employers who stated they had made accommodations in these areas.

Accommodation Private
Sector
Percent
Public
Sector
Percent
Made facilities accessible 82 93
Had flexible human resource policy 79 93
Restructured jobs/work hours 69 87
Made transportation accommodations 67 86
Provided written job instructions 64 69
Modified work environment 62 93
Modified equipment 59 90
Made reassignment to vacant position 46 58
Provided readers and interpreters 36 79
Changed supervisory methods 35 55
Modified training material 31 49
Types of Access Provided
People with Disabilities
Private
Sector
Percent
Public
Sector
Percent
Wheelchair access 82 95
Time flexibility in test taking 45 39
Communication access for hearing impaired 43 91
Communication access for visually impaired 37 77
Removing volatile/scented substances 32 48

Identifying Barriers to Employment and Advancement for People with Disabilities:
Respondents were asked to rate seven possible barriers to employment and advancement of people with disabilities. Lack of related experience was seen as the biggest barrier by both the public and private sector employers. The results in this area are outlined below.

Barriers Private
Sector
Percent
Public
Sector
Percent
Lack of related experience 49 53
Lack of required skills/training 39 45
Supervisor knowledge of accommodation 31 34
Attitudes/stereotypes 22 43
Cost of accommodations 16 19
Cost of supervision 12 10
Cost of training 9 11

Additional questions in this area were related to rating ways of reducing employment and advancement barriers, changes made in the workplace to meet the needs of employees with disabilities and the difficulty in making these changes. The results of the respondents’ replies are outlined below.

Effective Reduction Strategies Private
Sector
Percent
Public
Sector
Percent
Visible top management commitment 81 90
Staff training 32 71
Mentoring 59 71
On-site consultation/technical assistance 58 71
Short term outside assistance 41 43
Employer tax incentives/special budgets 26 69
Difficulty in making workplace
change
Private
Sector
Percent
Public
Sector
Percent
Changing co-workers’ and supervisors’
attitudes
32 33
Modifying return to work policy 17 11
Creating flexibility in performance
management system
17 15
Change in leave policy 10 8
Adjusting medical policies 7 9
Ensuring equal pay and benefits 2 4

These studies show that much still needs to be done to bring the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities into line with that of the general public. Progress is being made. More will need to be done by persons with disabilities, educators, rehabilitation counselors and the public and private employment communities if we are to achieve full integration of persons with disabilities into employment.
Key areas that need to be addressed are improvement in:

  • the education and training of persons with disabilities
  • outreach on the part of the employment community to recruit persons with disabilities
  • a better understanding of reasonable accommodation
  • a concerted effort to break through the attitudinal barrier that is so detrimental to full integration of people with disabilities into the employment arena.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy, July 2001

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