Accommodation: Risk or Benefit?

I have yet to uncover the true reason(s) some employers find so much skepticism and apprehension in hiring someone with a disability, when I find so many reasons to say yes.  Of course I may be biased in this case, as my job is to help people with disabilities find employment.  But then again, maybe because of this reason I have a little more insight than someone who has never been exposed to working with someone who has a disability.  

I see ability where someone else sees a barrier to employment because I ask questions.  I’m not afraid to find out what makes someone tick or what motivates them, I’m also not afraid to ask about their experience and abilities over why they walk with a cane or why they are in a wheel chair.  The point for me is to uncover what they are capable of doing and help them to achieve realistic goals based on their skills, abilities and experience rather than pointing out the things they can’t do, as they are well aware of that already. 

Believe me, of all the people I assist to find employment, I have never come across anyone who is unable to tell me they can’t lift more that 20lbs or they can’t sit or stand for long periods of time.  In fact, more often than not, they are more willing to tell me about their limitations more so than they are to say “I can type 100wpm” or “I have a Masters Degree in Economics.”  They tell me about their limitations because they don’t know how to tell the employer. 

Why is that?

They tell me because they are afraid that by disclosing they have a limitation, it will limit their chances to get the job.  This shouldn’t even be a factor in whether or not they get the job!  I have found that some employers will use a person’s disability as a “risk” factor and while in some situations it is warranted, (i.e.; A person who is blind operating a forklift) overall, if the person is able to perform 90% of the job and needs accommodation for the other 10% then what is the issue?  The real issue is the employer’s perception of potential risk and fear of taking on a person who asks for help, needs accommodation or maybe they feel burdened by the possibility of carving a position in such a way that the person can be successful and even beneficial to the company as a whole.

Accommodation is not just for people with disabilities; people without disabilities ask for accommodations all the time.  They want time off for kids, for illness, for medical appointments, for family or they want their education reimbursed or flex time…these all cost money, time and manpower for the employer but yet many employers accommodate these requests regularly.  A person with a disability is asking for a different type of accommodation in most cases; it could include things like accessible washrooms, an ergonomic chair, an assistive technology for their computer such as Zoom Text or scanning technology, maybe it is just a stool to sit down on while they operate the cash register or the ability to use a texting device in order to communicate.

These things are not unreasonable requests but still, some employers find “risk” or “reason” to not employ someone with a disability over all of the reasons they should, or at the very least, to consider that the benefits of hiring someone with a disability may far exceed the risks involved.  

How So?

I can give a list of reasons starting with

  • Willingness to work hard and achieve results both professionally and personally
  • Loyalty & Dedication
  • Determination to succeed
  • Eagerness to learn and be challenged by new opportunities
  • Sharing knowledge and teaching others
  • Openness to be part of a team
  • Adding diversity and inclusion to the workplace
  • Promoting a healthy culture and establishing acceptance among peers

 This list is by no means all inclusive but most definitely a good starting point when deciding whether to hire someone with a disability.  Fear or perception of risk is legitimate; however, the benefits of hiring someone who may need accommodations to perform the job isn’t a risk at all, but rather an opportunity to add qualified talent to the workforce.  

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