Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities to enable them to perform their job duties effectively and safely. Additionally, employers must ensure that their facilities are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that forbids individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against in all areas of public life, including employment, transportation, and public and private places open to the general public.
The Reality of Disabled Employment
Despite the protections provided by the ADA, many organizations are still struggling to accommodate workers with disabilities and make their workplaces more inclusive. For example, a 2022 report from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission showed that only 19% of working-age people with a disability had a job.
There are several potential reasons for this gap in disabled employment, but some likely stem from misconceptions. Some employers might have an unconscious bias because they may believe people with disabilities are not qualified or require expensive accommodations.
Several studies have shown that employees with disabilities are not absent any more than employees without disabilities, and many workers with disabilities require no special accommodations or their need for accommodations are much less than employers perceive.
But the level of accommodations should not be the focus, say critics. Instead, the focus should be on how to provide people with disabilities with all the tools and resources they need to be effective in their roles. Just because their required accommodations might differ from what other employees need doesn’t mean they are not just as effective at their jobs.
The Benefits of Accommodating Workers with Disabilities
Accommodating disabled workers in the workplace can bring many benefits beyond just meeting legal requirements or avoiding potential litigation risks.
For starters, creating a welcoming environment where disabled workers feel valued and respected can lead to improved morale among all employees. When people see how far their company is willing to go to make their workplace more inclusive, they often feel a greater sense of loyalty and connection with the organization.
Accommodating people with disabilities also improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, and increases retention — all of which can lead to cost savings.
In a global economy where talent is scarce, employers must look for every advantage. Accommodating workers with disabilities allows employers to tap into a larger talent pool and gain access to skilled workers.
How Can Employers Accommodate Disabled Workers?
Some examples of accommodations could be providing additional support or technology assistance, adjusting work hours or tasks to accommodate limitations, or creating a flexible working environment that allows for remote work opportunities.
To close the disability employment gap, employers need to recognize ableism and create an inclusive environment for all job seekers. This includes providing reasonable accommodations, offering training opportunities, and creating a culture of acceptance and understanding.
Organizations like the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) provide education and resources to help employers understand how to hire people with disabilities and create an inclusive workplace.
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This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.