About 85 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities aren’t working. This high number stands in stark contrast to Larimer County’s low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent (April 2015, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, data shows that hiring employees with those disabilities is good for the bottom line. For instance, 92 percent of consumers favor businesses that hire individuals with disabilities.
Despite the numbers, barriers still stand in the way of preventing such people from finding meaningful employment.
Stereotypically, employers assume that employees with disabilities, including intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be absent often, may cause safety concerns, and may not complete their work in a timely fashion. Additionally, employers also assume that accommodations may be expensive.
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However, the data simply doesn’t back those assumptions up. Studies show that employees with I/DD and other disabilities have similar attendance and safety records of their peers.
Additionally, studies show that about half of accommodations made by employers cost nothing. Employers hear about accommodations or the Americans with Disabilities Act and freeze up, but there are tools out there to give employers ideas for accommodations as well as funding resources to pay for some accommodations that have a cost associated with them.
However, staying in compliance with the ADA isn’t just about rules and regulations; it’s also about making a good business decision that brings financial benefits to your company, your employees and your community. When given the opportunity, people with I/DD become integral and reliable employees in a wide range of positions such as medical records, data entry, cashiers, prep cooks, care providers, shelf stockers and many more.
Finding a position for an individual with I/DD at your company is easier than you think. Most businesses have tasks that are complex yet systematic in nature. These are the tasks that slow employees down and seem to pile up over time, but are still essential. These tasks hold back your employees from doing the technical function of their position as well as increase employee turnover. Hiring an employee with I/DD to focus and these complex and systematic tasks can lower turnover and increase your systems’ efficiencies.
How does that work?
Consider Dillon Wayman. Dillon was hired by Jeff Sutton, building services manager, facilities management at Colorado State University. Like a growing number of employers in Larimer County, Jeff’s first employee with a known disability, Dillon, started out as an intern through the Poudre School District’s vocational program, Project SEARCH. The internship was a success, and Dillon soon was hired on 40 hours/week with full benefits.
Originally, Dillon was cataloguing janitorial equipment across campus, which was no simple task. Recently, however, he was instead put in charge of washing all the laundry produced by custodial staff at CSU. Dillon has told me that he enjoys being part of a larger team and knowing that people depend on him performing timely work. He also recognizes that his job allows CSU custodial teams to be more efficient.
Jeff, on the other hand, has noticed that he doesn’t have to worry about the reliability of Dillon. But Jeff says it goes further than reliability. He tells me on a regular basis that Dillon shows up with a good attitude.
In the next few months, Dillon plans to find his own apartment with a high school friend. Thanks to his full-time employment, this dream can become a reality.
According to author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote “Outliers,” People “are successful not just because of their own efforts. It’s because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances – and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds – and how many of us succeed – than we think.”
It takes an employer like you to make the decision to give Dillon an opportunity to succeed. Your motivated workforce is waiting.
Marilee Boylan is executive director of The Arc of Larimer County. She can be reached at 970-204-6991 or via email at email@example.com.