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Hiring Students with Disabilities

Please note that the information provided below should be used for informational purposes only; it is NOT a substitute for professional legal advice

Employing Workers With Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the third largest population group in the United States is people with disabilities. This population’s size is larger than that of Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, Generation X, and teens. Tapping into the disability candidate poll means ensuring that it is represented in your workforce. Hiring employees with disabilities can aid businesses in understanding and meeting the needs of that consumer base. In addition, an inclusive workforce gives a competitive advantage by adding new ideas and approaches. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides  information on your responsibilities related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as an employer.

The following information is aimed at encouraging prospective employers to consider including candidates with disabilities in their recruiting strategy. 

Hiring Practices

Engineering Career Services can work to help you recruit students based on your individual company’s needs. Please contact us to discuss your options!

Hiring processes should attract and determine the candidate with the best combination of skills and attributes for the particular position. Making sure that all qualified applicants—including those with disabilities—can be part of the process is important in achieving that goal. The Employer Assistance & Resource Network through the Viscardi Center is a great resource for companies interested in maintaining an inclusive workforce and hiring employees with disabilities.

When writing job descriptions focus on the essential functions. Provide a thorough breakdown of physical requirements and state the preferred schedule and number of hours worked per week. If there is room for flexibility, such as working from home or flexible work hours, include that in the description. Being clear about requirements from the beginning will help you avoid difficult future conversations.

Utilize ECS and the Office of Student Life Disability Services at OSU. Also, try to target the specific population through recruitment services, such as the Workforce Recruitment Program through the Office of Disability Employment Policy, that screen and aid in the employment of people with disabilities.

It is good practice to ensure that application forms, employment offices and interview locations are accessible to those with a variety of disabilities. If there is a technical test of ability, inform the candidate beforehand so they can request reasonable accommodations. The ADA prohibits asking disability-related questions before making a job offer. Visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy website for more tips on interviewing (see additional resources on reverse side).

Hiring and Orientation:
Provide the necessary tools and discuss reasonable accommodations and accessibility. Encourage a company culture that is proactive about diversity training and connect new hires through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

Workplace Accommodations

The workforce also benefits from encouraging a work environment that is conducive to the retention of all skilled, qualified workers through effective job accommodations for those with disabilities. Those with disabilities may or may not need workplace accommodations. If an employee requests an accommodation, you should discuss what is needed and ensure that assigned tasks can be effectively performed. If a worker does not request an accommodation, but you are aware that he or  she has a disability and reasonably believe they may need an accommodation, it is appropriate to inquire.

There are a wide range of disabilities covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its amendments; these can include physical, learning, and psychological. Therefore, accessibility in the workplace also includes a range of contexts, such as physical, technological, electronic, information, and attitudinal access.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is hiring workers with disabilities expensive and time consuming?
No. Not all workers with disabilities require accommodations; but for people who do, making accommodations is usually easy and inexpensive. Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reports the average accommodation costs less than $500 and 54% of workplace accommodations cost nothing. Such accommodations can include scheduling flexibility, dress code, and allowing the worker to sit or stand when other positions may be customary. In fact, when accommodations are made, companies earn an average return of $28.69 for every dollar they invest. There are also tax deductions and credits available for those committed to inclusive awareness and hiring practices. For example, The Architectural/ Transportation Tax Deduction: IRS Code Section 190 permits a tax deduction of up to $15,000 each year for expenses incurred to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Employing people with disabilities impacts retention and training costs in a positive way. Retention rates among people with disabilities are higher than average, thus reducing training costs. There is a misconception that employees with disabilities will use more sick leave, and therefore be less productive. However, reports show that employees with disabilities have the same absentee and sick rates and are rated as average or above average in performance quality.

Will my business healthcare costs increase if I employ people with disabilities?
Having a disability does not necessarily make a person sick or require constant medical attention. But, even if a person with a disability had higher medical costs than others they would likely have a minimal impact on a company’s insurance premium. In a survey of human resource managers by Cornell University, it was found that companies’ health, life and disability insurance costs rarely rise due to hiring employees with disabilities. Therefore, it is important to inform yourself and your employees in order to dispel stereotypes and misunderstandings that may be pervasive in the workplace.

Do people with disabilities have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for my company’s positions?
There are 2.3 million working age adults with disabilities who hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the American Community Survey (ACS). There are an additional 2.2 million currently in college, and many others have vocational training and previous relevant work experience

What should I do if an employee discloses a disability?
Your company’s Human Resources Department may have specific guidelines to follow, so be sure to consult with them first. If an employee discloses a disability to you it is appropriate to inquire if they need an accommodation to effectively preform the tasks of their position. Employees may disclose a disability and a need for accommodation in different ways; consult your HR Department on how to recognize a request. A discussion may take place between the employee and HR; utilize JAN resources to come up with ideas for reasonable accommodations.