It’s natural for your hiring managers and employees to have questions about your company’s disability employment initiative—everything from why you’re interested in hiring people with disabilities in the first place, to how those employees will integrate. Here, we’ve listed—and answered—12 common questions.

Q: Why would a business hire a person with a disability?

A: Companies should hire the most qualified candidate they can find to meet the job requirements and business needs of the position they’re seeking to fill.

Although it’s sometimes assumed that people with disabilities don’t perform as well as those without disabilities, this isn’t true. In fact, people with disabilities have been shown to perform at the same rate—or better—than their peer employees without disabilities. (Want proof? Read about Walgreens’ success.)

Q: Will people with disabilities be able to keep up with our work requirements and safety standards?

A: Yes; all employees are expected to be able to achieve and maintain performance requirements and safety standards.

Successful hiring initiatives targeted at recruiting employees with disabilities are built on high expectations and a belief—based on demonstrated success—in the value of people with disabilities in the workforce. They don’t sacrifice productivity or quality of services for candidates or applicants who don’t meet the required performance standards. In short, businesses hire people with disabilities to fill positions with loyal, productive and successful employees. It has nothing to do charity—it’s a business investment.

Q: Will a person with a disability need more training to get up to speed on the job?

A: Everyone has a different learning style; while some employees may get up to speed very quickly, others may require a little more guidance and structure suited to their learning style.

To assist employees who may need more training (and not overburden) team leads or coworkers, the agencies we have partnered with will provide dedicated, temporary job coaching that will fade out as employees get up to speed on the job.

Q: Is it expensive to provide accommodations for people with disabilities?

A: Not necessarily.

Although accommodations are specific to the needs of each individual and the job requirement, most accommodations are relatively inexpensive. In fact, according to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), the accommodation cost reported by businesses show that:

  • 20% of accommodations cost nothing at all
  • 50% of the accommodations cost less than $500
  • 80% cost less than $1,000
  • Only 9% of reported accommodations cost between $2,000 and $5,000 with only 3% costing more than $5,000.

And the process of choosing an accommodation should be a collaborative process with the employee requesting one; there are often more affordable and equally effective accommodations that may be found with some creative thinking.

Q: What about accommodations that are more expensive than the average accommodation?

A: For small businesses (those making a maximum of $1 million in revenue or that have 30 or fewer full-time employees, including subcontractors), there is a tax credit to cover 50% of expenditures over $250 and not exceeding $10,250.

Q: Are there additional tax credits available for employers who hire people with disabilities?

A: Yes, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (aka WOTC) provides employers with a tax credit up to 40% of the first $6,000 of first-year wages of a new employee who identifies as a person with a disability (a maximum of $2,400 per employee).

Newly hired employees who identify as a person with a disability must be certified as a person with a disability by the appropriate government agencies. The credit is available after the person has worked more than 120 hours or 90 days.

Note: Employers can sometimes use nonprofit partners to create processes for the identification and submission of employer tax credit claims via Form 5885. Work Opportunity Credit (PDF)

Q: I have never worked with someone with a disability before. How will it be different?

A: People with disabilities are just like anyone else—and in many cases you won’t even be aware of a person’s disability, as 95% of disabilities are not visible.

Q: I have heard that some organizations hire people with disabilities and pay them less; is this what we’re going to do?

A: No. Inclusive employers pay all employees a competitive wage.

The people with disabilities that are hired under this program will make the same wages and have the same benefits as their coworkers, as they are also expected to perform at an equal or greater standard than coworkers without disabilities.

Q: What is Section 503, and how does it relate to compliance?

A: Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that exceed $10,000, and contracts or subcontracts for indefinite quantities (unless the purchaser has reason to believe that the cost in any one year will not exceed $10,000), to take affirmative steps to hire, retain and promote qualified individuals with disabilities.

The regulations implementing Section 503 make clear that this obligation to take affirmative steps includes the duty to refrain from discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities.

Q: What should I know before interviewing a candidate with a disability?

A: Be proactive in allowing the candidate to provide you with any information they feel relevant. In general, best practice is to make sure all candidates, regardless of perceived disability status, have the opportunity to inform a hiring manager or interviewer of any accommodations they may need during an interview.

For more specific information on best practices and learnings in regards to interviewing job-seekers with disabilities, see Disability Solutions’ The Positive Interviewing Strategy.

Q: Can an employer legally ask a candidate or employee about their disability?

A: Employers may not ask a candidate or employee directly or indirectly if they have a disability.

However, as a result of federal regulations (Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act), employers are now encouraged to invite candidates to disclose a disability before and after a job offer has been made or accepted. Employers can invite potential and current employees to self-identify that they are a person with a disability by clearly informing them that they are welcome to do so on application materials, during the interview process, or through surveys and questionnaires after an offer has been made or an employee has started work.

Self-identification is completely voluntary, and it’s important to note that inviting potential or current employees to self-identify does not conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Simply put, Section 503 encourages employers to invite potential or current employees to disclose the existence of a disability while the ADA prohibits employers from asking candidates direct questions in regards to the existence of a disability before making a job offer (i.e., the pre-offer period). Learn more about job applicants and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Q: Why should current employees take part in disability etiquette or training workshops?

A: Current employees may have questions or misperceptions about people with disabilities or about a company’s reasons for recruiting from the disability community. These questions may go unasked due to employee concerns about appearing uninformed or offending their new coworkers.

It’s important to not only give current employees the space to talk openly about their concerns, but to also learn basic disability etiquette. Additionally, the more confident and comfortable employees feel about their company’s disability employment hiring initiative, the better the experience will be for new hires, who will benefit from entering a workforce in which inclusion is a core value.

Even companies who have not yet implemented disability inclusion programs should provide disability etiquette and training workshops; after all, nearly 20% of the US population has a disability – their coworkers and customers are already people with disabilities, whether they know it or not.

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