Acting on the idea that it is usually better to ask questions than to make assumptions, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) recently co-sponsored a business survey to identify and measure issues and perceptions about employing people with disabilities.
DEED collaborated with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Human Services, and the State Council on Disability to conduct the survey. The survey supports DEED’s continuing mission to promote the economic success of individuals, businesses, and communities by improving opportunities for growth.
More than 600 Minnesota employers responded to the survey earlier this year. The results indicate that the vast majority of businesses are open to hiring individuals with disabilities; however, few businesses actively seek out this population. Significant findings from the survey include the following:
The majority of employers thought that the costs of accommodations they spent were equal to or less than what they had anticipated, and that the benefits of providing accommodations outweighed the costs.
The majority of employers is ready to hire persons with disabilities, but would like to know more about services that facilitate such hiring, including those that provide employment supports.
Employers regard Work Force Centers as an asset, but employers want more information about services and how to utilize them. Most employers said “no” when asked if their employees with known disabilities required accommodations. However, when presented with a list of possible accommodations, 98 percent of employers have made at least one process accommodation and 93 percent have made at least one physical accommodation.
Employees with physical or sensory disabilities rated equal to or higher than their co-workers in similar positions on virtually all performance attributes.
Employers’ concerns focus around safety, insurance costs and unfamiliarity with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Minnesota’s participation rate of individuals with disabilities in the workforce ranks among the top four states—a testament to the integrity and intelligence of the businesses in our state,” said DEED Commissioner Matt Kramer. “However, an employment gap remains between capable persons who want to work, and the businesses that could benefit by employing them. Closing this gap represents an opportunity to assist the growth and prosperity of businesses and significantly enhance the quality of life of Minnesotans with disabilities.”
Part of DEED’s mission is to alleviate employers’ concerns and uncertainty about hiring individuals with disabilities by providing information and assistance to businesses to dispel the myths and misconceptions associated with employing individuals with disabilities. Appreciation, rather than discrimination, is the goal. More and more employers are discovering the extraordinary pool of talent that workers with disabilities represent.
“Understanding the business community’s perceptions about individuals with disabilities is crucial for our efforts to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the workforce,” said Kimberly Peck, DEED director of Rehabilitation Services. “The results of this survey will shape our recommendations for assisting businesses in employing individuals with disabilities. For example, we know from experience in other studies that people with disabilities actually have a slightly better safety record than all other workers, and that health, life, and accident insurance costs rarely increase due to hiring a person with a disability. So we need to do a better job disseminating this information to the business community.”
There are many success stories, like the story from Bryan Boesen, owner of Noble Parkway Mobil in Brooklyn Park. Boesen hired a person with a disability more than a year ago to operate the car wash area of his gas station/convenience store/auto service business. “[The employee] has turned out to be a very valuable asset,” said Boesen. “He is extremely dependable—always arriving before his scheduled start time. When shown his job duties, he does them exactly as he was shown. And it has been so great to see how his self-esteem has improved since starting his job here.”
Jeanne Fleming, human resource manager from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Minneapolis, also reports very positive and rewarding experiences with hiring individuals with disabilities. “Through the Minnesota WorkForce Centers, I have hired some individuals with the most positive attitudes I have ever seen,” said Fleming. “They contribute everyday to our organization and its customers. They have enhanced my life by just being around them! These fun-loving, hardworking, dedicated employees have met and beat the challenge in ‘physically challenged’!”
The complete findings of the survey can be viewed online at www.mnddc.org.
For information, guidance and resources about recruiting, incorporating, interacting and communicating with people with disabilities in your workplace go to www.deed.state.mn.us/rehab/adadiversity.htm or contact your nearest Work Force Center at 1-888-438-5627 (TTY 1-800-657-3973). For MN Relay dial 7-1-1.
Following are local contacts:
Anoka County: 763-785-3369
Dakota County: 651-554-6560
Fergus Falls: 218-739-7565
Grand Rapids: 218-723-4935
Hennepin County N: 763-536-6037
Hennepin County S: 952-346-4303
Intern’l Falls: 218-723-4935
Little Falls: 218-739-7565
Mpls (N): 612-302-7068
Mpls (S): 612-821-4060
North St. Paul: 651-649-5706
Park Rapids: 651-385-6336
St. Cloud: 320-255-4163
St. Paul – Downtown: 651-296-1464
St. Paul-Midway: 651-649-5705
Staples (HS): 218-894-5404
Thief River Falls: 218-281-6033
Washington County: 651-649-5706
Upon request, the information in this news release can be provided in an alternative format such as Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer disk.