The month of October is Disability Awareness and Employment Month, raising awareness nationally about disability employment issues. The theme for 2013 is “Because we are EQUAL to the Task.”
There are many obstacles to gainful employment when a potential or current worker has a disability. Through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and assistive technology, employment has improved creating new and exciting opportunities. “Reasonable accommodations” is a term used with the issues involving employment for people disability.
A reasonable accommodation is a device, tool, or process allowing individual with a disability to compete with all potential hires. What follows is a sample of resources that make the possibility of being employed a reality.
Disability and Employment
It is a natural fit for the business sector and disability community to end the gap in employment opportunities. The reality is that hiring an individual with a disability is a good business decision and it is a realistic goal for both the employer and employee.
Seventy percent of disabled Americans want to work full-time, but only about 21 percent do, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Resources can increase those numbers. A typical small business can obtain more than $20,000 in tax credits and savings on training if it hires a disabled employee while also gaining good will, said Barbara A. Otto, chief executive of Health & Disability Advocates.
Hiring an individual with a disability has been proven over the years to be a good hiring decision. Other benefits include less-tangible but still-important ones such as higher retention and productivity, gaining access to new markets, and improved customer loyalty and brand trust.
People with a disability have fewer accidents and workplace injuries, reducing workers’ compensation costs. Days off because of illness or medical appointments are fewer than the general working population. Productivity is higher for all types of employment situations and turnover is less frequent, reducing training costs.
Striving for Employment through Assistive Technology
Assistive technology offers the possible benefits of more independence and job options. IT allows a person to change possibilities into realities.
The word “technology” may have people thinking a device has to be complex, but much assistive technology is simple. It is defined as is not only a technical device but any kind of adaptation or a system to achieve a goal. It is a continuum of tools from no tech to low-tech to high-tech. A pencil can illustrate assistive technology as it is a tool that allows you to write, which without a pencil it would be difficult to remember everything.
Assistive technology includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. It promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing. It provides enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. Every corner of life can be enhanced by using the right type of device or technique. According to the Job Accommodations Network, 50% of utilized assistive technology is free or less than $20. There are 100 million people with disabilities globally.
The prevalence of disabilities in America has made an impact on society.
• Of the estimated 54 million Americans living with a disability, 20 percent are employed or seeking employment.
• People with disabilities bring valuable skills to the workforce. For example, more than 600,000 scientists and engineers currently employed in the United States have disabilities.
• Some of the top innovators in the United States have disabilities, including the chief executive officers of Ford Motor Company, Apple, Xerox, and Turner Television.
The next Assistive Technology column will highlight the work of Cummins Engineering.