Disabilities are not just physical in nature. Neurodiverse individuals are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Neurodivergence includes autism spectrum disorders, neurodevelopmental disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and Tourette syndrome. Also included are mental health disabilities such as schizophrenia and depression, and acquired differences in the brain such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.
Author and disability expert, Haley Moss, debunks some of the most commonly held myths about disabled people in the workplace:
- MYTH: Hiring disabled people decreases profits and productivity. FACT: A diverse staff that includes people with disabilities may be a huge asset to any company or organization. A 2018 study showed that companies that supported disabled workers outperformed others, with greater profitability and shareholder returns.
- MYTH: Disabled people are unreliable. People with learning disabilities are easily distracted, unfocused, and lazy. Medical appointments and the need for special accommodations prevent physically disabled people from being as productive as other workers. FACT: On balance, accommodations and medical appointments tend to be minimal, and disabled workers are just as committed to performing well as any other employee. Letting employees take care of their needs leads to high morale, which may result in increased productivity.
- MYTH: Hiring people with disabilities requires huge costs for accommodations. FACT: Accommodations for people with disabilities usually come at no cost to an employer, and have been shown to produce benefits that outweigh expenses. An autistic worker may only ask to bring their own earbuds to work to drown out background noise. According to a Job Accommodation Network (JAN) survey that was funded by a contract from the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), 56 percent of accommodations for disabled workers are cost-free, and those paid for by the hiring company typically cost $500.
- MYTH: The challenges of having disabled people on staff outweigh the benefits. FACT: With varied experiences come a variety of viewpoints that enrich internal conversations and help companies grow to meet the needs of a diverse customer base. Opening the door to people with disabilities greatly increases the pool of talented professionals to hire from.
- MYTH: Neurodiverse employees have poor social skills that will disrupt company culture and negatively impact customer relations. FACT: Neurodiverse individuals are regularly hired into customer-facing positions at many grocery stores and in other establishments. By having faith in the public’s ability to interface with a neurodiverse staff member, you may open the door to improved customer relations; hiring disabled people is shown to improve (rather than diminish) public opinion of a company. Other roles within a company may not stress social skills, but optimize other talents such as software engineering skills, that are frequently found in neurodiverse individuals.
Neurodiverse individuals are already in the workforce, often afraid to disclose their disability for fear of prejudice and stigma. Creating a more inclusive work culture will boost morale among disabled employees and can nurture talents in workers who are already on staff. “Those perceived deficits are rooted in ableism,” says Haley. “Many differences in neurodiverse staff can be accommodated and supported if companies commit to taking care of their people. All people have strengths and weaknesses, some are just more visible than others.”
From WCI's HR Answers Now ©2021 CCH Incorporated and its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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