Workforce Disabilities

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Disability is defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities”; and any employer with fifteen or more employees has to comply with the federal rules and regulations of the ADA (state laws can vary).

The world is shaped by people from all walks of life with different looks, likes, and lifestyles. The people that you pass on the street, that you see outside of your front door, and glance to at the gas station; those people are your customers. Shouldn’t your company be as diverse as the world around you?

However, we’re not talking about diversity as a whole (in this article), but specifically about disabilities.

Unfortunately there are unjustified stereotypes about having a disabled workforce; ranging from higher costs and increased supervision, to lower productivity and forced hiring.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Job Accommodations Network annual report, “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” which concludes “workplace accommodations not only are low cost, but also positively impact the workplace in many ways.” This report found that more than half of requested workplace accommodation cost absolutely nothing for the companies to implement. Some examples of these accommodations include scheduling flexibility, allowances in dress code rules or allowing somebody to sit (or stand) when other positioning is customary.

Employers reported that providing accommodations resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity. The report also found that other accommodations had an average cost of $500. How much is that cost compared to the cost of employee turnover? It is clearly much less expensive to provide the accommodation than to have an employee leave.

Regardless of the size of your company, and removing the term disabled; you already have employees who perform better than their peers. You have employees who need that additional supervision to keep them on track. An employee’s mental and physical condition doesn’t affect their ambitions to be there and to put in a solid day's work.

There are a lot of stereotypes about athletes (aka “jocks”), and everyone has heard at least one blonde joke, but by definition “jocks” and “blondes” should be considered disabled if the jokes were true. Is that fair? Should you not hire a blonde because they may cost more or have a lower productivity level compared to another employee?

At no point are we comparing people. We’re trying to highlight that each person unique and it is unfair to judge someone by a label or a stereotype. If a person is qualified and is able to do a job, then they should have the chance to do so.


April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

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