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Disability Action Center NW

Companies Value Disability Employment But Hiring Practices Fall Short, Survey Finds

Companies generally understand the importance of hiring individuals with disabilities, but few are making efforts to do so, according to a new survey of employers.

The poll of 411 human resource officials and company executives conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability found that while most companies report hiring someone with a disability in the last three years, those workers continue to make up just a small percentage of employees. In fact, 43 percent of managers did not know how many of their staff members had disabilities, but of those who offered an estimate, the average was 3 percent.

What’s more, the survey found that fewer than 1 in 5 companies have programs to help employees learn to work with people who have disabilities.

“These numbers are disappointing,” said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll and member of the National Organization on Disability board. “Much work remains to be done in order to improve these numbers. We need employers and the disability community to work together to take action on both sides.”

Despite the findings, limited hiring of people with disabilities does not appear to be rooted in concerns about higher cost, work ethic or ability. Most employers reported that the cost to hire an employee with a disability was no different than any other hire and that employees with disabilities exhibit similar skills, dedication and turnover rates as workers in general.

The survey results come amid a new push to emphasize employment of Americans with disabilities during October, which President Barack Obama designated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

According to the latest employment figures from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 15.6 percent in August compared to 9.3 percent for the general population.