Over the past 32 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has guided employers on how to diversify their workforces by hiring and accommodating disabled employees. Educating employees and managers about ADA requirements, addressing unconscious bias and removing barriers to team member success are steps all organizations can take to foster a disability-friendly work culture.
Hiring people with disabilities can bring a wide range of skills, talents, qualifications and abilities to an organization. With increased hiring demands, people with disabilities are capable of being productive team members that help organizations build a diverse workforce that reflects the communities and customers they serve.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 4 adults have a disability that can be physical, cognitive or invisible to others, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, autism, epilepsy, arthritis, deafness or difficulty hearing, mental illnesses of other medical conditions. A disability does not mean a person is unable to perform a task or do a job. It only means that they face certain limitations or challenges.
What is the ADA?
The ADA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990, to protect people with visible and invisible disabilities from discrimination. The law covers all aspects of employment, from recruiting, hiring, firing, pay, promotions, job assignments, training, leave and benefits, and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
The ADA bans discriminatory questions on job applications, required medical examinations before a job offer and provides greater accessibility by requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees and job applicants. In addition, the ADA makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees or applicants who assert their rights under the law or speak out against disability discrimination.
Employers that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act can be subject to an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and civil damages.
Recruiting and Hiring Job Candidates
To attract qualified candidates, employers should mention in job postings that the role is open to all, including those with disabilities. The ADA prohibits potential employers from asking on a job application form or during an interview if an applicant is disabled or about the severity of the disability. Questions must pertain to the applicant’s ability to perform essential job-related functions.
Making Reasonable Accommodations
Under the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to make the work environment accessible to disabled job applicants and employees, unless it would impose an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a person with a disability to participate in the application process or perform essential job functions.
Examples include providing written materials in accessible formats such as large print, braille or audio tape, installing a ramp or modifying a workspace or restroom, providing screen reader software, providing sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings and events, adjusting work schedules, and allowing a service animal in the workplace.
Creating an Inclusive Work Environment
Like all employees, individuals with disabilities want to feel accepted and respected at work. However, Cogentica, a disability advocacy and research firm, found that almost 93% of individuals responding to a 2021 survey admitted to harboring prejudices against disabled individuals.
To combat disability bias, it’s important for employees and managers to take ongoing unconscious bias training to dispel stereotypes and prevent microaggressions — subtle remarks about a staff member’s condition — from creating a hostile workplace where an employee feels uncomfortable, unsafe or intimidated at work.
When managers and employees understand what constitutes disability discrimination and bias, they are more likely to prevent it from happening. Ongoing workforce training on ADA requirements protects the rights of people with disabilities and helps ensure that organizations adopt inclusive hiring practices, provide workplace accessibility and foster a culture of acceptance and respect.
Access a free trial of Traliant’s Americans with Disabilities Act course: