Empowering People Through Advocacy

October 2021
A monthly publication from our Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist,
Patrick Ober, J.D., Ph.D.
Hello again, CILO supporters and Disability Advocates! Below is our monthly highlight of advocacy and policy issues to know and learn about related to people with disabilities and independent living.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! For this month, we at CILO want to highlight for you all some of the ways that people with disabilities can and should be hired and employed by businesses, organizations, and companies. Through the last year, more and more employers are struggling with employee turnover or unable to find people willing and able to work jobs necessary to keep their business operating. This month is a great opportunity to learn a bit more about how the business you own or work in can benefit from the amazing work ethic, drive, and results that can come from employees with disabilities.

What employers should know about hiring people with different types of disabilities.

More and more people with disabilities are entering and graduating from college programs and are entering the job market and are ready to work.

College used to be a difficult dream for many students with disabilities to realize. It was not their fault: Historically, “colleges were not ready for them, and many people believed they could not function there.” Luckily, over the years (and with the help of countless advocates like Ed Roberts, who we highlighted in last month’s AFI Newsletter) higher education is becoming an opportunity more and more young adults with disabilities can access. This also means that more and more young adults with disabilities are receiving the educational and practical skills to excel in many different jobs and careers.

College programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have also increased immensely over the years. According to Think College, there are currently at least 308 colleges across the nation that offer on-campus transition programs for students with IDD. That’s up from just 25 such programs in 2004. And these programs are increasing employment rates: According to a 2017 survey, “Nearly two thirds of students who completed a college program for people with IDD (61%) had a paid job one year after they finished the program, compared to 17% of adults with developmental disabilities in the general population who had a paid job in 2014–2015.”

Data shows that employing people with disabilities is good for the company in MANY ways:

Enough with the patronizing perceptions of disability in statements like “hiring someone with a disability is ‘nice of you’” or a “feel-good story” for the business: people with disabilities make a company MORE money and create a BETTER workplace culture!

Business consulting firm Accenture found in a 2018 study that of 140 companies across the globe, the 45 that were identified as leaders in disability employment and inclusive practices had “28 percent higher revenue, double the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than the other companies.” What’s more, companies also save tremendous costs in the long run by hiring people with disabilities:

  • Job turnover is a HUGE cost to a company. According to a DePaul University study, employees with disabilities in hospitality, retail, and other jobs stayed with their company longer, had fewer scheduled and unscheduled absences, and had nearly identical job performance ratings as employees without disabilities.

  • Many businesses and people have held the long-incorrect belief that providing accommodations for employees with disabilities is expensive, and those workers also require more time off or work less than employees without disabilities. Both could not be further from the truth! According to the Job Accommodation Network, a service from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, most workers with disabilities need no accommodations; of those that do, 58% of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500.

  • Many accommodation costs can also be offset by federal tax incentives for businesses that provide employment as well as reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

COVID-19 has given many businesses a great opportunity to employ people with disabilities they may not have even considered hiring before.

People with disabilities are very well-versed in living in a world that requires adaptation. For the rest of us, COVID-19 has forced people across the world to change the way they work, run errands, see friends and family, and engage with their communities. While some of those ways of life may return to the way they were before COVID, the change to remote or hybrid work has given many people with disabilities access to jobs and work opportunities that did not previously exist. As one person aptly described it, “For people whose disabilities make commuting difficult, getting into the office can feel like its own day of work.”

Businesses that want to invest and benefit from a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities must see this remote work structure not as a barrier, but as a window that has opened many new possibilities. “When set up the right way, I think we’re at a crossroads of a wonderful opportunity to allow the disabled community to be involved.” Remote work policies have shown to be sustainable and do not negatively impact the productivity of workers or companies; remote work policies create job accessibility for people with disabilities while also providing benefits to workers without disabilities. The reduction in overhead costs from office space needs can also be a big benefit to the business as well.

Resources Exist That Can Help You Learn How to Recruit, Employ, and Retain Workers with Disabilities

Ohio has many resources available for employers to help them understand how to recruit, interview, hire, and retain people with disabilities. For example, one great resource is through Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. OOD provides an "Inclusive Employer Toolkit" that includes fantastic materials to show employers and business leaders how to:

  • Create an accessible workplace;
  • Understand the different benefits of hiring people with disabilities;
  • Recruit, hire, and support workers with disabilities;
  • How to provide reasonable accommodations;
  • And more!

OOD is also offering a free training webinar for employers next week, October 20th, from 10:00-11:00am. Attendees will learn about the benefits of partnering with Ohio College2Careers Career Development Specialists for candidate recruitment and disability etiquette resources, examples of common reasonable accommodations, and who is responsible for providing them, and hear firsthand accounts from college students and recent graduates with disabilities.

Here at the Center for Independent Living Options, we are also able to assist anyone interested in learning more about how they or their business can promote diversity, equity, and inclusion of people with disabilities in employment. Please contact us if you would like to learn more!

Disability-Focused Legislative News to Follow

Earlier this summer, State Representative Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) introduced Ohio House Bill 352, which would prohibit courts and agencies from using someone's disability as a reason to deny parental rights. House Bill 352 states that it would prevent a court from using someone’s disability as a reason to deny them the ability to:

  • Exercise custody, parenting time, or visitation rights with a child;
  • Adopt a child;
  • Serve as a foster caregiver; and
  • Be appointed as a guardian for a minor.

While this legislation seems positive, some disability advocates have expressed concern with language in the bill that still appears to allow for someone’s disability to be counted against them. In particular, there is language in the bill states that a court can deny those rights if evidence is presented that a “person’s disability could have a detrimental impact on the child.” Language like this can be perceived as “ableist,” in that it presumes that someone’s disability can be harmful to a child and the person is less capable of being a good parent because of their disability. Someone’s disability should never be a reason to deny someone the right to have a family and raise children if they wish.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) has recently introduced legislation that would make important changes to the Supplemental Security Income program, or SSI. SSI is a Social Security program that provides income assistance to more than eight million Americans who are elderly or have a disability. SSI provides monthly payments to people that are unable or severely limited in their ability to work due to their disability. The average monthly benefit is just $585 for individuals, and the most people can get is $794. This money is not making anyone rich – it barely amounts to more than the minimum wage – but it does help millions of people be able to pay rent, utilities, food, and live independently instead of moving into nursing homes or care facilities.

However, in order to remain eligible for these payments, the person cannot have more than $2,000 in their savings at any time. These outdated rules have not been changed in over 30 years, and effectively penalize people or their families who try and save money for emergencies or establish insurance policies or trust funds to provide money for their children or siblings to pay for medical, health, and living costs. Senator Brown’s proposed bill, “the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act,” would increase the amounts of money people can save to up to $10,000, and also allow people to earn up to $399 a month from employment while still remaining eligible to receive SSI payments. This bill would not increase the money people receive through SSI – instead, it would allow those people to save money, make money through employment, and hopefully help lift some people with disabilities out of a “poverty trap” and into financially stable independence.


Please reach out with any comments or questions.

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