By Jessica Miller-Merrell

We will first define the word disability and discuss how HR professionals often associate employees with disabilities purely within the context of common employment laws like Americas with Disabilities Act.

Disabled workers in my experience are some of the most productive and with just a small amount of accommodation at companies I have worked at, I was able to make an impact for the employee and my team. Mind you, I worked in the private sector and where requirements where much different. Even so, I saw an immediate return on investment and the impact one individual can truly make on a team.

Whether you are a private company or a government entity, the benefits of hiring and retaining the disabled workforce is far reaching. The talent pool is an eager one. They are engaged and ready to put their skills to work and most importantly learn at your company.

According to ADA.gov, a qualified individual with a disability is:

A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Requiring the ability to perform “essential” functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation. If a written job description has been prepared in advance of advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will be considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the essential functions of the job.

Once you’ve successfully followed the definition of a ‘qualified individual with a disability’ it’s important to understand how to work them into your recruiting strategies to enhance your talent pool with these candidates. In a previous post we described six valuable disability recruiting and hiring resources that’ll help recruiters get a jumpstart on governmental resources that’ll help them hire stronger disabled candidates.

Benefits of hiring candidates with disabilities

Aside from practicing on an enhanced set of ethics and principals there are both branding and business benefits behind hiring those with disabilities.

Disabled workers tend to be more productive: According to a recent article in Salon, Walgreens stated that Americans with disabilities are the best workers that they hire. According to multiple studies conducted at Walgreen’s distribution centers shows that disabled workers are more efficient and loyal then nondisabled workers. Most can’t even tell the difference between who is who when it comes to working with a disabled workforce. The stigma is you’re disabled only if you’re noticeably disabled which isn’t the case for most disabilities.

Disabled workers allow companies several different tax breaks: For businesses that are looking for ways to reduce tax burdens, hiring disabled workers can offer a healthy option of tax benefits. For instance, making your workplace more accessible is a tax break in itself. Businesses are also able to qualify for an opportunity credit, which is widely available to companies that hire workers with special employment needs.

Companies who hire a disabled workforce are able to see numerous benefits from better employment branding, a more productive workplace, and tax relief.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s is the Chief Blogger & Founder of Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @jmillermerrell

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