The Employer's Perspective

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Video Presentation


This section and the accompanying videotape presentation and handout speak to the issues of access to, and benefits of, work-based learning activities from the employer's perspective.

It's difficult to find and retain qualified employees. Many companies report that their number one problem is locating talented workers. This is especially true in the information technology industry where a shortage of about ten thousand workers is reported annually. Recruitment of quality employees comes at a high cost. Many employers have found that identifying talented people before they graduate from college is one way to gain an edge in recruiting. Internship and cooperative education programs are used to develop pools of individuals from which they may ultimately hire.

A college work-based learning experience gives an employer and a student opportunities to "test each other out" and determine if they make a good match, saving the company time and money in recruitment efforts. It also gives a company an opportunity to participate in a potential employee's training and, when the student has a disability, allows the student and employer to test different worksite accommodations.

Corporate success depends on attracting the best minds and that means focusing on ability. However, many people are nervous around people with disabilities. They're afraid they'll say or do the wrong thing. Many employers have not had opportunities to interact with people with disabilities and are not aware of the alternative methods they use to complete standard tasks. It is necessary to look beyond initial perceptions of the capabilities of people with disabilities and allow them, like any other applicant or employee, to demonstrate their ability to perform specific tasks.

In a world where technology is a necessary aspect of almost every business, physical ability is seldom a limitation. Intellect and technical capability are the critical success factors. Assistive technology and other accommodations make it possible for people with disabilities to be competitive in today's labor market. But, they are often not given a chance to prove their worth to potential employers. It is estimated that 73.9% of working-age adults with severe disabilities are unemployed (SIPP, 1994). People with disabilities represent a greatly underutilized labor pool.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires that employers with fifteen or more employees make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for employees with disabilities. Accommodations are to be made on a case-by-case basis and frequently cost less than the employer expects. Dan Hodge, Recruitment Manager for AirTouch Cellular™ (now Verizon Wireless), remarked that, "the cost of making accommodations for a student or for an employee are much less than we ever anticipate they are going to be. And, typically, the accommodations are easy for us to make." In fact, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a toll-free service that advises businesses and individuals about accommodations, reports that fifty-one percent of all accommodations cost five-hundred dollars or less. The following chart outlines common costs of accommodations.

Cost of Accommodations Percentage
0 20%
$1 - $500 51%
$501 - $1,000 11%
$1,001 - $1,500 3%
$1,501 - $2,000 3%
$2,001 - $5,000 8%
$5,000+ 4%

Companies reported a return of $28.69 in benefits for every dollar spent on accommodations (Office of Disability Employment Policy [ formerly President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilitiess]). In fact, there are two tax credit programs available to assist with workplace accommodations. The Disabled Access Tax Credit is a credit available to small businesses. It gives a fifty percent credit for expenditures over $250 that don't exceed $10,250. The maximum benefit is $5,000. The Architectural Barrier Tax Deduction allows businesses to deduct up to $15,000 of the costs incurred to remove physical barriers. To obtain more information about these programs, and to determine eligibility contact The Office of Chief Counsel, IRS. See the Employment Resources section for contact information.

How Do Employers Determine Appropriate Accommodations? Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with a known disability. The employee must notify the employer of his/her disability and may also be required to provide documentation.

Employers should always consult with the student or employee first when determining appropriate accommodations. It is also helpful to break the process down into the following four steps:

  1. What does the task or assignment require?
  2. What physical, sensory and cognitive skills are needed?
  3. What components of the task require accommodation?
  4. What accommodation options exist?

Later in this notebook is a more detailed description of the Four-Step Accommodation Model.

Employers are not required to guess or initiate the conversation regarding the provision of reasonable accommodations. A pre-employment inquiry about a disability or medical condition may not be made by the employer prior to a job offer. This includes asking the question on pre-employment questionnaires or written application forms. Employers may only ask questions regarding the applicant's ability to perform job-related functions.

Campus Disabled Student Services (DSS), the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), and other community resources, such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), may also be able to assist businesses and employees as they work to determine accommodations. Consult your local telephone directory and the Employment Resources section of this notebook for information on how to contact these agencies.

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Where Can Employers find Interns and Employees with Disabilities?

The first step in attracting applicants with disabilities is as simple as adding a statement outlining an interest in receiving applications from a diverse group of applicants, including those with disabilities, to a company's existing recruitment materials. Next, an employer can disseminate announcements in a variety of settings and formats (print, TV, radio, World Wide Web).

On college campuses, there are several offices that can assist employers with recruitment efforts. Contact colleges, universities, and technical schools directly to inquire about these possibilities. Career Services offices and Cooperative Education programs are used to working with employers and assisting them with locating talented student interns. Businesses can work with these offices to expand recruitment efforts to college students with disabilities.

Academic departments are often aware of specific students who might be good matches for particular positions and business environments. Establishing contacts with college faculty and staff can assist recruiters in locating skilled employees.

Campus Disabled Student Services and Access offices (under many different names) provide academic accommodations to students and staff with disabilities. Many offices have newsletters and e-mail discussion groups for their students. Employers should ask if they can advertise job and internship openings through these established methods of communication.

Each state's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Services for the Blind, Employment Security, and Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities or equivalent agency can also provide referrals for qualified candidates.

Local communities often have a number of agencies that serve people with disabilities as they pursue employment opportunities. They are listed in local telephone directories.

By advertising available positions in a variety of locations the employer will attract diverse applicants, including people with disabilities.