Ensuring people with disabilities are included in the workplace

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Experts reveal practical implications of the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives

Researchers from the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD), have created a new article that describes the practices that employers use to facilitate the inclusion of employees with disabilities in their workplaces.

The article, “The effectiveness of employer practices to recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities: Supervisor perspectives”, was published by the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.

The guidance is based on initial findings from the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives (KFNEDS: SP) and is the first national survey to examine the effectiveness of the processes and practices used by employers to include people with disabilities in their workplaces, from the unique perspective of supervisors of employees with disabilities.

The 2017 survey, which was based on a Qualtrics business-to-business panel, comprised 6,530 supervisors at U.S. organisations with a minimum of 25 employees. Most respondents had experience with disability, either personally or through a close relationship, and many had hired and supervised workers with disabilities.

Analysing the effectiveness of inclusivity

Information elicited included the existence of employment-related processes (e.g., recruiting process), whether these processes were effective, and comparison of the effectiveness of these processes for people with and without disabilities.

Several questions measured the supervisors’ commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in their organisation, and their view of the commitment of their upper management.

The survey questions revealed whether organisations had specific employment practices in place, and if so, whether they were effective. If a practice was not in place, supervisors were asked whether they felt it would be feasible to implement it. Supervisors also answered open-ended questions about processes and practices at their organisation and the potential challenges and successes for their implementation for employees with disabilities.

Gateway for improvement

Among the survey’s findings were processes and practices that were effective for people with disabilities but are underutilised by organisations.

Dr Phillips, research assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire said: “For example, partnering with a disability organisation was identified as a highly effective way to identify qualified candidates,

“However, only 28.5% of organisations had implemented this as a means of recruiting employees with disabilities. Interestingly, 75% of supervisors said this would be feasible for their organisation to implement.”

Other effective, but underused practices were auditing of hiring practices, supervisor training in ensuring accessible application and interview methods, job shadowing, onsite training, and job sharing.

The survey revealed that the commitment of upper management mirrored the attitudes of supervisors and was reflected in the organisation’s hiring goals for people with disabilities.

Dr O’Neill, director of Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation explained: “Our findings underscore the importance of the commitment of upper management to an inclusive workplace,

“The greater the commitment, the greater the support for supervisors, and the more likely we are to see the successful inclusion of employees with disabilities.”

The authors of the research article include Kimberly G. Phillips, PhD, and Andrew Houtenville, PhD, of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, and John O’Neill, PhD, and Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, of Kessler Foundation.

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