Economics of Disability

4 ways disability affects how employers approach hiring

Marketplace Weekend Staff Jun 29, 2018
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[Image Description: An individual is sitting at a desk, searching through a newspaper's help wanted ads. They are wearing a brown jacket, and are holding a pen in one hand and a sheet of white paper in the other.] Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Economics of Disability

4 ways disability affects how employers approach hiring

Marketplace Weekend Staff Jun 29, 2018
[Image Description: An individual is sitting at a desk, searching through a newspaper's help wanted ads. They are wearing a brown jacket, and are holding a pen in one hand and a sheet of white paper in the other.] Chris Hondros/Getty Images
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This page is a part of our special on the economics of disability. You can listen to the podcast here, check out a full transcript of the episode and read this glossary of terms we used in our coverage throughout the show.


Last week, Marketplace ran an episode dedicated to the economics of disability — what it feels like to live with one, or several, and to interact with the economy. A big part of that relates to work, from getting a job to getting accommodations to do that job. But what does that all mean for employers? Marketplace Weekend spoke to David Lewis, president of OperationsInc, a human resources consulting business, on this topic.

Here are four things to know about how employers consider hiring and disability: 

1. Larger companies are often more accessible. Big business is set up to hire from a broader range of backgrounds, including people with disabilities. Larger companies are more likely to have a good understanding of what accommodations are and how to implement them, and are more likely to work out of updated office spaces. Small businesses may not have the same comprehensive understanding of what “reasonable accommodations” are or how to implement accommodations. People with disabilities are more likely to work at larger businesses because they’re more open and accessible. 

2. Businesses are trying to avoid lawsuits. Businesses, especially small businesses, that don’t understand how to create accommodations for employees with disabilities are often worried by the idea of lawsuits, and that creates tension between employers and people with disabilities. Lewis said that one step toward better understanding and more inclusive hiring practices would be better information distribution from the federal government.

3. The job description is a big deal. A lot of hiring discrimination may come down to the actual job posting. By writing job descriptions with more inclusive language, employers can remove the expectation that the applicant is able bodied and/or neurotypical, opening the application process to a wider group. 

4. Outreach can solve a lot of problems. Lewis recommends that employers who want to make their workspace or hiring process more accessible reach out to nonprofits in their area that work with people with disabilities. These groups can help employers find equipment and grant money, but can also help with the basics, like writing job descriptions or creating a dialogue between the business and potential employees who have disabilities. 

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