204431 Why employers don't hire people with disabilities: Research findings and policy implications

Monday, November 9, 2009: 1:06 PM

H. Stephen Kaye, PhD , Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Erica Jones, MPH , DBTAC - Pacific ADA Center, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
Lita Jans, PhD , InfoUse, Berkeley, CA
Research on employer practices and attitudes toward workers with disabilities generally paints a rosy picture of successfully accommodated workers in a welcoming environment. Yet, nearly two decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is little evidence of improvement in employment rates among working-age adults with disabilities. It is possible that much prior research has been biased because of both employer self-selection and social desirability, and that many employers strongly resist hiring workers with disabilities. In this study, a novel approach was used to survey over 300 human resource professionals and supervisors working for employers known or reputed to be resistant to complying with the ADA's employment provisions. People attending employer-requested ADA training sessions were asked to assess various possible reasons that employers in general might not hire, retain, or accommodate workers with disabilities, and to rate strategies and policy changes that might make it more likely for employers to do so.

The principal barriers to employing workers with disabilities, each endorsed by over 80% of respondents, were lack of awareness of disability and accommodation issues, concern over costs of accommodations, and fear of legal liability. With regard to strategies employers might use to increase hiring and retention, the vast majority identified increased training and centralized disability and accommodation expertise and mechanisms. Public policy approaches preferred by respondents include no-cost external problem-solving for disability and accommodation issues (68% “very helpful”), subsidized accommodations (64%), tax breaks (54%), and mediation in lieu of formal complaints or lawsuits (48%).

Learning Objectives:
List the major reasons that employers believe workers with disabilities are not hired or retained. Formulate employer and public policy solutions that might help increase hiring and retention of workers with disabilities.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Experienced disability researcher with journal publications in this topic area.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.