Hiring Students With Disabilities, a Win/Win for All

By Cindy Verduce posted 10-02-2019 09:20


by Cynthia Price Verduce and Sue Keever Watts, co-chairs of the Disabilities Affinity Impact Team

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the time of year when we draw attention to and celebrate the work force contributions of students and alumni with disabilities. This year, however, I plan to do more than celebrate. I’ll be sharing success stories from both the employer’s and the student’s perspective in hopes of encouraging others to increase their hiring of students with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities dropped to 8 percent at the end of 2018, compared to 13.2 percent in 2013. The reason unemployment is dropping is because employers are realizing that hiring individuals with disabilities doesn’t just improve their culture, it impacts the bottom line.

There is, however, still work to do. The August 2019 Disability Employment Statistic from the Office of Disability Employment Policy with the U.S. Department of Labor cites the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities at 7.2 percent as compared to 3.6 percent for those without.   

NACE members—career centers as well as employers—are in a unique position to improve the employment outlook for students with disabilities. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Affinity Team, an offshoot of the Careers for Students with Disabilities Task Force, has gathered a vast amount of information we will be sharing over the next several months. We will be offering webinars, roundtable opportunities, and other vehicles to share information to help both our employer and college partners gain a better understanding of the trends and best practices. We’ll be sharing information on inclusion partners we have identified, as well as sharing potential paths of action; all while continuing to raise awareness and provide tangible resources you can use today in order to move the needle on the employment of individuals with disabilities.
  • Visit the JAN, Job Accommodations Network, website at askjan.org. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace. 
  • Visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at https://www.dol.gov/odep/ to learn more about the programs they offer. ODEP's mission is to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

For our employer partners:

  • Visit the National Organization on Disability (NOD) at nod.org. The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the full participation and contributions of America’s 57 million people with disabilities in all aspects of life. NOD focuses on increasing employment opportunities for the 80-percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. Make sure to check out their “It’s Time to Take A Closer Look” program!

For our career services professionals:

  • Read the white paper from NOD, “Bridging the Employment Gap For Students with Disabilities” (NOD, 2014) found at https://www.nod.org/wp-content/uploads/03_bridging_the_employment_gap_for_students_with_disabilities.pdf. This paper explores the problem of campus employment services for students with disabilities and the impact of the new regulations guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will have on employers, colleges, universities and students with disabilities.
  • After reading “Bridging the Employment Gap,” share this article with your Disability Services Office on campus and offer to set up a time to discuss. 

We may not solve all the problems confronting the hiring of individuals with disabilities within a year’s time, but our Affinity Impact Team will help to bring the topic to the forefront. After all, it’s not about just helping some of our students find employment after graduation, it’s about helping all of our students find meaningful ways to contribute to society while assisting our employer partners with their hiring needs. It’s why we’re here, right? 

Don't miss the NACE blog on Tuesday, October 8: Ideas for Creating a Career Center and Disability Services Office Collaboration

For questions or if you’re interested in joining the Individuals with Disabilities Affinity Impact Team, feel free to reach out to Co-Chairs Cindy Price Verduce at CPVerduce@IndianaTech.Edu or Sue Keever Watts at Sue@Keevergroup.com.

Note: Two virtual career fairs for students with disabilities are planned. They are:

October 15: Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Career Fair

November 13: Bender Employment for People With Disabilities

About JAN. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://askjan.org/about-us/index.cfm

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/odep/

National Organization on Disability. (2014) Bridging the Employment Gap for Students with Disabilities.

[white paper]. Retrieved September 13, 2019, from the National Organization on Disability: https://www.nod.org/wp-content/uploads/03_bridging_the_employment_gap_for_students_with_disabilities.pdf.