I recently got a LinkedIn message asking, “Why don’t companies want to hire people with disabilities?” and I was a little stumped. In fact, it was noodling in my mind for a week…so, I finally sent this response:
“Thanks for reaching out to me… I have to admit, your question really surprised me. I thought about this all week. I can only think of one situation where companies don’t want to hire people with disabilities, and it’s if the company isn’t hiring people at all. Then, of course, they don’t want to hire anyone, including people with disabilities. However, your question seems to be emphasizing that people with disabilities are being singled out for exclusion, and I have never experienced that… but I have observed quite a few opportunities that can be mistaken as a company intentionally not wanting to hire people with disabilities and so, I made a list of them, do any of these, perhaps, explain it?
· The company is miscommunicating and it is being interpreted as intentional.
· People within the company are afraid of making mistakes that can be perceived as discrimination. There are times when risk adverse (yet well meaning) legal folks can get into the ear of leadership. Their warnings and caution can be then misinterpreted as a list of “don’ts” and this results in less than enthusiastic response related to employment of people with disabilities. My concern with this is that the individuals who are saying “this is risky because…” fail to mention that intentionally not employing people with disabilities (out of fear) is riskier because that is definitely discrimination, where all the others are just potential risks for misinterpretations of actions. And they do not necessarily provide helpful information about "how" to do it in a manner that is lower risk.
· You are misinterpreting “not knowing how” with “not wanting” to do it… These are two different animals. A company may have full intentions of wanting to hire people with disabilities but have no idea how. (Here’s my resource page on “how” in case you are wondering about it)
· I am going to lump the next 5 together as suggestions about common mistakes job development professionals make and maybe this pertains to you or maybe not:
· a. The representative of the company did not want to hire your client, not because of the disability but because it was not a match for the skills they require.
· b. The representative of the company did not want to hire your client because the you emphasized the disability and not the client's skills (or didn't connect the skills to the job opening)
· c. There was no job opening
· d. The representative of the company was turned off by the job developer’s approach/pitch
· e. The representative of the company had a poor experience hiring other referrals from your agency).
· I could keep going with these examples of misinterpreted communication, but I think you get the gist. It’s a strong accusation to say a company doesn’t want to hire people with disabilities. This is not to say that discrimination doesn’t happen (intentionally and unintentionally), but my experience is that this assumption is a misperception. And quite honestly, if it’s true, I just feel sad for all of the employees there because it's an indication of a toxic culture. And personally, I wouldn’t want anyone I cared about to work there anyway.”
· Do you have any thoughts about this response? Did I miss the mark?