A lot remains to be done for the employment equality of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Despite some more recent changes being made, U.S. workers with disabilities actually decreased as a share of the labor market from the 1980s to 2015. Around 70% of people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities are unemployed. This isn’t a case of people not wanting to work, quite the opposite. It’s that people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are often overlooked by employers.
There is a common misbelief that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can’t enrich a work environment. When, in reality, these people are not only more than capable; they bring skills and ideas to the table that neurotypical people just can’t. These perspectives are formed by looking at life and experiencing life in a variety of typical and non-typical ways. Inclusivity is the missing key to a happier, more productive, and more diverse workforce.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities remains twice the national average, despite 2017 being the best continuous growth of individuals with different abilities involved in the job market since 2008.
Equality is for Everyone
With advances in workplace culture and efficiency—remote work, employee amenities, continuing education—there are even fewer excuses for not hiring differently-abled employees. Whether a prospective employee has Down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury, Cushing’s, ADHD, Tourettes, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, Williams syndrome, or any other intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities, they should absolutely have the same opportunities as everyone else.
Many companies that have amended their hiring practices to better accommodate individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have found employees eager to prove themselves and contribute to company culture, advancement, and the bottom line.
The Tech Industry
The tech world has started to pay attention to the strengths that people who are on different levels of the autism spectrum can bring to technical challenges. Due to some unique views and thought processes, there are many people, who are on the autism spectrum, who excel at jobs requiring detail-oriented and analytical perspectives.
SAP, a multinational software development firm, employs people on the autism spectrum in 10 countries and places them with mentors to navigate corporate life, working within their disability as opposed to against it.
However, around 80% of those with autism remain unemployed. More recently, Ford Motor, DXC Technology, EY, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, and SAP formed the Autism at Work Employer Roundtable in order to expand services provided to and hiring of people on the autism spectrum.
Disability Employment Awareness
As more progressive companies around the world are learning, employees who are differently-abled can contribute numerous skillsets to the workplace. Discrimination over hiring individuals with intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities should not be tolerated.
To improve businesses everywhere, people with unique abilities should be hired for their own strengths rather than merely to add “diversity” to the workforce. They do not need to be depreciated by sympathies and condolences for their perceived disabilities–these people just need opportunities to share their abilities like everyone else.