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Hiring a Person with a Disability: Getting Started

The goal of Crossroads of Western Iowa Employment Services is to create meaningful employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, serious mental illness and brain injury by working with businesses and the broader community.

As an employer, you may be wondering if you should give this a try. Perhaps you have a lot of questions, a few concerns, and are not sure where to begin.

Hopefully, these FAQ’s will help.

What is a developmental disability, Serious Mental Illness and Brain Injury?

This term is used to describe people with a cognitive disability who have difficulty learning, and need assistance to carry out the practical and social activities of daily living. It is a term that is used to describe a wide range of individuals with unique skills and abilities. Developmental disabilities include: Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism. 

What should I expect from an employee with a developmental disability Serious Mental Illness and Brain Injury?

Like anyone else, people with developmental disabilities have strengths and weaknesses, talents and abilities. These talents could include experience and interest in your line of work and soft skills you find beneficial to your workplace such as customer service skills, team-work and strong motivation for work. There may be someone in your community today with a disability who has some or all of the specific skills you are looking for to enhance your business.

What do I have to offer?

At first, you may think that there are no jobs at your workplace for someone with a disability. Take a look around. Ask your managers to list the things that they need done and do not have time to do, or that take time away from more skilled employees. The possibilities are endless. You don’t have to work this out alone, either. If you’re not sure how a person with a disability can fit into your business, call us to arrange a tour so we can observe the work environment, learn about your specific business needs, and offer suggestions.

I can’t offer a full-time job. Does that mean I can’t hire someone?

Not at all. Many people with disabilities are interested in working part-time. In fact, part-time employment may be the best way for an employee to learn and master the skills needed for your business.

How will this affect my other employees?

Many co-workers tell us that working alongside a person with a developmental disability, serious mental illness and brain injury has enhanced their teamwork and their work culture.  If your employees are uncertain about the concept initially, it’s usually because they have no idea what to expect.  We can help you address this issue in several ways. An employment consultant from Crossroads of Western Iowa can visit your business and individually meet with staff to help answer any questions or address concerns that may exist. We can also provide diversity and/or co-worker trainings that are tailored to your specific business needs. As business needs and personnel are always changing, we are there to help you meet these challenges.

What about accommodating special needs?

If you think about it, you are accommodating the individual needs of employees all the time. This may range from providing hand rests for staff using computers, flex time programs, task lists, to simply helping a co-worker with physical tasks that they are not strong enough to do.  Most of the time, making accommodations for someone is simple and does not cost your business anything at all. If necessary, there are grants available for workplace modifications or assistive technologies. Ask us for more information.

Will I have support?

Absolutely! If you decide to hire someone with a developmental disability, serious mental illness or brain injury a job coach is available to help you or your staff train the person. As your new employee learns the skills needed for the job, the job coach fades out of the picture. If you need help teaching your employee new skills later on, a phone call is all it takes to bring the job coach back to the worksite.

What about liability?

As a responsible employer, you are already providing a healthy and safe workplace, and your business has Workers Compensation and general insurance coverage. Hiring someone with a disability does not increase your liability. If there is a medical condition or anything else that could affect health and safety on the job, you need to know about it, just as you would with any other employee.

What about wages?

Employees with developmental disabilities, serious mental illness or brain injury earn minimum wage or above depending on the assigned job duties and the employer’s pay scale.

How will this benefit my business?

Many employers are finding it hard to find reliable, long term, entry-level employees. People with developmental disabilities, serious mental illness and brain injury are a labor source that is vastly underutilized by most industries and businesses. Many employers tell us that hiring someone with a disability is not only great for the business community, but cost-effective toward their bottom line.

What if I don’t have any open positions right now?

Employers who are not able to hire can still contribute by generating other business contacts or providing “job shadow” experiences.