DePaul University study of costs and benefits of employing people with disabilities finds few risks to employers

The following news item is from Disabilityworks.

DePaul University study of costs and benefits of employing
people with disabilities finds few risks to employers

CHICAGO – A study released on January 28, 2008 conducted by a team of researchers at DePaul University found that employees with disabilities from the healthcare, retail and hospitality sectors in the region were just as dependable and productive as employees without disabilities. In addition, accommodation costs associated with workers with disabilities were often minimal and well worth the expense. First envisioned during Mayor Daley’s Task Force on Employment of People with Disabilities between 2002 and 2005, this study was commissioned by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s disabilityworks initiative, and made possible through a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. A subsequent financial contribution was made by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

“Persons with disabilities are an important segment of the labor force yet they are frequently an untapped resource of workers,” said disabilityworks Executive Director Karen McCulloh. “I believe these findings will help set the record straight about what people with disabilities can contribute to the labor force. We’ve learned that employees with disabilities are working in senior level positions, are pharmacists, nurses, managers of retail stores and work at all levels of jobs just like nondisabled workers. In the not so distant future, it will be increasingly important to recruit talent from this community as the workforce continues to evolve.”

In the groundbreaking study, DePaul researchers compared work-related variables of 314 participating employees with and without disabilities and found:

· Participating employees with disabilities had nearly identical job performance ratings as
participating employees without disabilities;

· The amount of supervision required was similar for both groups;

· Participants with disabilities from the retail and hospitality sectors stayed on the job longer than their counterparts;

· Very few special accommodations were provided to participating employees with disabilities; and the average cost of the accommodations was only $313.

Despite these positive findings, DePaul researchers found that employer misperceptions often made it difficult for persons with disabilities to obtain employment. Researchers completed focus groups with administrators and human resource personnel to discuss their experiences with workers with disabilities. Overall themes from these focus groups were supportive, but there were also themes reflecting managerial bias. Findings from the focus groups include:

· Employees with disabilities were viewed as dedicated, reliable and providing a positive contribution to the general workforce;

· Some managers expressed concerns about potential cost of accommodations.

· Promotion opportunities were limited for workers with disabilities, with many identified as holding and remaining in entry-level positions.

“It is interesting to note that many managers are still concerned about the productivity of workers with disabilities and the costs associated with providing accommodations to this group. However, results of this study show that our participants with disabilities were on par with those who were not disabled across a number of work related variables,” said Brigida Hernandez, assistant professor of psychology at DePaul University and a principal researcher for the study.

Over the course of the three-year study, researchers worked with 25 businesses in the Chicago region that were involved as advisors, focus group participants, and sites for the collection of the cost-benefit data.