5 Misconceptions about Hiring Someone with an Intellectual Disability

Man with a developmental disability smiling as he works behind the register at a coffee shop

In today’s tight job market, it’s not as easy to hire and retain quality people as it once was. It’s definitely a “seller’s market,” as they say in real estate. While this should mean more opportunities for job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in many cases, employers still won’t look their way.

There are a few common reasons. Here’s why each one doesn’t hold water.

“They won’t show up on time.” A job creator may look at a person with a disability and think they will not be reliable, or will have too many medical appointments. But in our experience, we’ve found that most are serious about their jobs and about bettering themselves. Working together with their job coaches, like the ones at AbleLight, they find ways to make sure tardiness or absence is not an issue. It can be as simple as finding the right alarm clock or getting reminders from Alexa.

“They’ll need to much help.” It’s true that people with a disability may need some assistance to get going, either more hands-on training or some physical help. For example, a restaurant worker might need a special knife for food prep or an alternate stool or chair to sit on if needed. But once trained, they will work – hard. Plus, funds for accommodations may be available through state Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid waivers, so cost to the employer may not be an issue at all.

“They won’t be around long.” We’ve found that more than 90 percent of people we support in Colorado are still placed after three years. They are happy doing what they’re doing, so they stay. We support individuals who have been employed with the same company for more than 15 years. Some have grown in their positions and remain happy and fulfilled. In addition, we have also split a full-time position and the employer gained two loyal part time employees.

“It doesn’t matter to our customers.” Oh, it does matter. Organizations that employ individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are looked upon more favorably than ones that don’t. According to one study, more than 80% of the public would rather do business with a disability friendly employer. Plus, being open to people with disabilities in a public way attracts another potential customer group – people with disabilities!

“It doesn’t help our bottom line.” According to a recent study, companies who actively employ people with disabilities are more profitable than those who don’t. 28% more profitable, in fact. They include companies like Bank of America, which recently hired 300 people with intellectual disabilities to create a customer support team, and companies like Microsoft, which has implemented a hiring and training program aimed at supporting people with autism. So take a chance on someone with an intellectual or developmental disability. It’s not a risk, and there will be plenty of reward!

This free guide for employers lays out the facts about hiring people with disabilities and provides the resources to help employers take the first step toward hiring people them.