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Understanding Employer Views on Disability and Hiring Practices

Research Summary


Most employers rationalize decisions around employing people with disabilities based on a combination of charity and human-resources viewpoints and perceptions, according to a recent study of large organizations with demonstrated excellence in hiring persons with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation professionals who understand employer views of disability and hiring practices are better able to provide quality employment opportunities and support for people with disabilities.

Key Findings

Employers’ charity-oriented perceptions and viewpoints include:

  • Employees with disabilities are “different” from employees without disabilities.
  • Employees should be treated in an objectively equal way.
  • Employers “give” something to employees with disabilities, as opposed to employees with disabilities providing labor.
  • Helping people with disabilities is the “right thing to do”, or other faith-based altruism.
  • People with disabilities have special needs and struggle, as opposed to having skills.
  • Hiring people with disabilities is “good faith”, despite any associated costs.

Employers’ human-resource oriented perceptions and viewpoints included:

  • Employees with disabilities are well-liked, respected, and seen as assets.
  • A focus on equity; employees with disabilities are treated equally while acknowledging their differences.
  • All employees should have what they need for success, regardless of disability.
  • Employees with disabilities have unique skills and talents that are assets to an employer.
  • Hiring persons with disabilities strengthens organizational culture and the bottom-line.

Put it Into Practice

Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

Vocational rehabilitation practitioners can increase employer support for hiring and providing support to employees with disabilities by:

  • Encouraging employers to implement disability awareness and sensitivity training for all members of their organization.
  • Interviewing people with disabilities within an organization to understand their perspective on workplace culture and acceptance.
  • Promoting a more inclusive workplace by encouraging employees without disabilities to acknowledge and confront their own biases.

More About This Research

Results are based on interviews with 63 staff members, managers, and employment specialists across four hospitals in a large, multi-site healthcare organization with more than 22,000 employees. The organization manages or joint ventures 19 acute-care hospitals, 1 psychiatric hospital, 5 nursing care facilities, 4 assisted living facilities, and 14 home care and hospice services.

Learn More

Wright, T.; Wehman, P.; McDonough, J.; Thomas, K.; Ochrach, C.; Brooke, A.; Goodwin, Jr., J.C.; Ham, W.; & Junod, P. (2020). Charity-Oriented Versus Human Resource-Oriented Perspectives: Investigating Staff Understandings of Employment Practices for Persons With Disabilities. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 51 (2), In-Press.