On Tuesday, May 13th, Northeastern University hosted a conference to discuss the challenges employers face and the best practices for hiring people with disabilities, particularly college students and recent graduates.
Even though most of the country is experiencing a slowdown in job growth and higher-than-usual unemployment rates, the disparity between able-bodied people and the disabled is quite noticeable when it comes to employment.
A U.S. Census Bureau report last year noted that individuals with disabilities are less likely to be employed than those without disabilities, and that people with disabilities who were employed typically held jobs with lower earnings than their colleagues. Overall, individuals with disabilities accounted for 6 percent of the labor force.
Keynote speaker Alan Muir, executive director and co-founder of Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities noted 10.8 percent of college graduates who have disclosed a disability are unemployed and 52.4 percent are underemployed.
“There is a lot of hunger, a lot of interest, and a desire to work,” Muir told the Northeastern Department of Education, “So it’s just a matter of getting the opportunities to those particular individuals”.
During a panel discussion, employers and disability hiring specialists were in agreement that educating executives, hiring managers and human resources staff is an important step to ensuring that people with disabilities are not excluded from applicant pools.
Other discussions focused on the importance of getting students with disabilities to self-identify with their disability since it can benefit both them and their perspective employer during the hiring process.
At Northeastern University, the Disability Resource Center works closely with the university’s co-op and career services offices to help advocate for students with disabilities as they prepare to enter the job market.