Job seekers with disabilities have more opportunities than they did in the past thanks to new legislation and initiatives that encourage employers to hire qualified workers with disabilities.
This year is the first full year of Section 503 regulations, which encourage federal contractors to create workforces that include at least 7 percent workers with disabilities. The Workforce Investment Opportunity Act helps students with disabilities pursue their chosen career paths after high school. State Medicaid buy-in programs that let people with disabilities work without losing their benefits are becoming more popular.
Think Beyond the Label, an advocacy group for disabled workers, recently conducted a survey that found that job seekers with disabilities use many of the same tools as other job seekers. Most would also use targeted job boards and network with employers who want to hire individuals with disabilities.
Employers are usually not permitted to ask about disabilities during the hiring process. One exception is the Section 503 voluntary disability disclosure form used by federal contractors.
Think Beyond the Label can help employers target workers with disabilities. The group conducts print and TV advertising campaigns that stress that labels can get in the way of employment, but disabilities rarely do. It has created a community of 7,000 disabled job seekers and has helped to connect them with employers who are actively seeking workers from that group. Job seekers disclose the fact that they have a disability, and then employers can focus on their skills and experience.
Think Beyond the Label hosts quarterly online career fairs where candidates can interview with recruiters from their chosen employers. Since 2012, 2,500 job seekers, 350 recruiters, and 50 businesses have participated.
Employers have found that job seekers with disabilities are often highly qualified. Over 60 percent of the job seekers in Think Beyond the Label’s community have five or more years of relevant experience, and they are more likely to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree than the general population of job seekers.
Think Beyond the Label plans to expand its programs to include mentoring and networking opportunities. The group is also developing more partnerships with universities and businesses.
While challenges remain, job prospects for workers with disabilities are improving. We support the efforts of job seekers with disabilities and groups that are working to make a difference on their behalf.