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Working Wise: Tips on Hiring People with Disabilities

Dear Working Wise,

I received a resumé from a woman who wants to be our new receptionist. She acknowledged in her cover letter that she’s legally blind, but that it wouldn’t be a problem. I want to give her a chance, but I just don’t see how it could work.
Signed, Conflicted

November 23, 2016

Dear Conflicted,

It’s understandable. You want to do the right thing for your company, but also for the community. Fortunately, in most cases hiring someone with a disability turns out to be both. If she says it won’t be a problem, invite her for an interview and let her address your concerns. You’re free to ask questions as long as they relate to her ability to do the job.

1 in 7 Albertans has a disability including those with invisible disabilities like learning disabilities or mental health issues. You may already employ someone with a disability and not even know it. Accommodating a disability is less expensive than you might think and you may realize some unexpected benefits as accommodations might assist other employees or your customers.

A Job Accommodation Network survey of more than 1,000 employers found that 56% of disabled employees required accommodations that cost nothing at all. Employers reported the average cost to accommodate an employee with a disability at $320 and 95% said that it was a one-time cost.

The Alberta Government’s Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) can be used to help offset some of the costs of worksite modifications or assistive technology.  Your new employee may not need any modifications at all. Many people who live with disabilities have become experts in overcoming the challenges of daily living. Your new employee may tell you that she has to perform a task in a different way or that she will require some sort of accommodation, for example, special software.

Opening your doors to all Albertans gives you more choice to hire the right skill sets for the job. Job seekers with disabilities historically have been an untapped labour source, but technology and increased access to post-secondary education has enabled people with disabilities to reach their full potential.

If you have questions, help is available for employers. Alberta Community and Social Services funds agencies around the province help employers hire and retain employees with disabilities. You can contact your nearest Alberta Works or Alberta Supports Centre for more information on these services.

Check out the Alberta’s Employment First strategy, employer success stories, and the Top 10 Myths of Hiring People with Disabilities.

A number of events are held on December 3 to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. You can check out the calendar of events on the Alberta Community and Socials Services website. 

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/LDProd

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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