People With Disabilities Make Good Employees

Posted April 17, 2010

A company that avoids hiring physically challenged people does so to its detriment, says Ontario’s Lt.-Gov. David Onley.

They’re not only as capable as non-disabled hires, they often top their performance.

However, a knee-jerk bias on the part of some employers means many are wrongly passed over for jobs.

“I believe it comes down to people’s attitude related to hiring people with disabilities,” said Onley, speaking Friday before 81 delegates at the 90th provincial annual meeting and convention of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire.

The meeting, which ends Saturday, is taking place at the Four Points by Sheraton in Thorold.

For disabled adults in Ontario, the unemployment rate is more than 50%, he said.

“The problem is, why aren’t potential employers not hiring people with disabilities?,” he said.

“The reality is, we do see the disability, and there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as we don’t allow that first impression to become a value judgment
about their work or potential.”

Onley also mentioned a recent survey of human resources executives in Ontario. It found the main reasons people with disabilities aren’t hired are linked to unproveable myths and misconceptions.

Among them is a fear of higher absenteeism and lower job retention, said Onley, a former TV journalist with a polio-related paralysis.

He mostly uses a scooter for mobility.

Interviews with employers who hire people with disabilities found hiring fears to be unfounded.

The absenteeism rate among physically challenged workers, for example, is lower and the job retention rate higher — sometimes much higher.

“The observations confirmed that employees with a disability brought a fresh perspective to the workplace,” he said.

“Simply put, they tried harder, because they realized there are fewer opportunities.”

People should also remember that their own perspective about the disabled could soon become a personal one, Onley said.

“This is the only minority group that exists that any one of us can join.”

The Canadian charitable women’s organization seeks to improve the quality of life for children, youth and others in need through a number of educational, social service and citizenship programs.

IODE Ontario chapter president Bonnie Rees said this year’s convention theme is ‘One thought can change the world.’

Rees said this sentiment flowed through Onley’s speech.

“(You should) take it out of your mind that people with disabilities are disabled in all ways,” she said in an interview after Onley’s talk.

“They may only have a physical challenge, but the rest of them functions just fine.”

Reproduced from