“What happens when you hire a person with disabilities is you see how we do our jobs and then the mystery is over and we’re not special anymore. We become a part of the fabric of the work culture.” – Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, who is also blind.
Before moving into Human Resources, I spent several years working in the disability insurance industry. I worked with employees experiencing some of the most challenging circumstances anyone can expect to encounter in their lifetime. Many found their way back to gainful employment after recovering, or learning to live with medical and mental health diagnosis such as permanent paralysis, agoraphobia, cancer, fibromyalgia, depression and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.
What made the difference in these employees’ lives was the support of fearless employers and human resource professionals who looked past assumptions about limitations to see the possibilities. On the other hand, some employers have fears of heavy burdens and unmanageable expenses related to hiring and accommodating employees with qualifying disabilities. These fears, when acted upon, can lead to discriminatory hiring and employment practices.
I can say that in my experience, which is extensive, the fears are of the unknown, with little bearing in reality or when compared to the very real benefits of hiring talented employees, embracing diversity and limiting discrimination claims. While there may be time and expense related to providing reasonable accommodations, businesses have many tax credits available to them for offsetting cost, including:
- Disabled Access Credit: This is a credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business may take the credit each and every year they incur access expenditures.
- Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction: This deduction allows businesses to claim up to $15,000 a year in qualified expenses, for items that normally must be capitalized, to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities.
- Work Opportunity Credit: This credit provides eligible employers a tax credit up to 40 percent on the first year’s wages (up to $6,000) for a new employee with a credit-qualifying disability.
According to the Deloitte report, Global Human Capital Trends 2014, finding the right talent in the 21st century workforce will become increasingly challenging. Organizations cannot afford to overlook any source of valuable contributors if they want to stay competitive. Helios understands the value of a talented, diverse workforce. We help our clients develop smart solutions and the sound policy needed to both accomplish business goals and support a spirit of diversity and inclusion.