By Susan Webb
Today’s employers are more enlightened about hiring qualified people with disabilities than ever. If you have the qualifications and experience required for the job, there are a number of incentives for employers to hire a person with a disability over other applicants. As a qualified applicant, if you know these incentives, it gives you an advantage in negotiating for the job. In fact, many employers do not know about these incentives. You will sound really smart if you share this info.
Some of the following depends on the severity or significant limitation of your disability. If your disability is not a hindrance to your competing for a job like any other job seeker, the employer cannot discriminate since they should not even know you have a disability. Your discussion with an employer should always focus on the job tasks and whether you have the knowledge, skills, abilities, education and experience to do it.
See Ability360.org for a 32-minute webinar that explains all about disclosure, when to do it, and when not to do it. After viewing the webinar, you will learn that your disability may qualify you for different consideration of your application if you:
Are on SSI/SSDI and are considering going back to work using AZ Rehab Services (AZRSA);
On SSI/SSDI and are participating in the Ticket to Work Program and are registered with an Employment Network;
Are looking for work through the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
If you are not registered with any of these, Ability360, as a courtesy, will evaluate you and write a letter of eligibility if appropriate. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty-six years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the unemployment rate among people with disabilities has not changed much.
Once qualified there are several tax credits or processes available to employers that help you move toward the front of the line.
- The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)provides eligible employers with a tax credit up to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of first-year wages of a new employee if the employee qualifies above. The credit is available to the employer once the employee has worked for at least 120 hours or 90 days for a 25 percent credit and 400 hours worked for a 40 percent credit. The maximum credit is $2,400.
- Federal Contractors who do business with the federal government have an affirmative action obligation that 7 percent of their workforce in all job categories must be filled by qualified workers with disabilities. These contractors represent 22 percent of the workforce.
- Other tax credits and deductions are available for barrier removal or accommodations you might need to do the job. If you need technology such as text-to-speech software, these credits more than cover the cost of hiring you.
- The Federal Government has a special process called Schedule A that allows qualified applicants with disabilities to circumvent certain processes to get hired into federal jobs.
- Most large employers have an internal commitment to diversity, including applicants and employees with disabilities.
After being part of this world for many years, these are the reasons I see that people with disabilities are not working that have nothing to do with discrimination:
- Lack of skills and qualifications to do the jobs employers need to fill.
- Fear of losing benefits and health care coverage, see www.az.db101.org.
- Family and other influencers discouraging work with same fears.
- Fear of failure so do not even try.
- Fear of losing other benefits like subsidized housing and SNAP.
- Realities of community life: bus schedules and routes, having to get up early, giving up some things others are relying on you to do, volunteer work, etc.
Many find it discouraging to try hard to get a job with no results. This is particularly rough if you are not disabled enough to qualify for AZRSA but also cannot qualify for Ticket to Work, i.e. not on SSI or SSDI. Another very important resource, Arizona@Work is a place for you to learn all the latest and effective techniques to alleviate your frustration.
Good luck, prepare for your career, don’t expect too much in the beginning, expect to work your way up, not wait for the perfect job to land in your lap. See Rita Malemed’s story elsewhere in this issue.
VP of Employment