Hiring Workers with Disabilities: Must-Knows for Small Business Owners

August 8, 2016 Pete Jansons

All people tend to work for the same reasons. Money usually stands at the top of the list, but holding a job also creates pride in one’s skills and satisfaction from contributing to something meaningful. Many individuals with physical or intellectual challenges want these things just like anyone else, but they often find it difficult to secure opportunities. In fact, 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the unemployment rate for persons with a disability to be more than double that of someone without a disability (10.7 percent vs. 5.1 percent – and remember, these are people actively looking for work; many become frustrated and stop trying).

This predicament often generates sympathy from employers, but not action. Already pressed for money and time, small business owners especially may feel they don’t have the resources to take on someone with a disability. The thought pattern goes, “I’m trying to run a business, not a charity.”

What small business leaders need to realize, however, is that bringing aboard workers with disabilities should not be an act of pity. Their services truly can enrich your staff. A few of the benefits other small businesses have discovered include:

Outstanding performance. When you match the right person with the right position, the results can be pure gold. Data shows that 90 percent of workers with disabilities meet or exceed productivity requirements.

Reduced turnover. Loyalty runs extremely high. These workers genuinely appreciate the opportunity to gain financial independence and make a difference.

Increased morale. Their positive attitude and ability to overcome challenges oftentimes inspires fellow employees to work harder and complain less.

Positive brand image. Many clients and prospective employees value workplace diversity. Your small business will develop a reputation for inclusiveness, fairness, and social responsibility.

It’s equally important to clear up misconceptions surrounding employment of people with mental or physical challenges. Of particular concern to many small business owners is the notion of “reasonable accommodations.” The phrase tends to evoke images of expensive equipment or major reconstruction of office space. In reality, the adjustments tend to be much less cumbersome. Information collected by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reveals:

  • One-fifth of accommodations cost nothing (think minor schedule adjustments, scattered breaks, and the like).
  • More than half of them only cost between $1 and $500.
  • The median cost is approximately $240.
  • Some employees already provide their own accommodations in the form of assistive devices or equipment.


You may be able to reduce costs further by taking advantage of tax credits, such as the Small Business Tax Credit, and vocational rehabilitation funding. For more information, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. Your efforts may pay off in making one of your best hires ever.

Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy


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