Dispelling Myths about People with Disabilities
As the rate of unemployment for people with disabilities
continues to hover at 70%, it's important to ask this question. What are
the major barriers to employment for people with disabilities?
Quite simply, the answer is: attitudinal barriers,
stereotypical thinking, and assumptions about what people can and can't
However, if you look at people with disabilities, including
those in the workplace, you'll find the range of abilities of persons within any
disability group is enormous. By simply looking at an individual as an
individual, stereotypical images are sure to disappear. Each person
within a disability group is a unique person, and each individual person has his
or her own unique set of talents, skills and abilities. No two people,
regardless of their disability, are ever alike. Each person is a unique individual.
And the range of what people within a particular disability
group can do is also enormous. Consider these examples provided by the
U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy:
A person with mental retardation cannot be trained to perform
a job as well as
an employee without a disability.
Over two-thirds of the 4,000 participants in Pizza Hut, Inc.'s
Program" are persons with mental retardation. The current turnover rate
these employees with disabilities is a modest 20% compared to
the 150% turnover rate of employees without disabilities. This means a
drop in recruitment
and training costs.
A person with a developmental disability and difficulty with
fine motor control
is unlikely to be able to handle complex operations on the production line
a manufacturing plant.
A person with this combination of functional limitations was
hired for a
production line job. The job involved labeling, filling, capping, and packing
liquid product. The only accommodation supplied for the worker was the
creation of a plywood jig. The jig enabled the worker to hold the bottle steady
An individual with a psychiatric disability cannot work in a
environment where tight timelines have to be met.
All individuals perceive stress differently, and their
responses vary. Some
individuals with psychiatric disabilities perform effectively in jobs that
specific timelines and structure.
A person who is blind and has a missing right hand cannot
perform a job as a
The applicant lost his vision and right hand in Vietnam.
He persuaded a
community college to train him as a machinist and was finally given a job on a
trial basis. From the very first day, he broke production records and
others to do the same. His only modification was to move a lever from
right side of the machine to the left.
It is unlikely that a man whose right leg is amputated six
inches above the
knee can perform the duties of a warehouseman that requires loading
and unloading trucks, standing, lifting, bending, and delivering supplies
sections as needed.
A person with this type of amputation was hired to work in a
warehouse. He performed the job without any modification. He worked
out so well
that the company moved him to operating heavy equipment,
a log stacker. The
company did not have to make any accommodations.
He was able to climb ladders
and the heavy equipment without any
These are just a few examples illustrating how stereotypical
thinking and assumptions can, and often do, create barriers to employment for
many individuals with disabilities. But when given an opportunity, and, in
some cases, with just a little creativity, people can, and do, achieve
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