Colleges Help Students Understand Employment Needs of Disabled
By Brian Hendricks and Missie Usry
Accommodations for disabilities challenges both businesses and educational institutions. While colleges must meet requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, unemployment rates for those with disabilities tends to be high. Federal law secures everyone the opportunity for education and training at an equivalent level whenever an accommodation is reasonable and appropriate.
While ADA laws cover employment too, it seems that many employers are still reluctant to hire disabled employees over other options, regardless of their skills.
In college, students are key players in the process and bear more responsibility for their success than in lower grades. Accommodations do not happen automatically and require active student participation and self-identification to work a successful accommodation plan. This accountability is important because disability services at the college level bears a greater responsibility to prepare students to manage lives and careers.
An employer is subject to ADA regulations, but benefit from employees who understand their accommodations, how to manage them, and their own responsibilities in making the system work. College disabilities officers work with students to understand this, which means they are more likely to know what they need once they get into a career.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, hiring people with disabilities is good for the bottom line. They appreciate the opportunities to work and tend to be loyal to their employer, which means less turnover and less money spent on training new staff. Case studies reviewed the success of such companies as 3M, PepsiCo, Merck, and AT&T in hiring those with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Labor notes that most workplace accommodations are either very low cost or cost nothing at all. Examples of a few accommodations include allowances in dress code rules, allowing an employee to sit/stand when other positions are customary, moving a desk chair to allow a wheelchair in its place, or moving computer monitors/keyboards closer for use.
The next time you are hiring for a position, do not shy away from someone with a disability. Sure, there may be some adjustments required, but the level of success they’ve had as students in the classroom using accommodations becomes a testament to their hard work and preparation to be successful citizens and employed professionals.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits Georgia Military College to award associate and select bachelor of applied science degrees. Credit earned at the institution is eligible for transfer to other accredited schools. Missie Usry is the Enrollment and Recruiting Manager at Georgia Military College’s Augusta campus. Brian Hendricks is the academic dean and disabilities coordinator for the Augusta campus. For questions about Georgia Military College, call 706-993-1123 or visit www.gmc.edu.