The ADA and Employment: Raising Awareness. Enhancing Opportunities
By Peyton Circulli
One of the many fundamental goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to provide equal opportunities for employment to people with disabilities.
Employees with disabilities are productive, resilient, dedicated workers who enhance and diversify their workplace culture. However, in New Hampshire, only 43.8 percent of people with disabilities, ages 18-64, are employed, compared to 82.6 percent of their peers without disabilities.1 Nearly one in five (or 17%) of NH job seekers, ages 18-64, has a disability.2 In order to ensure equal opportunities in the workforce, barriers in the employment hiring processes must be identified, called out, and eliminated.
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations throughout the hiring process for job applicants with disabilities.3 Employers and job applicants alike are often not well versed in these rights. In order to have better employment inclusion, more must be done to make the application and hiring processes inclusive. We need to move beyond just meeting the requirements of the ADA in the workplace.
Specifically, in the application process, the ADA requires employers to test applicants in ways that do not require the use of a disability unless the test is designed to measure that particular skill.4 Employers cannot refuse an accommodation because it entails an additional cost unless it results in undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations can take many forms and may include providing written materials in accessible formats, sign language interpreters, extra time for written tests, modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying application policies and procedures, and ensuring that any in-person step of the application or hiring process is held in an accessible location.5
Despite the optimism at the ADA’s implementation, a great number of employers still appear to have stereotypical views of individuals with disabilities.6 A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that potential employers expressed interest in hiring candidates who disclosed a disability about 26 percent less frequently than candidates who did not disclose a disability.7 The results of this study show that there is still much work to be done to eliminate stereotypical views, and to make the hiring process more inclusive.
Many improvements could make the hiring process more inclusive. Specifically, education for both employers and potential applicants is crucial. Applicants must know that they do not have to disclose their disability. If job applicants choose to disclose their disability, they should be able to easily access needed accommodations. Employers need to understand their legal obligations, have accommodations readily accessible, and identify and change hiring processes that support conscious or unconscious bias.
Employers should broaden recruitment processes to be more inclusive. One way for employers to accomplish this is to proactively engage with, and provide outreach to, the disability community. Employers can then discuss job opportunities and encourage those reluctant to apply because of their disability. This engagement will show people
with disabilities how many job opportunities are available to them.
Employers should also modify their application process in order to make it more accessible to those with disabilities. This includes allowing people to apply in a variety of ways, presenting information in clear language, allowing the application to be completed through voice input or keyboard navigation, providing subtitles for videos, and providing multiple ways to contact the employer. By taking these steps and making the application and hiring processes accessible, greater workforce inclusion is possible. Ultimately, this will help to ensure the ADA’s goal of equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Peyton Circulli is a DRC-NH Legal Intern.
1 Institute on Disability. (2020). Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: 2019. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability.
3 ADA Compliance Guide ¶ 331 Accommodations for Job Applicants (2016).
4 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Job Applicants and the ADA
6 Johnathan R. Mook, Study Shows Disability Discrimination Continues Despite the ADA, 27 No. 11 Va. Emp. L. Letter 5 (2015).