October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Easterseals Colorado is busting some of the widely held myths that not only preclude people with disabilities from pursuing gainful employment, but also prevent companies from seeking their talents.

While we’re bringing attention to this important issue in October, we know how important it is to recognize people with disabilities as a valuable candidate base for employers year-round. Only by busting myths can we foster disability-inclusive workplaces and lead the way to creating a Colorado where everyone, regardless of age or ability, is empowered to work. 

Myth: People with disabilities who work will lose their benefits.

Fact: Many people with disabilities go to work AND receive social security disability benefits.

While understandably a concern that employment could prevent a person with a disability to lose their SSI or SSDI checks, it is simply not the case. Both SSI and SSDI have clear-cut guidelines that allow people with disabilities to work without the worry of losing their benefit payments.

Easterseals Colorado has an Employment Benefits team that helps review each client’s specific situation to develop an individualized plan, training and support to ensure they retain their disability and health-related benefits.

“Easterseals Colorado is the only agency in Colorado that provides this level of individualized service,” said Tanner Whittaker, Director of Employment Transition Services. “We understand that all people have unique circumstances and we want to ensure individuals have what they need to thrive as employees.”

Myth: People with all levels of disabilities aren’t eligible for employment.

Fact: People with all levels of disabilities who want to work deserve the opportunity.

At Easterseals Colorado, we believe all people should be 100% included and 100% empowered in the workforce. We help clients to focus on defining and finding the right job, regardless of age or ability. 

Employment Services creates and prepares work settings that promote the most independent work for each specific client. Working collaboratively with other agencies, we create job opportunities that are individualized and designed to match the skills and strengths of the client with the needs of the employer.

Employment Services also creates individualized plans to guide clients to their fullest potential. These plans help our clients understand and strive for their best in a setting that allows them to make measurable progress and reach identified goals. Reaching these goals continually develops each client’s job skills, allowing them to maintain employment in a supported setting or work completely independently.

Myth: People with disabilities do not meet employment performance standards.

Fact: People with disabilities have many talents and strengths and are a valuable part of the workforce.

People with disabilities are just as capable as anyone else. That said, it’s imperative that key requirements, such as skills and experience, be met by any employee. That’s why training and transition-to-work programs are a crucial part of the job identification and retention process.

Check out Easterseals Colorado’s Pre-Employment Transitional Services here.

Myth: Employing people with disabilities is costly.

Fact: Less than one-fourth of employees with disabilities need accommodations, and two-thirds of these accommodations cost under $500.

The perception that companies will have to shell out a pretty penny to accommodate workers with disabilities simply isn’t true. In fact, most employees often provide their own assistive devices or don’t require any. The truth is, more often than not, hiring a person with a disability doesn’t cost the company a dime. 

The Job Accommodation Network is a resource with helpful tools for employees and employers on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Myth: People with disabilities cannot tolerate the stress of holding a job.

Fact: All jobs are stressful to some extent, regardless of disability, and the stress of unemployment is far worse.

People with disabilities are no different than your average employee. They are just as dependable and productive. In fact, having a job is beneficial because it helps to provide structure, purpose and a way for them to contribute to their community.

There are some true bottom-line benefits to an organization when it comes to hiring a person with a disability; the federal government offers a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to employers who hire individuals with disabilities referred by vocational rehabilitation services and who hire qualified veterans with disabilities. Other tax advantages for the employer include Disabled Access Credit and the Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction.

While there’s still a challenge ahead, each hire helps move the needle on employment for all, providing people with disabilities the opportunity to make a difference by contributing their talents in the workplace.

To find out more about Disability Employment Services at Easterseals Colorado, click here.

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