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Looking Back on 20 + 1 Years

Learn more about the benefits and costs of accommodation

From the desk of Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant/Technical Specialist

A couple weeks ago I received a certificate of thanks for providing 20 years of service at JAN. In all actuality, the certificate was a year late. It has been 21 years. There are times when employers don’t get everything exactly right, even when it comes to addition. The certificate did prompt me to do some soul searching. I began to think back about how the employment of people with disabilities has changed, where we are as a society, and what I’ve been a part of at JAN. As a country, we continue making progress. As an organization, we continue to strive to meet our stakeholder’s needs. As a person, I like to think I’ve changed lives for the better. As I worked through my 21 years, I thought about how workplaces continue to deal with title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After diving into the data we collect at JAN, I can paint a picture of where we are. This is what we know:

  • Many employers want to retain employees with disabilities. Eighty-three percent of employers call JAN to discuss accommodation issues related to retaining valued and qualified employees.
  • Individuals who request accommodations are employees who have been working. On average, employees who request accommodations have been with the company about seven years.
  • Employees who request accommodations make reasonable wages. Individuals who request accommodations earn about $14 if paid by the hour or have an average annual salary of about $51,400.
  • Individuals with disabilities tend to be fairly educated. Fifty-five percent of individuals have a college degree or higher.
  • Most employers report no cost or low cost for accommodating employees with disabilities. Of those accommodations that have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers is $500. 
  • Employers report accommodations are effective. After contacting JAN, 75% of employers report that accommodations are either very effective or extremely effective.
  • Employers experience multiple direct benefits after making accommodations. Employers most frequently mention: (1) the accommodation allowed the company to retain a valued employee, (2) the accommodation increased the employee’s productivity, and (3) the accommodation eliminated the costs of training a new employee.
  • Employers experience several indirect benefits after making accommodations. The most widely mentioned indirect benefits are: (1) the accommodation ultimately improved interactions with co-workers, (2) the accommodation increased overall company morale, and (3) the accommodation increased overall company productivity.

So, 21 years pass and year 22 begins. I’ve seen a lot of complicated ADA questions come and go. Many jobs were saved along the way. We still have complicated issues like parking, service animals, drug addiction, alcoholism, telework, and leave time, but we work to do better. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in my travels. Hundreds of presentations are in the bank, and all but North Dakota and Oklahoma are in the rearview mirror. National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is here once again, and many of you may have similar stories to reflect upon. Just take a few minutes and think about the strides we’ve made together, and give us a shout when you need us. JAN is an organization that does believe “Inclusion drives Innovation.” Download the official 2017 NDEAM poster for your office today!