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Interviewing and Working with People who have Disabilities

Myths and Facts About Disabilities

Many myths exist that keep people with disabilities from entering the
workforce. Yet the fact is that people with disabilities are no less
reliable, talented or productive than their peers. Often, they do not
require customized work arrangements. The following is an eye-opening
exploration of myths and facts from credible sources and studies.

Conference Board of Canada

MYTH: People with disabilities don’t have the education they need.

FACT: Over half of the people with disabilities have high school diplomas
and over a third have post-secondary diplomas. [As a side note, Human
Resources Development Canada reports that, overall, combining university,
college and trades, Canadian adults with disabilities are about two thirds
as likely to have a post-secondary education as adults without

MYTH: It costs too much to provide special accommodations needed by
employees with disabilities.

FACT: While most people with disabilities in the workforce report some
limitation at work (85 percent), fewer than 20 percent require any form of
accommodation, and the vast majority of those require one or two supports at

MYTH: Most people with disabilities are severely disabled.

FACT: The majority of Canadians with disabilities (90 percent of those under
age 35) describe their conditions as mild to moderate.

MYTH: It doesn’t matter to my customers if I address the disability issue or

FACT: Canadians with disabilities have a combined annual disposable income
of $25 billion annually, making this a spending group with significant

Note: From the United States Department of Labor

MYTH: Employees with disabilities have a higher absentee rate than employees
without disabilities.

FACT: Studies by DuPont show that employees with disabilities are not absent
any more than employees without disabilities.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are inspirational, courageous, and brave for
being able to overcome their disability.

FACT: Persons with disabilities are simply carrying on normal activities of
living when they drive to work, go grocery shopping, pay their bills, or
compete in athletic events.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities need to be protected from failing.

FACT: Persons with disabilities have a right to participate in the full
range of human experiences including success and failure. Employers should
have the same expectations of, and work requirements for, all employees.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are unable to meet performance standards,
thus making them a bad employment risk.

FACT: In 1990, DuPont conducted a survey of 811 employees with disabilities
and found 90% rated average or better in job performance compared to 95% for
employees without disabilities. A similar 1981 DuPont study which involved
2,745 employees with disabilities found that 92% of employees with
disabilities rated average or better in job performance compared to 90% of
employees without disabilities. The 1981 study results were comparable to
DuPont’s 1973 job
performance study.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities have problems getting to work.

FACT: Persons with disabilities are capable of supplying their own
transportation by choosing to walk, use a car pool, drive, take public
transportation, or a cab. Their modes of transportation to work are as
varied as those of other employees.

MYTH: Persons who are deaf make ideal employees in noisy work environments.

FACT: Loud noises of a certain vibratory nature can cause further harm to
the auditory system. Persons who are deaf should be hired for all jobs that
they have the skills and talents to perform. No person with a disability
should be prejudged regarding employment opportunities.

MYTH: Considerable expense is necessary to accommodate workers with

FACT: Most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and
the cost for those who do is minimal or much lower than many employers
believe. Studies by the President’s Committee’s Job Accommodation Network
have shown that 15% of accommodations cost nothing, 51% cost between $1 and
$500 US, 12% cost between $501 and $1,000 US, and 22% cost more than $1,000

MYTH: Employees with disabilities are more likely to have accidents on the
job than employees without disabilities.

FACT: In the 1990 DuPont study, the safety records of both groups were

From the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services

MYTH: Insurance rates will skyrocket if I hire people with disabilities.

FACT: Hiring people with disabilities does not result in an increase in
Workers Compensation rates. Insurance rates are based on the relative
hazards of the company’s operation and the employer’s accident record. An
employee’s physical condition has no adverse effect. A study of 279 firms
conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of
Manufacturers attests to this fact.

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are more prone to additional injuries.

FACT: Workers with disabilities have average or better safety records on and
off the job. The US Dept. of Labor, through four national studies, has found
that persons with disabilities experience fewer disabling injuries than the
average employee exposed to the same hazards.

MYTH: Workers with disabilities do not perform the job well.

FACT: According to many employers who hired people with disabilities, these
individuals generally are motivated, capable and dependable. 91% of workers
with disabilities perform as well or better with no special privileges as
was revealed in a study of 1,452 workers. Persons with disabilities can
accomplish any task for which they have the knowledge and ability. As with
all employees, it is important to match abilities, interests and experience
with job requirements.

MYTH: It will be difficult to supervise employees with disabilities.

FACT: A Harris poll found that 82% of managers said employees with
disabilities were no harder to supervise than employees without
disabilities. Employees with disabilities should be held accountable to the
same job standards as any other employee. Managers should be confident that
their supervisory skills will work equally well with employees with

MYTH: Persons with disabilities are not reliable.

FACT: Persons with disabilities tend to remain on the job and to maintain
better levels of attendance. A US Chamber of Commerce study revealed that
workers with disabilities had an 80% lower turnover rate.

From the University of Melbourne

MYTH: People with disabilities can only do light work.

FACT: People with disabilities work successfully across a range of
industries and professions.

MYTH: People with disabilities can only do simple, repetitive jobs.

FACT: People with disabilities have a variety of skills to offer, which
differ from individual to individual, as with everyone else.

MYTH: People with disabilities will cost more to employ due to higher
workers’ compensation costs and more sick days taken.

FACT: There is no evidence to support the assumption that employing people
with disabilities adds to costs, either in workers’ compensation costs,
absenteeism or sick days taken.

MYTH: Someone will always have to help them.

FACT: This is not the case with proper training. People with disabilities
have adjusted to their disability in most cases. It does not affect their
ability to work unaided.

MYTH: People with disabilities are more sensitive than other people, more
courageous, kinder, more creative, more admirable or more conscientious.

FACT: People with disabilities do not possess any special characteristics –
they are just like other people you employ.

MYTH: There are special requirements and skills involved in interviewing
people with disabilities for a job.

FACT: You would conduct the interview the same way for every applicant. If
you want to know about the disability and how it might affect job
performance, just ask.

Reproduced from: Triumph Vocational Services