Disability Bias: Changing Employer Attitudes And Perceptions

I wrote a short post last week about a study highlighted in the recent New York Times article entitled “Study Using Fake Job Letters Exposes Bias Against Disabled.” I noted that the study “found a shockingly high rate of employment discrimination based upon disability – especially in companies not covered by the ADA. “

Some readers who reviewed the study took issue with some of its conclusions or methods.

A letter published today by the Times from John O’Neill, Director, Employment and Disability Research, Kessler Foundation of West Orange, N.J., noted that “This study’s findings are consistent with available information on employer attitudes and job seekers with disabilities.”

Disabled, Disabled Access, Wheelchair

I re-publish this short letter below in full because of its importance:

“The extensive employer study conducted by the Office of Disability Employment Policy showed that large companies tend to be more proactive than small and medium-size companies. Specifically, large companies were more likely to employ, hire and actively recruit people with disabilities.

In a recent national survey of disability and employment, more than 3,000 people with disabilities responded to questions about barriers they encounter in job searches and how successfully they overcome those barriers.

Thirty-six percent cited employers’ assumptions that they were unable to do the job as a barrier. Only a third successfully overcame this barrier.”

Takeaway from Mr. O’Neill:

“Improving the employment outlook hinges on strategies that change employer attitudes, with an emphasis on hiring practices at midsize and small companies.”


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]