ADA Inspections Nationwide, LLC
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ADAIN Blog

by Richard Acree of ADA Inspections Nationwide, LLC

Hiring the Handicapped. Is your Company ready?

Recently a headline crossed from National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD), as follows:


April 2018 nTIDE Jobs Report: Tight Labor Market Spurs Unprecedented Job Gains for Americans with Disabilities

As today’s tight labor market offers greater opportunities for job seekers with disabilities, there is renewed interest in strategies that help people with disabilities achieve their employment goals.


Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is an evidence-based vocational rehabilitation strategy that is helping people with disabilities achieve their employment goals. Implemented initially in the population with mental health issues, IPS is being tested in individuals with physical disability. Committing resources to evidence-based programs such as IPS will help close the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.


In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, May 4, 2018, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 28.2 percent in April 2017 to 30.6 percent in April 2018 (up 8.5 percent; 2.4 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased slightly from 73.6 percent in April 2017 to 73.8 percent in April 2018 (up 0.3 percent; 0.2 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).


“People with disabilities seem to be benefiting from the tight labor market as fewer are actively looking for work and more are becoming employed,” according to John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “Despite the past 25 months of positive change, people with disabilities are still striving to reach their pre-Great Recession employment levels,” he noted. “And we need to keep in mind that there is still a long way to go before people with disabilities achieve employment parity with people without disabilities.”


The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 32.0 percent in April 2017 to 33.6 percent in April 2018 (up 5 percent; 1.6 percentage points), while the labor force participation rate for working-age people without disabilities remained the same at 76.6 percent. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.


“It’s really stunning to see the gains made by people with disabilities, and that these gains continue to outpace the gains of people without disabilities. I wish we had monthly data from previous recessions to see if this is something that occurs when the economy is at full employment,” said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability.


In April 2018, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,730,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 145,652,000 workers in the US.


So, with labor in short supply, is your company ready to take advantage of this pool of available employees and hire people with disabilities (handicapped)?  Before you do, you may want to make sure your facilities are ready.  The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards), Advisory 203.9, Employee Work Areas, states, “Although areas used exclusively by employees for work are not required to be fully accessible, consider designing such areas to include non-required turning spaces, and provide accessible elements whenever possible. Under the ADA, employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace; accommodations can include alterations to spaces within the facility. Designing employee work areas to be more accessible at the outset will avoid more costly retrofits when current employees become temporarily or permanently disabled, or when new employees with disabilities are hired.”

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Diagram of Knee and Toe Clearance

Employee Work Areas are defined in the 2010 Standards as all or any portion of a space used only by employees and used only for work. Corridors, toilet rooms, kitchenettes and break rooms are not employee work areas, and therefore should comply with the 2010 Standards.  

Regarding Work Surfaces, the ADA and, where applicable, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, provide that employees are entitled to “reasonable accommodations.”  This means that employers may need to procure or adjust work stations such as desks, laboratory and work benches, fume hoods, reception counters, teller windows, study carrels, commercial kitchen counters, and conference tables to accommodate the individual needs of employees with disabilities on an “as needed” basis. Consider work surfaces that are flexible and permit installation at variable heights and clearances.

As with many laws there are exceptions, most notably regarding work area equipment.  Work Area Equipment is defined in the 2010 Standards as “any machine, instrument, engine, motor, pump, conveyor, or other apparatus used to perform work”. In the 2010 Standards, this term shall apply only to equipment that is permanently installed or built-in in employee work areas. Work area equipment does not include passenger elevators and other accessible means of vertical transportation. 

The rules discussed above cover only a portion of the laws in the 2010 Standards.

If you observe a building that is not ADA compliant and you would like to know how to proceed, please see the link at What To Do When A Building Is Not ADA Compliant or Accessible.

For questions regarding this post contact Richard Acree, 615-752-0060, inspections4ada@gmail.com, or comment below.

If you observe a building that is not ADA compliant and you would like to know how to proceed, please see the link at What To Do When A Building Is Not ADA Compliant or Accessible.

Thank you.