Myth Busters

Individuals with disabilities who are not in the labour force are faced with the misconception that they are either unable or unwilling to work. Failure to recognize and address these myths and negative stereotypes results in discrimination and the exclusion of individuals with disabilities from the workplace despite their willingness and ability to actively participate in the labour force.

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

Fact: Studies by firms such as DuPont show that employees with disabilities are not absent any more than employees without disabilities. In fact, these studies show that on average, individuals with disabilities have better attendance rates than their non-disabled counterparts.

Myth: Individuals with disabilities should be placed in jobs where they will not fail

Fact: Everyone has the right to fail as well as to succeed. Be careful not to hold someone back from a position or a promotion because you think there is a possibility that he or she might fail in the position. If this person is the best-qualified candidate, give them the same opportunity to try that you would give anyone else.

Myth: Someone will always have to help them

Fact: This is not the case with proper training. In most cases, individuals with disabilities have adjusted to their disability and does not affect their ability to work unaided.

Myth: Persons who are deaf make ideal employees for 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 disabilities

Fact: In reality and with proper planning and knowledge, most job accommodations are simple and inexpensive. According to the Job Accommodation Network Canada, 80% of accommodations cost less than $500. In addition, the 1991 Health and Activity Limitations Survey (HALS) found that fewer than 30,000, or 4% of the 890,000 working Canadians with disabilities required accessible washrooms, ramps or other building modifications. There are government programs which can defer some or all of the cost of the accommodation.

Most frequently reported accommodations were changes in job duties and modified hours of work. Accommodations mostly have more to do with creativity, flexibility and sound management practices than expensive structural modifications or specialized technology. Accommodations like ramps, automatic door openers, widened doorways, and wheelchair accessible washrooms make the employer’s workplace more accessible to other potential employees with disabilities. Clients and customers like parents with baby strollers and people making deliveries also enjoy the comforts of a less cumbersome environment. Therefore it is misleading to consider the cost of these changes as the cost of accommodating just one employee.

Myth: I can’t fire or discipline an employee with a disability

Fact: While there are laws in place to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities by providing equal access in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications, there are no special procedures for firing or disciplining employees with disabilities. Establish clear performance expectations from the start. If a performance problem does occur, follow your company’s usual guidelines: discuss the problem with the worker, look for solutions, document the situation and, if necessary, terminate the employment agreement.

Myth: Workers with a disability are a bad influence on other workers

Fact: More often than not, the worker with a disability brings additional diversity into the workplace. For example: Someone who uses a wheelchair may point out ways to make physical access better for all by uncluttering walkways and offices. Someone who has a learning disability may develop a filing system based on colors in addition to words that increase efficiency and ease of use.

Myth: Individuals with disabilities are not able to contribute to society

Fact: More than anything, individuals with disabilities are restricted not by their abilities, but by society. As an employer, do not let a person’s disability get in the way of an opportunity for him or her to demonstrate talents. Misconceptions that insurance costs/rates will increase, and that they have a high rate of absenteeism and low productivity levels should be overcome and an equal opportunity afforded to individuals with disabilities.

Myth: Individuals with disabilities are more sensitive than other people, more courageous, kinder, more creative, more admirable or more conscientious

Fact: Individuals with disabilities do not possess any special characteristics Ñ they are just like other persons you employ.

Myth: It’s almost impossible to interview individuals with disabilities because it’s so easy to break human rights laws

Fact: Interviewing is easy. The key is to focus on abilities rather than disabilities. Ask the same job-related questions that you ask other applicants. And once you’ve hired someone with a disability, there’s a good chance they’ll stay. Pizza Hut Corporation finds that workers with disabilities are five times more likely to stay than people without disabilities.

Myth: Individuals with disabilities don’t have the education I need

Fact: Over half of individuals with disabilities have high school diplomas and over a third have post-secondary diplomas. Human Resources and Skills 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 disabilities.

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

Fact: Canadians with disabilities have access to a combined annual disposable income of $25 billion annually, making this a spending group with significant clout.

Myth: Employees with a disability are more difficult to supervise than employees without a disability

Fact: The Harris study also revealed that 82% of managers found employees with disabilities no more difficult 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 disabilities.

Funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of New Brunswick
through the Canada-New Brunswick Labour Market Agreements.

The New Brunswick Employer Support Services
is a program managed by CCRW.