The figures are stark: estimates put the unemployment rate for people with disabilities at more than five times the rate for the able-bodied. Some estimates suggest it’s well over 50%. In the long term, organizations are going to need access to as much skilled labour as possible.
Stratus Video is already set up to help people with hearing loss, but they’re also providing work and income to their deaf employees. The company provides on-demand interpreting to hospitals and a video phone service for the deaf, and 68% of their employees who don’t work as interpreters are deaf or hard of hearing. This includes three of the company’s eight vice presidents, and they also have more than 250 contractors around the US who are deaf.
Benefits to the company have been numerous, Stratus CEO Sean Belanger said. His deaf employees are committed, engaged and come up with solutions to problems based on insights unique to their experience. He cites a US Department of Education study that supports his assessment. It found that disabled employees in general are average or above average in performance, quality and quantity of work, flexibility and attendance.
While Stratus had a unique opportunity to integrate its employees, given its specialty area. In-house trainers teach the hearing employees American Sign Language, employees have access to a video phone and video software so they can communicate both visually and vocally.
While other companies might have to put some accommodations into place, most of the time these steps are less complicated or costly than employers anticipate.
Disability Awareness Consultants president Lauri Sue Robertson said some employers feared disabled employees might make unreasonable demands and that the accommodations needed would be awkward, expensive and difficult to maintain. However, a study from 2005 showed that the average accommodation cost to a Canadian employer was a one-off $500 spend.