Last week we began looking at adding Handicapped individuals to our team at Ebsco. We hosted a meeting with representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabiltory Services. It looks very promising and we hope to add new team members soon.
For this initiative to succeed it is important, to both the applicant and the company, that we do not change our standards and expectations. The key is to do a detailed analysis of the jobs requirements and match them to the individual. Exactly what we should do with any applicant considered. When matching the applicants capabilities to the job you may need to make accommodations allowing them to be successful. Again, the same for any applicant. As management one of our primary responsibilities is to remove obstacles that impede success for our team members.
So what is different in hiring handicapped employees? According to Encarta, the definition of handicap is "hindrance: something that hinders or is a disadvantage to somebody or something".
My question is;
"Isn't Everyone Handicapped?"
I had dreams of becoming a rock star. I play guitar. I practiced for hours when I was younger. I never made it. I didn't have the talent. Desire and practice didn't make a difference. I was handicapped from being a rock star. Most people have similar dreams of becoming a top athlete and don't have the physical attributes to succeed. Are they handicapped? Kim Peek, the inspiration for the movie Rain Man, is as a savant and posses incredible math and memory skills that most are unable to match. Is everyone else handicapped and Mr. Peek not?
I am in no way trying to diminish the obstacles the handicapped confront. My point is that they posses qualities, talents and abilities the sames as every other person. The defining difference is society. The handicapped find obstacles in what society has established as "normal" If everyone was in wheel chairs, buildings. cars, homes and everything in society would be built to accommodate wheel chairs. The minority, not in wheel chairs, would be the handicapped. If everyone had the ability to recall dates as Mr. Peek has, their would be no need for calendars and calculators. Those who did not posses Mr. Peek's abilities would be handicapped. The difference is accommodations. Society sets expectations, processes and how things are constructed to the capabilities of the majority. These decisions become the obstacles for the minority, the handicapped.
When you view handicaps as a simple issue of accommodations, you open a new source of labor for your company. Most companies do not consider the handicapped worker. This is a great opportunity for the companies that do. Studies have shown that handicapped workers dependability, retention and productivity exceed non-handicapped workers. They get the job done. Obviously this is a generalization and you must look at the individual but isn't that what the employment process is all about. Considering the handicapped workers adds several applicants to your labor pool.
When you view handicaps as a matter of capabilities and accommodations, everyone is handicapped. Finding the right applicant is simply a matter of matching the job with the capabilities and the accommodations. Considering the handicapped worker as another applicant is just good business.
Because after all, we are all handicapped in some way.