New federal guidelines implemented this year have positively impacted the job market dynamic for candidates with disabilities.
Since the “Final Rule” of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act took effect, many more hiring companies are actively seeking out candidates with disabilities, says Janet Fiore, president of The Sierra Group Foundation and RecruitDisability.org based in Philadelphia.
The new regulation—enacted on March 24 of this year—mandates that federally contracted companies must strive for 7% employment of candidates with disabilities within each job division of the company. That 7% applies to the entire staff for companies with fewer than 100 employees.
Demand is pouring in as a result, and Fiore says that the numbers of newly hired candidates with disabilities will only continue to climb as new tracking measures are implemented next year. And the new hires aren't limited to specific types of disabled applicants: the spectrum of employers that are hiring is as diverse as the candidates being hired, she says.
Per its website, the Americans with Disabilities Act “defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.”
“The demand is cross-sector, which is perfect,” says Fiore. “People with disabilities have all types of career goals.”
Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all career or industry for job seekers with disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that 19% of Americans had a disability, per “a broad definition.”
That’s a vast segment of the populace with an endless array of interests, skills and abilities. Thus, it’s no surprise that the same sectors currently booming nationally—information technology and healthcare—are also welcoming to those with disabilities.
In fact, DiversityInc.com ranks IT and telecommunication companies IBM and AT&T in the top 10 of its 2014 rankings of top employers for candidates with disabilities.
“Technology companies have always been ahead of the curve,” Fiore says. The technological sector is attractive for candidates with disabilities in part because advancements in technology have made the workplace more accommodating and help to “reduce old, negative stereotypes,” Fiore says.
Fiore says that employers are increasingly seeing the value of candidates with disabilities regardless of the new hiring requirements. Some of that value comes from life experience, which makes these candidates ideal for businesses reaching out to the nation’s vast population with disabilities.
Careers as market research analysts and management consultants are two in which the insight employees with disabilities can provide is a tremendous asset , say recruiters, because their own experiences and ideas provide firsthand knowledge of reaching out to the community of those with disabilities.
Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry can rely on the experiences of those with disabilities to better market products. And the education sector sees disabled candidates are having a strong positive influence with students with disabilities.
“Five years from now, the concept of inclusion will be firmly in place in every recruiter’s model,” Fiore predicts.
Below are the best jobs for people with disabilities for 2014, according to the CareerCast.com Jobs Rated Report:
Financial institutions and accounting firms Ernst & Young and The Hartford Financial Group rank among DiversityInc’s Top 10 companies for people with disabilities.