The job market for candidates with disabilities should improve significantly starting in March of next year, thanks to changes in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The amendments are designed to help a sector of the workforce who often face high obstacles to employment.Called the “Final Rule,” the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has set a goal for many U.S. companies to expand their workforces so that 7% of their employees are disabled. It's an amendment to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act meant to promote the hiring of applicants with disabilities by government contractors and subcontractors.The net result of this change should be a huge increase in the hiring of disabled candidates, says Janet Fiore, the Philadelphia-based CEO of the Sierra Group and President of RecruitDisability.org.
“I’ve been in the industry [for] 22 years, and businesses are far more ready to interview, hire, provide internships and get involved [with applicants with disabilities],” Fiore says. “Where I used to have to work hard to get a meeting, our phone now rings with companies looking for candidates with disabilities.”
The Sierra Group helps connect candidates with disabilities to career opportunities, and Fiore says the Final Rule is making her organization’s efforts more effective, which promises to help the entire economy.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by the end of 2012, the unemployment rate for job seekers with disabilities was 13.4%, which was 5.6% higher than the national average. Considering the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2012 that approximately 19% of the population had some kind of disability, such a high unemployment rate is significant.
“Best estimates based on available data suggest that if every government contractor and subcontractor achieved the rule’s 7% goal, it would mean the addition of nearly 600,000 people with disabilities into the workforce in the first year alone,” says Patricia Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Washington, D.C.
What types of jobs will be created is a question asked by many candidates with disabilities, and the answer likely will be in office environments, Fiore explains. Some fields are ahead of the curve in terms of providing opportunities to people with disabilities, such as accounting and financial planning.
DiversityInc.com’s list of the top 10 companies for hiring candidates with disabilities includes such financial institutions as Ernst & Young, Accenture and Prudential Financial.Fiore says hiring in STEM careers also is on the rise, and that’s reflective in Microsoft, AT&T and IBM also appearing on DiversityInc.com’s top 10 list.
In fact, IBM established a recruiting initiative specifically targeting college students and recent graduates with disabilities, and maintains its Accessible Workplace Connection program specifically for both permanent and temporary employees.Technology is also a crucial foundation to improved employment prospects.
Fiore says that advancements in workplace tools is one of the central components to increased hiring of workers with disabilities, while the other is changing attitudes.
“The proof is in the quality of candidate, and we’ve been saying that for years,” she says.In health care, the pharmaceutical industry is one path to jobs for seekers with disabilities. Pharmaceutical companies work with such job placement organizations as Goodwill Industries to place applicants in positions like pharmacy technician and pharmaceutical sales representative.
A primary reason for the new regulations is that the key to improving the nation’s employment outlook is lowering the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities, says Shiu.
“Any effort that results in an expanded, more diverse applicant pool of qualified candidates benefits employers,” she says. “This is a change that has the potential to benefit every industry.”
When reviewing the best jobs for candidates with disabilities, the position vocational counselor ranks highly. They typically have a unique understanding of the challenges faced by disabled job seekers and are uniquely suited to guide applicants through the process.
Similarly, workers with disabilities have unparalleled insight to provide companies guidance as management consultants and market research analysts to help organizations better tailor their workplace, products and services for the disabled community.
Below are the 10 top jobs for people with physical disabilities, according to the CareerCast.com 2013 Jobs Rated report.
Financial institutions are among the top employers of job seekers with disabilities. Opportunities in accounting are particularly promising.