THE BLOG
10/21/2014 05:03 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

Think Beyond the Mailroom for Disability Hiring

I love the excitement and passion emanating from the new I'm In To Hire campaign led by Best Buddies. It makes perfect sense to ask businesses to take a pledge to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for jobs they need to fill, particularly during National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

Finding competitive, integrated job opportunities for people with disabilities is partly why President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law in July during the anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act. To compete in the global economy, employers need more skilled workers and people with significant disabilities can succeed in many of these roles.

Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who owns telecommunications companies, hotels and casinos and is backing the I'm In To Hire campaign, told The Wall Street Journal that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities work in his companies' call centers, mailrooms and as hotel pool attendants -- and it can take up to six months to fill these jobs because it's hard to find people. The investment a company makes will boost its bottom line through increased productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover, he says.

The I'm In To Hire strategy is commendable, but to be clear, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities make up just a small portion of the talent pool of skilled workers with disabilities in America. In fact, the majority of people with disabilities in America are job-ready, college-educated and experienced professionals for whom working in a call center or in an assembly line wouldn't align with their valuable and hard-earned education and experience.

Think Beyond the Label, which began as a campaign four years ago, represents the entire range of job seekers with disabilities, with an emphasis on educated and experienced professionals who may only need a simple accommodation to perform their job. We help Corporate America recruit people with disabilities for roles in engineering, accounting, healthcare, IT and more while promoting their diversity efforts.

The benefits for employers intensify when hiring experienced candidates with disabilities. Yes, companies will get lower absenteeism and better turnover rates like Carlos Slim enjoys, but they'll also get a competitiveness that is derived from innovating products and services, attracting new customers and achieving their diversity and inclusion goals.

That's why during National Disability Employment Awareness Month and beyond, we ask companies and individuals to promote the full range of disability hiring with the 'I Think Beyond the Label' badge. You can show your support for the hiring of qualified people with disabilities by posting the badge on your website and sharing on your social channels using the hashtag #IThinkBeyondtheLabel.

Many of today's generation of people with disabilities -- having grown up under the Americans with Disabilities Act -- are primed to enter the workforce and secure meaningful and well-paying jobs. A job seeker with a physical or sensory disability such as blindness or paraplegia can typically perform their role like anyone else using assistive technology or having the ability to telecommute.

What binds the I'm In To Hire campaign with Think Beyond the Label is the understanding that disability under-employment must be addressed sooner rather than later as our global economy, demographics and technology evolve. We both agree that people with disabilities are not represented enough in the national workplace but should and can be.

Despite America's talent gaps, only 20 percent of people with disabilities participate in the workforce (vs. almost 70 percent for those without disabilities). Employers still struggle to hire mostly out of fear and not knowing how to recruit this talent pool. Both the I'm In To Hire campaign and Think Beyond the Label challenge employers to set aside their fears and take purposeful steps to diversify their workforce.

The tactical ways Think Beyond the Label helps employers find and hire qualified people with disabilities today is via virtual career fairs, recruitment advertising on our digital hub and through our Smart Hire program. By partnering with us, companies like Boeing, IRS, Qualcomm and Quest Diagnostics are thinking beyond the label and busting myths about hiring people with all types of disabilities.

The "I Think Beyond the Label" badge is an ideal component to our programming especially during National Disability Employment Awareness Month when the topic is at peak attention. Make October count: Use the "I Think Beyond the Label" badge to show your support for the entire range of disability hiring -- from the mailroom to the boardroom -- and the benefits it will bring to American competitiveness.