Founded in 1989, Best Buddies is a US-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The organization’s mission rests on three pillars. One is to promote friendships between those with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. Another pillar involves leadership development. The third pillar focuses on integrated employment.
Best Buddies aims to help those with IDD to find integrated employment through its Best Buddies Jobs program. Specifically, the program aims to help people with IDD to find meaningful jobs that match their talents and interests.
Best Buddies is familiar with the many misconceptions that companies and employers have about hiring people with IDD. Indeed, an important part of Best Buddies’ work involves debunking these myths and helping employers to see that, far from being a liability, hiring people with IDD is a smart business decision that benefits companies and employees alike. Read on for a look at the reality behind six big myths about hiring people with IDD.
Myth: Employees with IDD will not be as productive as other workers.
Reality: It is remarkable that this myth persists given that it has been contradicted by countless studies for decades. Since the 1940s, national, regional, and company-specific studies have been carried out on the job performance of people with IDD. The results of these studies have consistently demonstrated that employees with IDD are as productive and proficient in their work as any other employee. In addition, employees with IDD typically have equal or better job performance rates, lower absenteeism, and lower rates of turnover, which clearly make them an asset to any workplace.
Myth: Employees with IDD will need constant supervision.
Reality: As long as they receive adequate job training—just like every employee should—there is no reason to believe that employees with IDD cannot work without assistance. Most individuals with IDD have adjusted to their own ability level and know what they can and cannot accomplish independently. An employer’s responsibility is not to make assumptions about an employee, but rather to provide the necessary tools and training that will enable all employees—regardless of whether or not they have a disability—to do their job.
Myth: It’s too expensive and complicated to accommodate people with IDD in my workplace.
Reality: In a recent study by the Job Accommodation Network, 57% of the employers surveyed reported that the accommodations that had to be put in place for employees with IDD cost nothing. Indeed, for most employees with IDD, accommodations have more to do with creativity, flexibility, and good management practices than with expensive infrastructure modifications or specialized technology. Changes to job duties, modified or flexible hours of work, and simple adaptations to work stations are often the only accommodations needed to help most employees with IDD to do their jobs.
Myth: If my company hires someone with IDD, they will have to be placed in a position where they will not fail.
Reality: While it’s true that some accommodations must be made in order to support employees with IDD, ensuring that they will never fail is not one of them. Every employee should have a right to fail and succeed. Provided you are taking into account an employee’s skills, training, and interests, there is no reason why people with IDD should not be challenged by their work and given the opportunity to try something new and fail at it, as any other employee would. Indeed, most employers who encourage employees with IDD to take risks usually find that they are excellent at rising to the occasion and exceeding expectations.
Myth: It’s too hard to interview people with IDD without violating human rights laws.
Reality: Interviewing is easy when you focus on abilities rather than on disabilities. Candidates with IDD should be asked the same job-related questions that would be posed to any other applicant, such as whether they would feel comfortable performing the tasks outlined in the job description and how they would overcome potential challenges. In addition, it’s helpful to remember that people with IDD are experts at solving problems and overcoming obstacles related to their disabilities, and the interview is an appropriate time for them to share their expertise with you.
Myth: If problems arise with an employee with IDD, I won’t be able to fire or discipline them.
Reality: The majority of the laws related to individuals with disabilities govern things like equal access to employment, public accommodations, and public services. However, there are no special procedures related to the firing or discipline of employees with IDD, so employers need not assume that they have no recourse if problems arise. In general, the best approach is to ensure that performance expectations are absolutely clear as soon as an employee with IDD is hired. Then, if problems develop, simply follow the same guidelines your company would use for any other employee: discuss the issue with the employee, look for solutions together, keep written documentation of the situation and, should it prove necessary, terminate the employment agreement.