Hiring and retaining individuals with a disability

Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to attracting, hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities (IWD), which is an important component of VCU’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. VCU recognizes that IWD brings an extraordinary array of skills and training to the workplace.  VCU is dedicated to being an employer of choice for IWD. Important information, myths, and resources provided below are intended to help departments understand the value of hiring IWD, as well as how and where to recruit IWD. Some content was adapted from the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management.

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The MAP method – best practices for recruiting and retaining people with disabilities:

  • Market your career opportunities or agency
    • Get Involved with Disability Inclusion programs and services
    • Provide disability-friendly job postings and interviews
    • Host or attend career fairs or conferences dedicated to people with disabilities
  • Accommodate and be flexible
    • Facilitate a disability-friendly workplace culture
    • Evaluate facility, workspace, and website accessibility
    • Promote interactive discussions with candidates and employees regarding accommodation needs
  • Plan for success
    • Establish and promote workplace mentoring and job shadowing opportunities
    • Educate and inform managers and employees on processes for requesting and determining accommodations


Importance of diversity, inclusion and equity

  • Supports VCU’s Strategic Plan: Quest 2025 and one of the core values, “Diversity and inclusion: Ensuring a climate of mutual trust and respect where individuals of different cultural backgrounds, identities, abilities and life experiences are embraced, engaged and empowered to drive excellence and success”
  • (TalentLyft Article) Employees in a company with higher workplace diversity will have access to a variety of different perspectives, which is highly beneficial when it comes to planning and executing a business strategy. 
  • People with different backgrounds tend to have different experiences and thus different perspectives. Exposure to a variety of different perspectives and views leads to higher creativity. 
  • Diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace cause all employees to feel accepted and valued. When employees feel accepted and valued, they are also happier in their workplace and stay longer with a company. As a result, companies with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates.
  • For information about diversity, inclusion and equity at VCU, visit inclusive.vcu.edu


Benefits of hiring individuals with a disability (1-3 from SHRM Article)

  • According to the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Institute on Disability, nearly 1 in 8 people in the U.S. has a disability, and that number is rising annually
  • Companies that succeed in incorporating candidates with disabilities have seen 28 percent higher revenues and two times higher net income, according to an Accenture 2018 white paper on accessibility. (Also from the article: Net income was two times more, and profit margins were higher by 30 percent. Additionally, the Department of Labor found that employers who embraced disability saw a 90 percent increase in employee retention.)
  • Workplace Initiative, a network of companies, nonprofits and government agencies working to remove barriers for those with disabilities, reports that those companies also experienced reduced turnover, lower recruiting costs, increased productivity and improved customer outreach.
  • (Workplace Initiative) People with disabilities represent a significant talent pool.  In the U.S. alone, there are over 42 million people with disabilities. And a recent study by the Kessler Foundation found that more than 68 percent of people with disabilities are striving to work.
  • (Business.com Article) Aside from the financial and economic gains, hiring people with disabilities has a positive effect on factors such as absenteeism and motivation. The Accenture study highlights six main areas of "inclusion incentives" – increased innovation, improved shareholder value, improved productivity, access to the supplier ecosystem, improved market share and enhanced reputation.
  • Individuals with disabilities can bring innovative thinking, a unique perspective and other talents that can help businesses be more productive and competitive
  • (Business.com Article) For companies to be truly successful in hiring a diverse workforce, they need to look at it as embracing the advantages of having a group of people with varying abilities, skills and intelligences, rather than compliance or perceived obligation.
  • People with disabilities can bring success, diversity and increased motivation to the workplace, but they are still fighting against decades of stigma and discrimination. 



People with disabilities live very different lives than people without disabilities. 
False: Overall, people with disabilities live similar lives to those without disabilities, although, some ways of doing things may be a little bit different depending on the type and severity of a person’s disability. For example, people with limited use of their arms and legs can drive, but their car will be fitted with hand controls for gas and brakes and possibly a special handle to grip the steering wheel.

People with disabilities can only work at special jobs made just for them
False: As with all people, certain jobs may be better for some than for others. While there are obvious job matches that don’t align (example: someone with a sight impairment being a bus driver or someone who has quadriplegia being a loader for a shipping company), people should not be denied employment opportunities based on the disability they have. There are often many different ways of doing something that are equally effective. 


People with disabilities are dependent and always need help. 
All of us may have difficulty doing some things and may require assistance. People with disabilities may require help on occasion; however, disability does not mean dependency. It is always a good strategy not to assume a person with a disability needs assistance. Just ask!

People with disabilities are a one-dimensional group. 
There are societal assumptions that tend to view people with disabilities as a one-dimensional group who all have the same needs, interests and opinions. People with disabilities reflect the same diversity that exists in the rest of society, including varying social, economic, cultural, family and educational characteristics. The viewpoints expressed by an individual with a disability are not representative of those of all people with disabilities.

People with disabilities cannot lead a full and productive life. 
People with disabilities are capable of fully participating in community life. It is important to focus on a person’s ability, not their limitations. 

It costs a lot to hire individuals with disabilities.
While many companies are concerned about the costs of accommodating persons with disabilities, these are actually minimal and fruitful investments. According to employers participating in a recent study by Job Accommodation Network, a service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, a high percentage (59 percent) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500 per employee with a disability (Accenture 2018)



Partnership for People with Disabilities - A strategic goal of the Partnership is to support adults with disabilities using the principles of self-determination and inclusion to guide our work. To achieve their goal, the Partnership is committed to helping communities garner the resources needed for adults and aging persons with disabilities to meet their personal needs and interests.

VCU Equity and Access Services  Equity and Access Services leads, coordinates and supports civil rights compliance for Virginia Commonwealth University.  VCU Equity and Access Services is committed to fostering a safe environment and ensuring equal access to education and related services to everyone affiliated with the VCU community, including visitors and job applicants.

VCU Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities policy  Virginia Commonwealth University (“VCU”) is committed to ensuring accessibility and equal access to its information, programs, and activities, including its technologies and web pages. VCU will provide reasonable accommodations to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to compete for or perform jobs, participate in classes or other university functions, or access university information, including information delivered through digital or online methods.

VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center - Established in 1983, the Virginia Commonwealth University RRTC provides resources for professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their representatives. Our team of nationally and internationally renowned researchers is committed to developing and advancing evidence-based practices to increase the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities. 

VCU School of Education ACE-IT in College -  ACE-IT in College is an inclusive college program for students with intellectual disabilities. It provides individualized support, allowing students to participate in employment, college classes and campus activities, and helps prepare them to pursue their self-determined futures.

Virginia Department of Aging for Rehabilitation Services (DARS) - The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, in collaboration with community partners, provides and advocates for resources and services to improve the employment, quality of life, security, and independence of older Virginians, Virginians with disabilities, and their families. DARS includes the Adult Protective Services Division, the Community Based Services Division, Disability Determination Services, the Division for Rehabilitative Services, the Division for the Aging, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, the Office of Community Integration and the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

The Choice Group - Founded in 1998, we have dedicated over 20 years to helping our clients find meaningful employment as a part of a full and enriching lifestyle.  Those who encounter varying obstacles to entering the competitive workforce find their efforts become more productive when paired with The Choice Group’s assistance.

Career Support Systems, Inc. - CSS is a private, nationally accredited provider of community-based employment and support services for people with disabilities or obstacles to employment. Founded in 1993, CSS has built its reputation by designing and delivering an array of highly individualized job placement services and a full range of complimentary support employment services. 

The Next Move Program - The Next Move Program, a 501 (c)(3) organization, partners with businesses to create guided internship experiences for young adults with disabilities. 

Job Accommodation Network (JAN): The Virginia Business Leadership Network (VABLN): A business-to-business association that is focused on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the workforce.

The Virginia Business Leadership Network (VABLN): A business-to-business association that is focused on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the workforce.

Employee Assistance and Resource Network (EARN): A network that assists employers with recruiting, hiring, and retaining people with disabilities. 

Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR): A search engine on JAN that allows users to find various accommodation options for people with disabilities in workplace and recreational settings.

Workforce Recruitment Program: A recruitment and referral program that connects public and private sector employers to college students and recent graduates with disabilities through summer or permanent job opportunities.