Many people with intellectual disabilities face a difficult time when it comes to securing a job and face higher levels of unemployment than people with physical disabilities; however, there can be many benefits for employers who are willing to offer opportunities, not least the chance to employ people who are enthusiastic and eager to learn.
Employers’ opinions and decisions
A recent study in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation uncovered four main themes surrounding the issue of employing people with intellectual disabilities, the first being employers’ opinions and decisions. This involved the reasons why the majority of employers shy away from employing people in this category.
The main reason concerned worries about attendance, productivity and safety, with employers admitting that only adequate support systems could mitigate these issues. This may be why larger organisations, which feel they are properly equipped, are more likely to create opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
Research has shown, however, that the vast majority of bosses of all sizes of companies that adopt inclusive workplace practices say they would not change their approach. This should not come as a surprise given that such employees are usually eager to learn and highly motivated. Their addition to the worker spectrum can also strengthen business culture by dismissing biases and stereotypes.
Job performance, requirements and content
In many countries around the world, employees with intellectual disabilities are often found working as cleaners, packers or labourers, or secure manufacturing and clerical jobs. These positions have their own value but there are also incidences where employees are not allowed to achieve their real potential due to misconceptions about the possibilities they possess.
There are solutions to the problem of both individuals and employees missing out on tapping into a talent pool, however, and the basis of many of these can be found in training. This is a way in which employers can learn more about the value-adding potential of their workforce and individuals with learning difficulties can benefit from support when it comes to adapting to a new environment.
Workplace culture and interaction
Social inclusion should be a major focus in all workplaces and for all workers, including those with intellectual disabilities. The very best leaders will reap the rewards of offering flexibility in working arrangements, teambuilding activities and diversity practices.
Job coaches have also been proven to help people with intellectual disabilities to achieve their full potential, both for businesses and for themselves. They can help with a variety of potential issues, ranging from reading difficulties and transport problems to interpersonal conflict.
It can be beneficial for employers to offer job coaches to ensure that there is structure to the working day and employees feel that their environment is stable and that they understand the established routines. They can also help to ensure that workstations are user friendly and that co-workers are given any education necessary to ensure they can communicate effectively with new colleagues.
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