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Debra Ruh

  Employability & Technology

01/09/2012

Hiring Technologists with Disabilities may Increase Competitiveness

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Debra Ruh, Founder and CEO TecAccessEmployers looking to gain a strategic edge may find that hiring technologists with disabilities provides an attractive return on investment. According to Debra Ruh, Chief Marketing Officer for SSB BART Group and TecAccess Founder and CEO, "You really have a huge competitive differentiator if you have technologists with disabilities."

During a recent webinar, Ruh explained that technologists with disabilities give everyone from private industry to educational institutions a way to improve the accessibility of their technology, hire a diverse workforce, and drive in more business by focusing on social responsibility and inclusion.

For Debra Ruh (pictured alongside with her daughter Sara), the bottom line is that hiring technologists with disabilities can help improve productivity. In the years to come, Ruh believes, to wounded warriors and an aging population, individuals with disabilities will become a huge market segment and add to the largest untapped workforce. Additionally, with the ADA Amendement Act and implementing regulations going into effect and updates coming soon to the Section 508 (refresh) of the Rehabilition Act, technological accessibility needs to keep pace with the new legislation. 

These developments will require employers to address accommadation issues in the workplace, something that can be helped by having employees with disabilities in high tech and management positions, Ruh suggested. Ruh said disability related myths can impede an employers competitiveness. Ruh says she had one large company say,”We are going to decide what jobs can be done by persons with disabilities and direct individuals with disabilities to those positions". However, this approach stifles productivity. "It's not your job to determine what jobs people with disabilities can do," she explained. "You need to make sure your HR systems and processes are fully accessible, and If I am qualified to do a job, interview me and hire me to do the job."

Hiring technologists with disabilities gives your organization a competitive edge

Ruh offered some tips for employers to successfully tap the resources of employees with disabilities:

Hiring a technologist with disability gives your organization a competitive edge

· Use Telework to expand candidate pools and increase access to top tlemt since it means employees can be located anywhere and work a flexible schedule.

· Assure online HR systems and processes are accessible.  A quick test for this - unplug your mouse and try to use only your keyboard with online systems.

· Turn to social media. "People that have the greatest success are the ones who are the ones who are using social media." Ruh said, citing the fast turnaround time for finding applicants.  "We'll go out and post jobs on LinkedIn groups, and we'll get wonderful responses from that."

These practices have helped TecAccess get the most talented and keep the most talented, Ruh said. "It's not just about employing people with disabilities, it's about retaining them too." Ruh explained, "I can't afford people coming to steal my employees away. I need those technologists."

Ruh says, "Employers can make a wise investment in hiring technologists with disabilities." She cited a recent Department of Labor report indicating that workers with disabilities consistently meet or exceed the job performance of coworkers without disabilities.  She also cited the example of a Canon Facility outside Chicago that began refurbishing cameras.

"They hired people with intellectual disabilities and the first year the program saved over $19 million. They also noticed that the plant's productivity increases that of other plants." Ruh explains, adding, "The only thing different was they brought people with disabilities in to work next to other employees." 

Employees at the plant reported increased morale and pride to work for the company. Such intangibles can be valuable to employers seeking a competitive edge in the marketplace. "Your competitor is going to do it," Ruh said, adding, "If you don't do it, that's fine, but you are missing a opportunity to differentiate your company.

In founding TecAccess, Ruh began with a vision of workforce diversity. "I decided to create a company that would value the diversity of a lot of different people, including people with disabilities and technologists with disabilities," Ruh explained. When the opportunity arrived for TecAccess to enter into a strategic partnership with SSB, Ruh concluded it made a lot of sense since both organizations have a culture that values diversity. Ruh says their partnership has provided return on investment for both firms.

"Our biggest problem has been telling our employees to stop working all the time," she says, signing off with, "As an employer, it has been a major advantage to employ technologists with disabilities!"