SXSW EDU 2024: Stigma around hiring people with disabilities

Mike Hess, founder and executive director of the Blind Institute of Technology, joined WorkingNation to share his thoughts on the bias people with disabilities face in the job market

The need to prove reasonable accommodation in the workforce for people with disabilities falls on them, says Mike Hess, founder and executive director of the Blind Institute of Technology.

He says the number of companies with a talent acquisition strategy that includes people with disabilities is extraordinarily low.

Hess joined WorkingNation’s editor-in-chief Ramona Schindelheim for WorkingNation Overheard at SXSW EDU 2024 in Austin.

He adds, “Not only is there a stigma and perception around people with disabilities, there’s also this legal requirement – this legal ambiguity in many cases – that organizations don’t understand what reasonable accommodations are.”

Hess continues, “[Companies] don’t know what they don’t know. Generally, what they do know about people with disabilities, unfortunately, is the lawsuits that make the news. And so, companies shy away, ‘Well, we just don’t know. So, let’s not dip our toe in that pond.’

“The statistics of that estimated 344 or 4% of Fortune 10,000 companies kind of proves that point. Companies are hesitant to even include us in their inclusion-oriented talent acquisition strategies.”

Learn more about the Blind Institute of Technology.

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