People with disabilities have fought for decades for access to the same rights and other members of society enjoy. This is why people in Ohio disability community were grateful for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s recent executive order.

An Executive Order:

One of his first tasks was to sign an executive order that establishes Ohio as a “disability inclusion state and model employer” of people with disabilities. Ohio now has new directives for state agencies related to the hiring of individuals with disabilities as well as other hiring practices and job development.

Governor DeWine stated that the whole purpose is to do “everything that we can within our power to make sure that people with disabilities have the opportunity for employment—both inside state government and outside state government.”

The executive order creates the following changes:

  1. Creates a statewide ADA coordinator position within the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to advise all state executive agencies on disability rights laws and policies.
  2. Requires state agencies to review their hiring practices every year and identify and eliminate barriers to employment for people with disabilities, while adopting policies that prohibit disability-based discrimination.
  3. Requires state agencies to work with the ADA coordinator and OOD to create disability hiring goals and to collect and review self-reported data from state employees to measure disability hiring progress.
  4. Mandates regular disability etiquette and awareness training for state employees.
  5. Directs the Office of Information Technology to review the state’s online job application portal to ensure it is accessible to people with disabilities.
  6. Requires the Department of Job and Family Services to explore creating digital tools to match people with disabilities to jobs in the private sector.

State agencies in Ohio must already comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Governor DeWine’s executive order codifies these standards at the agency level and explores ways to remove employment barriers for people with disabilities.

Adding Value and Diversity to the Workplace:

For many observers of the Ohio disability community, this executive order is an encouraging step in the right direction. The order highlights something that people within the disability community already know – the current laws are sometimes not enough.

People with disabilities provide value to the Ohio workforce. They are loyal, hardworking and have unique skills that enhance the finished product or service. Statistical evidence supports hiring employees with disabilities.

According to Ohio Employment First, 87 percent of all U.S. adults prefer to spend money at businesses that employ people with disabilities. Hiring these individuals increases the diversity of the workplace and can encourage more diversity among customers.

It should be noted that job seekers with developmental disabilities and their families contribute roughly $2.1 billion a year in spending to the U.S. economy. Including people with disabilities in the workplace is morally and economically the right thing to do.

More Protection is Needed:

Some disability rights advocates argue that many employers rarely offer job seekers with disabilities full-time employment. Business owners will sometimes make unreasonable demands upon individuals if any limitations arise. In other instances, employers my fire these individuals when their requested accommodations seem inconvenient or unnecessarily burdensome.

Ohio is an employment-at-will state, which allows employers to hire, fire and refuse to employ a person for almost any reason. However, if individuals are qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, an employer may not refuse to hire them simply due to the fact that they have a disability.

At times there is a feeling that not all employers are held accountable for failing to follow the disability rights laws that are already in place. In Ohio, there are employers who are appear to be hestiant to hire individuals with disabilities because of perceived risks that are not true. Other employers may exercise inclusion but fail to show respect for their employees or evaluate their existing employment policies.

Individuals with disabilities often have to confront outdated stereotypes and discrimination. The governor has taken a positive step forward in helping people with disabilities.

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