Hire employees with disabilities

Hiring individuals with disabilities can be a smart move for your business.


Small businesses can find it challenging to hire talented workers. Hiring disabled individuals can help businesses meet their talent needs. It can also strengthen their competitive edge. By hiring individuals with disabilities, businesses can: 

  • Expand their pool of talent
  • Create a culture of diversity
  • Meet their workforce needs
  • Foster creative business solutions
  • Generate goodwill among customers

What is considered a disability? Any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Individuals with disabilities often need workplace accommodations. These could include modifications or adjustments to:

  • a job
  • the work environment 
  • the way things are usually done during the hiring process

Create a culture of inclusivity

Creating an inclusive culture isn’t hard. It just takes some planning and commitment. The following guidelines are a starting point to assist you with common recruiting and workplace issues. For more information, check out the Inclusion@Work framework from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). EARN is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Write an inclusive job posting

The first step in this process is to write a good job description. It should outline expectations for both the employer and the employee. 

An inclusive job description should:

  • define expectations 
  • identify accommodations that help employees perform their job
  • benefit all jobseekers

EARN offers a guide to writing an inclusive job description.

Find qualified talent

The goal of recruitment is to find the best people for the job. Making sure that all who qualify can take part in the process is essential. It is important to know where to look to find candidates with disabilities.
Companies interested in hiring employees with disabilities can:

  • Reach out to the local Workforce Development Board (WDB). WDBs are part of the Public Workforce System. This is network of federal, state, and local offices that connect companies to the resources they need. This includes skilled employees with disabilities.
  • Contact your local American Job Center. A Business Services Representative can help with hiring or training employees. This includes people with disabilities who are ready and willing to work.
  • Use EARN’s list of online job posting boards to find qualified workers with disabilities. 

Customize your employee search

An employment strategy can help small businesses. It identifies low-cost, low-tech ways to improve labor effectiveness. This assures a mutually rewarding employment partnership. It also helps recruit workers with disabilities who your business needs.

DOL’s Office on Disability Employment Policy has resources to help employers implement customized employment strategies for recruitment and hiring. 

Partner with advocacy groups and workforce development organizations

Expand your reach by partnering with groups such as:

  • State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies
    • Provide a wide range of services to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs
    • Connect businesses with skilled workers with disabilities in their area
    • For more information, contact your state VR agency
  • Your state’s Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities 
    • Increases employment opportunities for people with disabilities 
    • Promotes public awareness of the needs and abilities of people with disabilities
  • Your local Center for Independent Living (CIL) 
    • Promotes independent living for people of all ages with all types of disabilities
    • Promotes equal access for people of all ages with all types of disabilities
    • Often works with local employers interested in hiring qualified workers with disabilities
  • State Apprenticeship Agencies 
    • Helps connect jobseekers looking to learn new skills with employers and sponsors
    • Apprenticeships 
      • Help develop a workforce that has industry-driven training
      • Give employers a competitive edge
      • Increase workforce inclusion
    • Watch the #ApprenticeshipWorks video to learn more about these benefits
  • The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program 
    • Can connect employers with Employment Networks 
    • These help businesses find qualified job applicants with disabilities
  • A local college or university’s Office of Disability Student Services
    • May be able to connect you to students with disabilities in various fields of study 
    • Students may be looking for internships or employment opportunities  

Cultivating relationships with these organizations is a good way to gain visibility. It can also improve your access to the talent pool of people with disabilities.

Know the guidelines on interviewing

When interviewing candidates with disabilities, employers must follow certain guidelines. For example, there are certain questions you may not ask. You cannot ask job applicants about their disabilities or medical conditions.

To learn more, read the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guide.

Need help? Get free business counseling

Reasonable job accommodations

What matters is an employee’s abilities, not his or her disabilities. Accommodations help employees with disabilities do their job.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a workplace accommodation. Job accommodations can include:

  • Screen reading software for employees who have low vision
  • Raised desks for employees who use wheelchairs
  • Job coaching for employees with intellectual disabilities
  • Workplace Personal Assistance Services
  • Working from home (telecommuting)
  • Adjustments to work schedules

For more information about job accommodations:

Cost of accommodations

Most workplace accommodations don’t cost much. According to JAN, half of all job accommodations cost employers nothing. When they do have a cost, it's typically around $500. It's also usually a one-time expense. Most employers say it pays for itself many times over. It can reduce insurance and training costs and increase productivity.

Businesses can take advantage of financial incentives to make reasonable accommodations.

Accessible technology

Individuals with disabilities must be able to access the same information as others.

The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) is funded by the DOL. They have resources that can help you make the following accessible for all:

  • online job applications
  • pre-employment tests
  • resume upload programs 
  • other recruitment tools 

PEAT has more information about accessible technology:

Financial incentives

Federal financial incentives encourage businesses to hire individuals with disabilities. They also help offset the costs of workplace accommodations.

There are also state tax credits available. Check your state office of tax and revenue for more details.

Last updated May 29, 2024