Photo of Roger O. Crockett

He stands just over 6 feet tall and weighs a sturdy 227 pounds. He sprints 40 yards in a speedy 4.38 seconds. And bench presses 225 pounds – an eye-popping 20 times in rapid-fire fashion. His name? Starts with an “S”. No, not Superman, though that’s a pretty good guess. It’s Shaquem (pronounced “Shah-keem”) Griffin.

Oh, and he doesn’t have a left hand.

Griffin is one of more than 56 million people with a disability living in the United States. He was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, causing his fingers on his left hand to not fully develop. At age four, due to the intense pain in his hand, he had it amputated. But that didn’t stop Griffin from pursuing what he loved. Without a left hand, he played, and excelled, in several sports–including track, baseball, and football. By the time he got to college, he settled on the most physical of those sports–football.

It was never in Griffin’s temperament to not perform at something. He never saw himself as less. Whatever he did—both on and off the gridiron—he did at 100%, with maximum effort and commitment. His effort and talents were so extraordinary they allowed him to pursue a career as a professional in the National Football League. He was selected 141st overall in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, making him the first one-handed player drafted into the NFL. Shortly thereafter, he signed a four-year deal worth $2.8 million.

Griffin proceeded to lead the Seahawks with 15 tackles during the summer’s preseason. He was named as a starter in the first game of his NFL career when a veteran linebacker couldn’t play due to injury. Griffin more than ably stepped in, wowing the team by recording three solo tackles. “Any time you tell him he can’t do something,” his brother, Shaquill (who also plays for the Seahawks), told Sports Illustrated, “he’s going to find a way to prove you wrong.”

No doubt, Griffin’s story is an amazing one. But the reality is there are many similarly impressive people with disabilities ready and willing to go to work in your field of play.

Of the 56 million Americans with disabilities who are of working age, almost 80% of them do not participate in the labor force, compared to only about 30% in the mainstream national pool of workers who don’t participate, according to Source America, which creates employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The share of working Americans with disabilities was just 3.2% in 2017. But thanks to stories like Griffin’s and a tightening labor market in the U.S., the disability labor force participation rate has slowly climbed from 2.9% in 2011, according to the Labor Department.

Hundreds of companies have launched programs to recruit people with disabilities in recent years, partly in response to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which bars discrimination against job applicants and requires “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace. Amidst today’s tightening labor market with record low unemployment overall, many businesses are ratcheting up those efforts. Companies such as CVS and Microsoft say people with disabilities are often more reliable and loyal.  And those with conditions such as autism can be more detail-oriented. That’s why Microsoft has hired 50 people with autism in the past three years, mostly as software engineers.

If making accommodations for these workers causes concerns regarding cost, experts say not to worry. According to an ongoing study by the Job Accommodation Network, 58% of accommodations don’t cost the company any money, while the rest typically cost about $500. So, given that many workers with disabilities have all-star talent and grit similar to Shaquem Griffin’s, that seems like a small price to pay.

TAKEAWAY

Hiring people with disabilities is part of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. As we like to say at inQUEST, when these dedicated workers’ contributions are “welcomed, valued, respected and heard,” improved business results are the outcome. The following resources may help in your search to recruit and accommodate workers with disabilities:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) supports several initiatives that help employers interested in hiring individuals with disabilities, including:
  • The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a free, nationwide service that educates employers about effective strategies for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing people with disabilities. EARN also maintains a list of job posting websites geared toward job seekers with disabilities.
  • The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) is a free resource that connects private businesses and federal agencies nationwide with qualified job candidates for temporary or permanent positions in a variety of fields. Through jobs, private employers can post permanent and temporary positions.
  • The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides free, expert advice on workplace accommodations that may be necessary to assist qualified individuals with disabilities apply for a job and maximize their productivity once onboard.
  • Disability:IN is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities by providing tools and programs to connect companies with people within the disability community.

 

(Photo: Stephen Brashear/Associated Press)