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What to expect when hiring a disabled employee?

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Dear Working Wise:
I just hired a new site foreman. He’s experienced and has good references, but he uses a wheelchair. He said it won’t be a problem, but I’m worried about safety, how he’s going to get around the site, and if accommodating his disability is going to cost a lot? What am I in for? Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on your new hire and for taking what some employers might consider to be a risk.

The fact is that hiring any new employee is a gamble. Most times, they work out fine and your latest hire is no different.

One in seven Albertans has a disability including those with invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities or mental health issues. You may already employ someone with a disability and not even know it.

And, accommodating a disability is cheaper and easier than you might think.

A Job Accommodation Network survey of more than 1,000 employers found that 56 per cent of disabled employees required accommodations that cost nothing at all. Employers reported the average cost to accommodate an employee with a disability at $320 and 95 per cent said that it was a one-time cost.

You will also be pleased to know that the Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) program helps Albertans overcome their barriers to employment. The DRES program can help offset at least some of the costs of worksite modifications or assistive technology.

That’s of course if he needs any modifications at all. Many people who live with physical disabilities have become experts in overcoming the challenges of daily living.

Your new foreman said that his disability will not be a problem. He’s an experienced Site Foreman. Trust him and be ready to support him if he needs it—just like you would with any other employee.

Help is available for employers. Alberta Human Services funds several agencies around the province, which help employers attract and retain employees with disabilities.

Human Services is also developing an Employment First Strategy to get government, employers and communities working more closely together to help more people with disabilities find rewarding careers. You can learn more about Employment First at http://humanservices.alberta.ca/ef.

Human Services also sponsors the Alberta Business Award of Distinction: Employer of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes employers for showing leadership in hiring people with disabilities.

A total of 11 Alberta Business Awards of Distinction are available in categories ranging from Employer of Persons with Disabilities to Employer of Youth.

You can nominate your business or another worthy employer for the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction at http://abbusinessawards.com.

For more information on the DRES program or help for employers who want to hire Albertans with disabilities, contact your nearest Alberta Works Centre and ask to speak to a Business and Industry Liaison.

A list of Alberta Works Centres is available at http://humanservices.alberta.ca/offices.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.

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