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This October, it’s vital that we observe the theme celebrated during National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.

Although much progress is being made in the space of diversity and inclusion, too many business leaders are still afraid to hire someone with a disability for fear that there will be added costs, more sick days, and an overall loss of productivity. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. This month is yet another chance to shed light on the real situation, plus remind employers that those who tap into this pool of talented, qualified, and skilled workers will be better off for it.

For starters, people with disabilities have a strong desire to go back to work. When we asked the individuals we work with at Allsup, 52 percent of them said they want to return to work if and when they medically recover. They want to stop relying on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to get by. They want to provide for their families again. They want to start new careers or return to their previous ones so they can once again feel the sense of purpose, independence, and financial freedom that a good job can give a person.

Contrary to popular myth, people with disabilities are not freeloaders interested in “getting rich.” The average disability benefit payment in 2019 is only $1,234 per month.

For financial reasons as much as emotional ones, it’s not fair that individuals with disabilities are less likely to be employed because of these misconceptions. Truthfully, it’s not a smart business move for employers to subscribe to these inaccuracies, especially in light of today’s tight labor market. The national unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, but the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is nearly twice as high (6.1 percent). Employers should not be overlooking capable individuals with disabilities as a strong talent option.

Here are three other reasons why employers should hire individuals with disabilities:

1. Individuals With Disabilities Save Businesses Money

Many individuals with disabilities have 20+ years of experience and industry skills. If they are able to return to work, that translates into less time and money spent by employers to train and hire new employees — if they can even find qualified applicants in the market. A 2017 study by Training magazine found that, on average, companies spend $1,075 per employee on training every year. The price tag for training an inexperienced new hire is likely even more, given that the hire will need additional training beyond the typical on-the-job learning of an established professional.

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Individuals with disabilities also tend to be loyal and reliable, frequently because they do not want to risk losing what they have worked so hard to obtain. A study by Accenture found that companies that hire people with disabilities have higher retention rates, particularly when a well-run disability community outreach program exists. Given that each new hire costs $4,129 on average, lower turnover can translate to big savings for companies.

While some employers worry about the cost of accommodations, reasonable accommodations such as flexible work hours and work-from-home arrangements don’t have to be expensive. Most cost less than $500, and a study by the Job Accommodation Network found that 58 percent of accommodations required no additional costs at all.

2. Individuals With Disabilities Can Help Your Business Outperform Competitors

People with disabilities are eager to work, and they can help improve business outcomes in the long run. Accenture’s study found that companies that hire people with disabilities tend to beat their peers on a variety of performance indicators, including 28 percent higher revenue, 30 percent higher economic profit margins, and double the average net income. If just 1 percent more of individuals with disabilities were hired, Accenture estimates the national gross domestic product would increase by $25 billion.

3. A Diverse, Inclusive Workforce Will Keep Your Business on the Map

A diverse and inclusive work environment is not only practical, but it is also an essential part of modern business. Employers that make reasonable accommodations have access to more applicants and show they are committed to including people of all backgrounds and ability levels. They build great reputations and gain respect from the entire workforce by empowering this marginalized segment of individuals who have the talent needed to propel their businesses into the future.

We don’t want to let October go by without celebrating the contributions individuals with disabilities make to the American economy. We should remind employers that hiring people with disabilities strengthens businesses and drives significant value. The organizations that recognize the skills of people with disabilities and bring these individuals into their businesses will continue to thrive year after year.

Diane Winiarski is the director of vocational rehabilitation services at Allsup Employment Services.

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