News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 28, 2013

EEOC seeking public comment on collecting disability demographics

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Agencies such as The Will Center and the Business Leadership Network are encouraged that a federal agency is seeking comment on a proposed method of tracking the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is accepting comments until April 16 on a proposed change to its demographic information on applicant forms that would include disability status data.

“Right now the EEOC only tracks race, ethnicity and sex,” said Mary Ann Clark, chair of the BLN Wabash Valley chapter’s advisory committee. “In my opinion, any time they focus on disability, it will help our cause of encouraging businesses to hire persons with disabilities,” Clark said.

The BLN provides business leaders with quarterly workshops, Clark said, “to focus on information that employers would want to have, and EEOC is part of that.” Clark plans to seek comments from members of the BLN to submit to the EEOC.

Peter Ciancone, executive director of The Will Center, said some federal agencies are already screening for disability information. “This would just standardize the form throughout the federal application process,” he said.

“To the extent that everybody will be working from the same page of music, this is a good thing,” Ciancone said.

Yet Ciancone said changing an application form to collect disability data may not address his central concern of getting private sector business and industry to hire people with disabilities.

“You can’t discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion and disability now anyway. All this would provide is a standardized format for the federal government to screen for people with disabilities, to gather more information on application processes and frequency of use,” Ciancone said.

“Data is always important and knowing where you are getting information is important, but I don’t think it will change hiring practices nor will it give people with disabilities necessarily that comfort level they might want to self identify in an application process,” he said.

“The real barriers remain in people’s uncertainty of hiring someone with a disability and whether that  hire will prove to be valuable to the business or company hiring,” Ciancone said. “The federal government and the state government has done a good job of diversifying its workforce. I think we just need to help the private sector understand that when hiring someone with a disability they are getting good employees with great skill sets. Most accommodations are not expensive or difficult,” Ciancone said.

According to a new report from The Conference Board, an international business research organization, while many employers report concerns over the cost of disability accommodations, nearly half of accommodations cost nothing at all, and the median cost of accommodations was $25.

Also, 33 percent of human resources managers say employees with disabilities have a lower rate of turnover. Hiring a new employee can cost 93 percent to 200 percent of the employee’s total salary, according to the report.

A variety of government programs offer incentives to companies hiring people with disabilities, according to the report. Programs like The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Disabled Access Credit (Internal Revenue Code Section 44), Architectural/Transportation Tax Deductions (Internal Revenue Code Section 190), and many more encourage hiring people with disabilities and underwrite costs of accessibility modifications and other accommodations, according to the report.

The complete report is available online at www.conference-board.org.



Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@

tribstar.com.