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How Hiring People With Disabilities Will Make Your Business Stronger Struggling to find a great candidate for your open position? Try thinking outside the traditional box.

By Brian Hughes

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Hiring qualified employees can be a struggle, especially in a tight labor market. Rather than leaving positions unfilled, more business owners have expanded their potential hire pool to include people with disabilities. In addition to gaining a qualified and hardworking person, companies are experiencing other significant benefits of hiring persons with disabilities.

Attract needed talent

Small businesses struggle to attract key talent because they often cannot compete with larger employers on wage and benefit packages. However, when they expand their hire search to include people with disabilities, they often find talented, skilled applicants that others have overlooked.

Over 16 percent of persons with disabilities have earned at least a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and many of them are unable to find work due to prejudice or misunderstanding about their ability to contribute in the workplace. Hiring persons with disabilities allows you to snap up key talent and nurture their abilities to their benefit and yours.

Expand your audience and improve your work environment

When you hire people with disabilities, you demonstrate that you meet the needs of this population, which can help expand your market and revenues. The discretionary income of working-age people with disabilities is approximately $21 billion, according to a study by the American Institutes for Research.

Few companies market to this population or make a connection with it, which creates opportunities for small businesses. Hiring people with disabilities provides a strategic benefit because you increase this population's awareness of your company and the products or services you sell. Not only can you capture a piece of this discretionary income, but the family members and friends of people with disabilities will also be more likely to purchase from your business.

An example of what is possible is a story about a small business in North Carolina that received regional recognition because it only hires people with disabilities. While you want to promote your inclusive work environment, do so with tact and respect. You don't want the employees with disabilities to feel as if they are on display or were only hired to promote the business instead of performing their job duties.

Based on work done by the Sierra Group, a consulting firm focused on driving up employment for people with disabilities, there are several documented benefits to an organization as a whole when disabled individuals become part of the team. These include higher retention of existing employees, enhanced staff morale, boost in creativity and problem-solving skills and increased work ethic. In other words, the inclusion of people with disabilities encourages everyone to be their best selves.

Figure out the finances

As a small business, you may be eligible for three federal tax incentives when you hire workers who are disabled. The first is the Disabled Access Credit. This is a non-refundable tax credit that was developed to incentivize businesses to provide access to individuals with disabilities and is available only for companies that earn $1 million or less in gross receipts and have no more than 30 employees. The credit helps to offset the cost of improving access to your business by removing physical barriers, proving appropriate communication support or other equipment.

Next is the Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction. This tax incentive is available to all businesses that remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities. Compliant businesses qualify for a $15,000-per-year tax deduction.

Finally, there is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is available to employers who hire people from certain targeted groups. The list of potential hires under this list goes beyond the disabled to include veterans, ex-felons, and more. The potential tax credit ranges from $1,200 to $9,600, depending on the employee hired and their length of employment.

While there are benefits of hiring people with disabilities, many owners of small companies choose not to because they are concerned about the cost of accommodating these people. However, this should not be a barrier.

A survey conducted by the US Department of Labor Job Accommodation Network (JAN) found that almost 60 percent of employers reported that there was no cost associated with the accommodations needed for their new hires. Another 36 percent of employers reported experiencing a one-time cost averaging about $500. In addition, JAN data finds that companies report an average return of $28.69 in benefits for every dollar spent in making an accommodation. These benefits are in addition to the tax credit opportunities described above.

Bottom line

Think outside the traditional hiring box to find qualified people who have a disability. You will be rewarded on every level, including gaining a valuable team member, boosting your bottom line and improving company morale.

Brian Hughes

CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting

Brian Hughes is the founder and CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting, where he helps his clients build powerful brands through inbound marketing. He is a frequent contributor to several other sites.

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