Court House Steps

Is Hiring People with IDD Part of Your Organization's Section 503 Solution?

Federal contractors and subcontractors should be aware by now of the new affirmative action employment requirements for people with disabilities that were added to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance and Policy (OFCCP). After remaining relatively unchanged for 40 years, as of September 2013, Section 503 now mandates a nationwide goal of 7% representation of individuals with disabilities among current employees, applicants, and new hires per job group (for companies with more than 100 employees) or organization-wide (for those with less than 100).

With the new regulations in effect since May 2014, plans for outreach and compliance should be well underway--but is your organization tapping all talent segments among the differently abled? According to the i4cp study Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities--conducted in partnership with Best Buddies International and Project SEARCH--odds are high that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are being overlooked. The study found that only half the respondents surveyed said their companies specifically recruit people with disabilities and, of those, only a quarter differentiate physical from intellectual disabilities--with only half of those targeting people with IDD.

Why does differentiation matter?

While i4cp's study found myriad benefits to hiring people with IDD, this group faces profound barriers to employment. With only 15% of those with developmental disabilities employed, there is an ample supply of talented and enthusiastic workers to meet demand in a wide array of job functions. Remember, the 7% goal of the Section 503 regulation applies to broad job categories for employers with more than 100 employees. Below are a few roles employees with IDD can fill and help your organization on its way to meeting those requirements:

Top 10 Employment Categories

Consider also that a winning strategy for employing people with IDD is job customization. Regardless of the department or job family in question, a skilled facilitator--such as those available in many communities through Best Buddies Jobs program--can find aspects of existing jobs that can be reassigned to an employee with IDD. This practice increases the bandwidth of other team members to do more complex or skill-level appropriate tasks. And the combination of increased capacity for the team and integrated employment for a person with IDD is proven to help foster an inclusive organizational culture--a true win-win.

Also a win-win is that an employee placed by this type of program will count toward goals without the hesitancy cited by some job applicants to self-identify. Many individuals with disabilities have expressed discomfort with self-identification, as the workplace is where one wants to emphasize abilities. While it's hoped that affirmative action will eventually deemphasize any perceived stigma, the benefit of meeting requirement goals without having to negotitiate this common barrier should help in the hiring process.

One other note for those who see the potential for employees with IDD as part of their Section 503 solution; sheltered workshops--segregated facilities that exclusively or primarily employ people with disabilities, many of which have special minimum wage exemptions--don't count towards your organization's 7% goal. The regulation's intent is to stimulate integrated employment, so while workshops may be used for training and pipeline development, they will not count towards compliance goals until the employees are moved to full employment and compensation.

For more information on Section 503 compliance, visit the OFCCP FAQ. To download the free report, Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, visit Best Buddies International's I'm In To Hire campaign at Pledge your support and take advantage of the resources that can help your organization find talented individuals who can align Section 503 goals with your organization's talent strategy goals.

Instant poll:

  • Is your organization required to meet the Section 503 7% disability employment goal? Y/N
  • Do you consider employees with IDD to be a viable talent pool for meeting your organization Section 503 requirements? Y/N
  • Does your organization currently employ workers with IDD? Y/N
Share your answers in the comments.
Eric Davis
Eric received his master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Marshall University in 1996. He has had 20+ years of workforce experience in a variety of fields. Before coming to i4cp, he worked as a laboratory technician for DuPont, a conference planner for Marshall University, the public relations manager for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Technical Manufacturing, and a graphic designer for COX Communications.