Research Summary

Research Summary: Demand-Side Factors Related to Employment of People with Disabilities

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A Quick Look

In vocational rehabilitation services, practitioners and professionals can approach the issues from either the supply-side or the demand-side. The supply-side is more focused on preparing the individual with the disability for skills needed for employment, while the demand-side is more focused on the employer and their perceptions and capacities regarding hiring and maintaining people with disabilities for employment. The aim of this article was to understand to what extent certain demand-side employment factors were related to the commitment of companies and managers to hire people with disabilities.

Key Findings

  • Traditionally, VR services primarily focus on “supply-side” approaches.
  • Demand-side characteristics and approaches are underexamined and underutilized.
  • Employers are not historically receptive or overly enthusiastic about hiring people with disabilities for competitive, “difficult-to-fill” positions.
  • Employers’ commitment to hiring people with disabilities received a moderate rating of about 3.35 out of 5.
  • Employers believed their companies were committed to diversity and they had relatively positive attitudes toward people with disabilities as productive workers.
  • Although committed to diversity, disability diversity is not high on their agenda.
  • Employers also seem to have less knowledge of training on disability-related legislature specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Employers seemed more concerned about absence management and disability management than disability inclusion.
  • Employers seem to have a positive and willing attitude in hiring and managing workers with disabilities. Any hesitation seems to come from a lack of knowledge and training on disability rights and disability inclusion.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Employers should incorporate disability as part of their diversity plans.
  • Corporate policies with incentives should be implemented to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities.
  • Employers should receive more training regarding disability sensitivity and stigma reduction, ADA training, and job accommodation training.
  • People with disabilities should be better prepared to obtain these high demand occupations. VR professionals would do well to refine their job and skills-matching abilities and they can also practice impression-management strategies with their clients.

Learn More

  • Results are based on survey results of 138 human resources managers and line managers representing national and international companies in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The survey in question consisted of 64-items where employers were asked to rate their agreement on a 5-point scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” on items pertaining to the domains of ADA and job accommodation knowledge, concerns about disability management, negative attitudes, positive perceptions, diversity climates, inclusion of disability in diversity efforts, and commitment of the company and managers to hire people with disabilities.
  • Article on impression management, disclosure, and stigma in hiring contexts: Lyons, B. J., Volpone, S. D., Wessel, J. L., & Alonso, N. M. (2017). Disclosing a disability: Do strategy type and onset controllability make a difference?  Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(9), 1375-1383.
  • The Job Accommodation Network: A valuable resource for employers and employees for information on the ADA and disability rights, and accommodations.


Chan, F., Strauser, D., Maher, P., Lee, E., Jones, R. and Johnson, E.T. (2010). Demand-side factors related to employment of people with disabilities: A survey of employers in the midwest region of the United States. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20, 412-419.

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