When you are looking to diversify your company’s workforce, a network of thousands to consider is ready and willing to work.


If you’re looking to diversify your workforce, look no further than Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), which has access to one of the country’s most untapped talent pipeline—a network of thousands of people with disabilities who are ready and willing to work. When given the chance to reach their full potential within your company, individuals with disabilities can become some of your most loyal and hardworking employees. As we celebrate October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, Rachel Smith, Communications Director for Florida VR shares some insight on how and why you should consider hiring a person with a disability as your next employee.


What is VR and what do they do? VR helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get or keep a job. VR is committed to helping people with disabilities find meaningful careers. VR’s mission is “to help people with disabilities find and maintain employment and enhance their independence.” Our Vision is “to become the first place people with disabilities turn when seeking employment and a top resource for employers in need of qualified employees.” VR provides services to help our customers prepare for their new job or help them stay in their current job.


How do I find a potential employee who has a disability? As the state’s employment agency for people with disabilities, VR agencies facilitate a wide range of services that prepare qualified candidates with skills to meet the workplace needs of business. Through the National Employment Team (NET), a network of 80 VR business consultants providing no-cost services to businesses, you can receive the support you need to find your next employee.


The NET offers businesses a single point of contact to connect with qualified applicants, resources, and support services in their local area across all 50 states, Washington, DC and U.S. territories. The NET can point you to local talent, or you could do a national search on the Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP). TAP is an online portal that provides businesses the opportunity to access the largest centralized talent pool of people with disabilities, including veterans. You can find it at https://tapability.org.


You can also post your job openings on TAP and reach the 80 VR agencies across the country. When a business posts jobs on TAP, they are seen by VR job seekers, the NET, VR staff and partners across the U.S.


Can VR help with accommodations and training?: When you set up a partnership with VR to find qualified candidates with disabilities, members of the NET can offer support from VR experts as well as consultation and technical assistance. VR partners with the Veterans Administration and the American Indian Rehabilitation Program as well as a network of 10,000 community agencies.


VR can answer any questions about accommodations that may need to be made for your new hire. The majority of these accommodations are free or inexpensive, typically costing no more than $500. VR can help cover the cost of accommodations, if they are necessary for your employee to do his or her job.


Can I give my potential employee a trial run?: Yes, VR offers On-the-Job Training (OJT), an opportunity for you, the employer, to mentor a person with a disability, helping them develop the skills needed to realize their career goals. During OJT, the trainee interacts on a regular basis with employees who do not have disabilities, holds a regular position, and is paid no less than minimum wage. OJT helps people with disabilities get used to the employment environment while gaining valuable work experience.


VR may provide reimbursement for the trainee’s salary, support services (uniforms, tools, bus passes), jobsite assessment, and any needed accommodations during OJT. Businesses who participate in OJT or internships for people with disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to hire a person with a disability.


What about the new federal contractor hiring directive? TAP offers compliance metrics and reports that can help employers effectively measure outreach, recruitment and the hiring of people with disabilities. This comes in handy for any federal contractors who are asked to comply with the federal directive that they aim to have at least 7 percent of their workforce comprised of people who have a disability.


What other benefits may I receive if I work with VR to hire persons with disabilities?:

  • No cost for business services
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs
  • Reduced turnover costs with employees who tend to stay on the job longer
  • The chance to see if the job and your business are a good fit with the potential employee  through VR’s OJT
  • Federal tax incentives, when available, for employers who hire individuals with disabilities into permanent positions
  • More efficient work processes—when Walgreens and A&F Woods Company provided accommodations for their workers with disabilities, the companies experienced an overall increase in productivity
  • Increased revenues by having a workplace that reflects the customers you serve. Employing people with disabilities helps generate revenues by allowing you to tap into the disability market, build brand trust and loyalty, and create new products and services.


How do I get started? How does the process work? Is VR available in all 50 states? VR is a win-win situation for both employees and employers. VR is here and ready to partner with businesses at the national, state, and local levels to help you with your staffing needs. Once you connect with your local business consultant, you can search for potential employees. There are VR agencies in all 50 states and U.S. territories. You can find a list of VR agencies at http://www.rehabnetwork.org/resources/state-vr-directors/.


To connect with your local VR business consultant, contact, Kathy West-Evans, Director of Business Relations for the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, at [email protected].



VR offers:

  • Qualified applicants
  • Technical assistance and advice on accommodations, if needed
  • ADA consulting, such as interviewing tips
  • On-site Disability Awareness Training
  • Tax credit assistance
  • Reimbursement for On-the-Job Training costs including the trainee’s salary and necessary accommodations



Myth VS Fact

Myth: Accommodations will be too expensive.

Fact: Most accommodations are free or cost less than $500, and VR will provide advice on how to make accommodations, if needed.


Myth: If I hire a person with a disability, I will have to give them extensive training.

Fact: VR offers qualified applicants who are ready to work or On-the-Job Training to get the employee properly trained for the job.


Myth: My employees are not comfortable working with a person who has disabilities.

Fact: Workers with disabilities can have a positive effect on coworkers, and VR offers on-site Disability Awareness Training.


Myth: There are no benefits from hiring a person with disabilities.

Fact: People with disabilities have fewer scheduled absences and stay on the job longer than those without disabilities. In addition, tax credits through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may be available to employers who hire individuals with disabilities.


Quotes to use:

“I would say honestly if it’s the right person give them a shot. Don’t think their disability is going to be extra time or a burden because in reality it hasn’t put any extra burden on us at all.”  Hunter Hardt, Assistant General Manager, Homewood Suites by Hilton.


“A person with a disability is often more loyal and dedicated; you can count on them to come to work. It’s more than a good business practice; it’s the best thing to do for my business.”  Joel Hullet, General Manager, Wal-Mart.


“You get so much more out of it [hiring people with disabilities] than any amount of money. You can’t buy that kind of feeling. It’s so rewarding.” Linda Nunes, Manager, T.J. Maxx.



Hiring a Person with a Disability is a Win-Win for Both Employer and Employee

Rhonda Marley recycles shoes at Suncoast Textile Recycling. “I have to make sure they’re worth a second time around,” she says. “If they are I put them a bin. If not, I trash them. I am very grateful for this job.”


Suncoast Textile Recycling purchases surplus donations from thrift stores and charities and then sells the items to agencies in third world countries. And they have a history of hiring people with disabilities. The company was honored by Florida Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) as an Outstanding Employer in 2013 for its commitment to creating an inclusive workplace. This supportive environment makes Suncoast an excellent fit for Rhonda.


Owner Jason Fox explains, “Rhonda is a reliable and dependable employee who gives 110 percent every day. Here at Suncoast Textile Recycling it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a disability, it’s that you can do the job. And once you find the right place for that person, they work hard to show that they can do the job and do it right.”


When Rhonda first came to VR, an agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, she was looking for a second chance. After going through a long period of unemployment, Rhonda, who has a disability, was determined to get back to work. “Rhonda has been committed to ‘turning her life around’ from the first day I met her,” says her VR counselor, Pat Wellner. “She was willing to do whatever it took.”


Rhonda was referred by VR to the OJT program at Suncoast Textile Recycling. During her time in the program, VR paid for her transportation and training. Rhonda excelled in her OJT—she “initiated projects when the work was slow, went above and beyond her job description, and had a positive effect on her coworkers,” says Wellner.


Her outstanding performance led to a job offer from Suncoast Textile Recycling, and she began working there in January 2012. Rhonda is grateful for the kindness of her supervisor, Jason Fox. “Jason has got to be the one of the most honest and fair men I have ever worked for,” she says. “He gave me a second chance, and believe me, it was appreciated.”


Wellner is proud to see how far Rhonda has come. “She is a fantastic employee. We can really make a difference for people like Rhonda, who want to help themselves. She wanted to change her life, and she did.”


Along with her own determination, Rhonda credits VR for her success. “I am very grateful for VR and I would recommend it to anybody—and I have,” says Rhonda. “People who think there’s no way out—there are organizations out there that will help you. You just have to do what they ask.”