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A Better Partnership


Nov 2008
November 25, 2008

One in 150 Kids in America Will Be Diagnosed With Autism: I Am Autistic

Every Sunday when I walk into church "Billy" stops me. While that's not his real name, he is a real person. I don't know how old Billy really is but he must be 60 or so. Billy stops me to tell me about something that happened at work.

I used to work with Billy. Billy empties the trash where he works, and he has been doing it for more years than most people can remember. Billy comes to work every day on the bus. He is rarely absent, never tardy and always happy to be there. He takes five weeks of vacation every year — no more and no less. Twice a year, when the time changes for daylight savings time, he tells us all to change our clocks. In short, Billy is a great employee.

But Billy doesn't have much of an IQ. Some people think he dresses funny; his wispy gray hair is often messy. So if he walked into your office would you hire him? Come on, be honest. Would you?

When we talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act we usually think about folks with physical disabilities. But there is a whole untapped pool of people with what some people, including the EEOC, call "intellectual disabilities."

You know, of course, that the ADA requires you to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with a disability, including persons with intellectual disabilities. In its "Questions & Answers About Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act," which can be found at, the EEOC states:

An individual is considered to have an intellectual disability when: (1) the person's intellectual functioning level (IQ) is below 70-75; (2) the person has significant limitations in adaptive skill areas as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills; and (3) the disability originated before the age of 18. "Adaptive skill areas" refers to basic skills needed for everyday life. They include communication, self-care, home living, social skills, leisure, health and safety, self-direction, functional academics (reading, writing, basic math) and work.

So that means if Billy came to your door for an interview and he was otherwise qualified for your open job, you couldn't refuse to hire him because of his "disability." But there aren't only good legal reasons to consider this untapped pool of qualified workers, there are good business reasons, too. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's "Business Case for Hiring Disabled Workers":

  • 72 percent of the American public view companies that hire people with disabilities more favorably than those that do not.

  • 80 percent of the public also agree that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities.

  • As reported by ASAE & The Center of Association Leadership, in an article in Fortune magazine, Pizza Hut Inc. stated that its turnover rate for people with mental disabilities in its Job Plus Program was 20 percent compared to a 150 percent turnover rate among non-disabled employees.

  • Fortune also reported that after Carolina Fine Snacks in Greensboro, N.C., started hiring people with disabilities, employee turnover dropped from 80 percent every six months to less than 5 percent; productivity rose from 70 percent to 95 percent; absenteeism dropped from 20 percent to less than 5 percent; and tardiness dropped from 30 percent of staff to zero.

Oh, by the way, you can also get tax credits for hiring disabled people.

So, what do you think now? Would you hire Billy? If you're interested in hiring someone like Billy or starting a program to help people with disabilities while you help your business, give us a call, we can help you.

Oh, yeah. The headline of this article? My son wrote it.*

*The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Christopher Palazzolo. "Autism," by Chris Palazzolo, English II. March 25, 2008. Hudsonville Public Schools.

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