Hiring someone with Down syndrome is a great idea, but if you’ve never done it before, it may raise a lot of questions. Don’t worry, the first step is to ask what you don’t already know.
Down syndrome occurs when some or all of a person’s cells have an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. It is the most frequently occurring chromosomal condition, occurring in about 1 in every 830 births. More than 400,000 people in the United States – of every race and economic level – have Down syndrome. Today, people with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways. Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to participate fully in all aspects of their community. Life expectancy has changed dramatically in the last few decades from 25 years of age to 60 or beyond today. More on Down syndrome. More on Down syndrome.
Words matter, and their impacts can be empowering or disempowering. People First Language helps ensure our words empower by putting the person, not his or his disability, first. In its simplest form, it means saying “a person with Down syndrome” instead of “a Down syndrome person.” It also means never using the r-word and other terms that hurt whether directed at someone with a disability or not. More on People First Language.
People with disabilities have historically faced enormous hurdles to getting a job. But the facts show that businesses can actually boost their competitive edge by making people with disabilities an integral part of their workforce and their customer base.
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Each person with Down syndrome is unique and has his or her own personality, skills, physical strength and ability to stay on task. An employee with Down syndrome may need a part-time schedule or they may be able to work full time. A Regional Employment Collaborative liaison in your region can help you find a qualified candidate who meets your needs.
Most workers with disabilities do not need any special equipment or accommodations. Of those who do, nearly half of accommodations cost nothing. 45% of accommodations have a one-time cost, typically around $500, but accessibility costs for workers with disabilities are almost always covered by federal tax incentives.
You will be asked to be open-minded, humane, and even think outside the box. But nobody will ask you to hire someone who can’t do the job. Whoever you hire must be able to satisfy your job requirements and perform the essential functions of the position, with or without accommodations.
Your commitment to inclusive hiring is the most important element for success. On your way to finding Your Next Star, there may be challenges and setbacks, but your dedication and a willingness to reach out for help will carry the day. A Regional Employment Collaborative liaison in your region can help answer any questions you have and make the process easy and smooth.
A range of tax incentives are available to help employers cover the cost of accommodations for employees with disabilities and to make their places of business accessible for employees and/or customers with disabilities. Read more here.
There’s a wide range of practices, policies, programs and outreach that will help employees with disabilities feel more welcomed and allow them to succeed at your company. These steps will send a message to prospective employees and the general public alike that you’re an employer who truly values inclusion. Implement these as you’re able.
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