“Be Counted!” — Encouraging Employees with Disabilities to Self-Identify

Today, smart businesses take steps to foster flexible, inclusive cultures where all employees — including those with disabilities — feel comfortable bringing their “whole selves” to work. By eliminating fear of discrimination, such “disability-friendly” workplaces can help boost productivity and morale, at both the individual and organizational levels.

Key to this inclusion strategy — particularly for federal contractors subject to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act — is inviting job applicants and employees to voluntarily self-identify if they have a disability. After all, many disabilities are not visible to the eye, so collecting this information is essential to helping federal contractors measure their progress toward meeting their goals under the law.

But some employees with disabilities might need some convincing. They may need to be reminded that self-identifying is a good thing, and that the information they volunteer cannot be used against them or shared with their supervisor or co-workers. More importantly, they need an understanding of the key role that self-identifying plays in ensuring equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities.

To assist on this front, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has released a short online video titled “Disability Inclusion Starts with You.” Employers that do business with the federal government — including small business contractors — can download and post this video on their Intranet or company websites, and share it with employees and job applicants who may be reluctant to self-identify. The simple tool encourages employees with disabilities to “be counted.” It reinforces the notion that increasing the representation of people with disabilities in the workplace is the goal — and that achieving it starts with them.

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