Strengthening Healthcare Employment Opportunities for Persons With Disabilities

May 1992
May 1995 (revised)
December 1998 (revised)
March 2002 (revised)
November 2006 (revised)
November 2009 (revised)

Statement of the Issue

Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, disability, whether actual or perceived, presents an ongoing employment challenge in our society. Even in the case of healthcare organizations, which face periodic personnel shortages in administrative, clinical and support functions, persons with disabilities may not be sought after as willing, productive resources for employment.

Obstacles to including the disabled in the pool of potential employees may be related to misperceptions about accommodation and healthcare costs, productivity losses, reliability of workers, how to access potential candidates and, in many communities, the lack of reliable transportation. While significant infrastructure investments and systematic process modifications may be needed to achieve organizational compliance with regulations such as included in the Americans with Disabilities Act, research suggests that the additional costs to accommodate employees with a disability may be minimal or nonexistent and that people with disabilities have lower rates of turnover and absenteeism (Job Accommodation Network, 2009).

There is evidence that healthcare organizations already may be more likely to employ those with disabilities than are organizations in other sectors. While in 2009 4 percent of all civilian workers were disabled, a 2005 survey of members of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) showed a somewhat higher rate, with an estimated 7.6 percent of respondents being disabled, which was defined as having a condition that limits full participation in work and/or having specific conditions such as learning, emotional or mental disability or disease; a sensory impairment; physical handicap; pain; or chronic fatigue syndrome.

The prevalence of disability among healthcare workers creates a particular responsibility for healthcare executives to be vigilant in ensuring ongoing opportunities for persons with disabilities while fostering an inclusive environment with equitable workplace treatment for all.

Policy Position

ACHE believes that healthcare executives should take the lead in their organizations to increase employment, advancement and leadership opportunities for persons with disabilities. Additionally, healthcare executives should advocate on behalf of the employment of persons with disabilities in other organizations in their communities.

ACHE encourages all healthcare executives to pursue the following actions:

  • Develop an organizational culture that encourages persons with disabilities to utilize their potential to contribute rather than discounting them on the basis of stereotypes or generalizations about their “limitations.”
  • Develop ongoing programs to educate those within human resources departments/divisions, supervisors and co-workers on disability awareness.
  • Affirm that equal access to employment for persons with disabilities exists by recruiting governance leaders, executives, clinicians and support staff with auxiliary aids and services (such as Braille or large–print materials, telecommunication devices for deaf persons and videotext displays); through using networks and recruiting firms committed to accommodating persons with disabilities; and by making auxiliary assistance available throughout the interview process.
  • Reallocate or redistribute job responsibilities to accommodate individuals with disabilities and consider reallocating responsibilities to accommodate and retain individuals already on staff who acquire a disability.
  • Determine appropriate accommodations using an informal, interactive problem-solving process involving the employer and the individual with a disability. The employer may wish to seek the assistance of a third party who is knowledgeable in disability matters, such as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

The American College of Healthcare Executives encourages its members to take the lead in their organization and their community in creating working environments that enhance the opportunities of persons with disabilities to gain and maintain employment.

Approved by the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives on November 16, 2009.


Research cited can be found at: Job Accommodation Network (original 2005, updated 2007, updated 2009). “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact.” Retrieved September 23, 2009, from