John Cronin, Co-Founder John’s Crazy Socks giving his testimony at the hearing
Small businesses employ close to half of the private workforce in the US, and some of these workers are differently abled. The House Committee on Small Business held a hearing on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, to determine the role small businesses have played in the hiring of these individuals.
Benefits of Hiring Someone With a Disability
The committee wanted to shed light on the lessons business owners have learned, as well as the role individuals with differing abilities play in the small business economy.
The hearing was titled, “Ready, Willing, and Able to Work: How Small Businesses Empower People with Developmental Disabilities.” It was chaired by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.
The hearing included testimony from Angela Timashenka Geiger, President and CEO of Autism Speaks, Washington, DC; Dave Friedman, Founder and CEO of AutonomyWorks, Downers Grove, Illinois; John Cronin, Co-Founder and Chief Happiness Officer, John’s Crazy Socks of Melville, New York; and Lori Ireland, President of Extraordinary Ventures and Vice Chair of the Autism Society of America, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Chabot pointed out the challenges the group faces and what small businesses can do to help. During the hearing, he said, “One segment of American society that is often overlooked when discussing economic opportunities through new job growth is the special needs community. Given the innovation, flexibility, and diversity of small businesses, they can offer inclusive environments for employees with developmental disabilities, and fill jobs vital to operating and expanding their businesses.”
The testimony from John Cronin, Co-Founder of John’s Crazy Socks (a million dollar company) who happens to have Down syndrome said individuals like him are “Ready, willing and able to work.” John said even though he has Down syndrome, “It doesn’t hold him back.” He added. “I founded this business with my dad, Mark. It was my idea and I came up with the name. We have a mission to spread happiness. We work to show what is possible. I love my business.”
The Employment Statistics
According to the March 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, the ratio of employment-to-population is much lower for those with differing abilities. The bureau reports employment ratio was 31.7 percent for this group, and 73.6 percent for the rest of the population.
While these numbers reveal a great disparity between the two demographics, increased awareness has helped in recognizing the abilities of those society classifies as disabled. For their part, small businesses have gone out of their way to hire these individuals, even with their limited resources. But more needs to be done to lower their unemployment rate.
David Friedman, Founder and CEO of AutonomyWorks in Downers Grove, Illinois, said, “Small businesses generate a large percentage of new jobs across the United States. Small businesses must be a core part of any solution to the employment challenges facing adults with disabilities.”
Resources and Incentives for Small Businesses
Small businesses can use the following resources from the federal government in participation with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to increase workforce participation for people with differing abilities.
- Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
- Leadership for Employment and Economic Advancement for Individuals with Disabilities (LEAD Center)
- National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth)
- Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)
There are also tax incentives small businesses can take advantage of by hiring from target groups. These advantages include the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Disabled Access Credit, and Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction.