M A N A G E M E N T p r a c t i c e managementRecruiting the Disabled: Hidden AssetsBy Joanie Sompayruc. John Fulmer,and Richard A. TurpinA ccording to the LJ.S. Census, almost 50 million Americans over the age of 5 have at least one disability—that is nearly one out of every fiveAmericans. Over 33 million of those areworking-age men or women. Furthennore,an estimated 35 million people ai-e consid-ered severely disabled, and of those betweenthe ages of 21 and 64, about 46% remainemployed, according to author TimothyMoore (ezinearticles.com/7How-Many-Disabled-Americans-Are-There?&id= 1918829). Recent decades have seen sig-nificant legislation to ensuis that those work-ers have acces.s—access to public build-ings, access to employment, and access tojustice. One of the most important pieces oflegislation that has attempted to enablesuch access is the Americans withDisabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. In the yeais following enactment of theADA, the literature was rife witli doom imdgloom over how costly this law wasgoing to be for businesses in general.Articles geared to employers in theaccounting profession warned firms thatcompliance with the ADA could be com-plicated and expensive, advised them to tually all curbs at intersections allow for ance). Moreover, the necessary accom-review job descriptions and personnel poli- wheelchair users, many elevators have modations were often quite easy: raisingcies, and suggested ways to improve Braille number buttons and audio cues, and or lowering a desk, installing a ramp,facilities to avoid lawsuits for noncompli- office design companies offer plans that allowing orthopedic shoes in modificationance with the ADA. These articles show accommodate a wide range of disabilities. of the company dress cixle, allowing a flex-that accounting firms were wringing their Studies show that employer eftbrts to com- ible schedule, increasing volume on a tele-hands over the impending flood of litiga- ply with the ADA have generally been phone receiver, installing a large-screention that was going to follow if they did simple and inexpensive in most cases. A computer monitor, or using an ergonomienot get their houses in order. study funded by the U.S. Department of chair with extra padding. Labor and undertaken by the Job There are several reasons why compa-The ADA Reality Accommodation Network found that in the nies, especially accounting firms, .should Twenty-one years after President George 1990s, the typical cost of an accommoda- make efforts to recruit and retain capableH.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. this tion for a qualifying disability under the workers with qualifying disabilities andlegislation appears to have changed how ADA was less than $500 ("What Is the make reasonable accommodations forsociety accommodates individuals with dis- Real Cost of ADA Compliance," by Dan them. This aiticle discus.ses those reasons.abilities. Public buildings regularly have Woog, hrpeople.monster.com/news/articles/ Among the many benefits of hiring the dis-wheelchair ramps and parking spaces, vir- 1073-what-is-the-real-cost-of-ada-compli- abled are tax incentives, increasing diver-58 APRIL 2011 / THE CPA JOURNAL
sity and access to talent, benefitting from Another tax incentive that some busi- of the tax credit claimed. For more infor-the experience of seasoned accountants nesses may u.se is a tax deduction. IRC sec- mation on these tax incentives, go towho may have become disabled over time, tion 190, Expenditures to Remove www.irs.gov and view Form 8826,attracting clients, and recognizing the man- Architectural and Transportation Barriers Disabled Access Credit, and the relateddates of the recently updated ADA laws. to the Handicapped and Elderly, allows a instructions for the disabled access credit.In addition to discussing the benefits to deduction of up to $15,000 per year from In addition, it is helpful to review 1RSFirms, this article discusses the role of net income for qualified architectural and Publication 334, Tax Guide for Smallaccounting professors in working with stu- transportation barrier removal expenses. Business, and 1RS Publication 535,dents with disabilities. These expanses cannot be chargeable to Business Expenses. capital account. Employers can now earn up to $2,4(XJTax Incentives Small businesses can combine the tax per year for each qualifying hire under The Tax Code offers tax incentives to incentives under IRC sections 44 and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, whichsome businesses that make expenditures 190. For example, if a firni spends $20,000 includes certain disabled employeesspecifically to accommodate disabled in qualifying expendiaires for removal of (www.esd.wa.gov/hireanemployee/re.souremployees or patrons. One incentive cre- an architectural banier and modification of ces/taxcredits/index.php). This same pro-ated in 1990 is a tax credit available office design to accommodate an employ- gram allows employers to earn up tounder IRC section 44. Expenditures to ee covered by the ADA, the business $4,8(X) for each qualifying disabled vet-Provide Access to Disabled Individuals. would be able to take the $5,000 tax eran hired (www.doleta.gov/business/This credit was designed to help small busi- credit as well as the $15,000 tax deduction. incentives/opptax/PDF/WOTC_Fact_nesses cover ADA-related access expendi- The reason is that the deduction is equal Sheet.pdf). There is no limit on thetures. A business can take advantage of tliis to the difference between the total number of new hires who can qualify forcredit if its revenues in the previous tax amount of the expenditures and the amount this tax credit.year were equal to or less than $1 millionor if it had fewer than 30 employees.Eligible expenditures include—• provision of qualified readers, taped SUCCESS STORY 1texts, and other effective methods ofmaking visually delivered materials avail- "Many potential employers failed to see his abilities because they were unableable to individuals with visual impaimients; to see past his disabilities." S• provision of qualified interpreters or am is a financial analyst with a large regional accounting firm based inother effective methods of making aurally Tennessee. Looking at his credentials, one might tbink that Sam woulddelivered materials available to individuals have no trouble getting a job at a firm like the one where he works. Hewith hearing impairments; graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious private university with a bache-• purchase of adaptive equipment; lors degree in accounting and is a CPA as well as an Accredited Business• production of accessible formats of Valuation professional. Sam, however, has a form of autism known as Aspergersprinted materials (i.e.. Braille, large print, syndrome, and does not relate to the world as most people do. Nevertheless,audio tape, computer discs); Sam has not only managed to carve out a career for himself in the corporate• removal of architectural barriers in finance division of tbis large firm (where be has worked for the past 13 years),facilities or vehicles (alterations must com- but be has also helped the firm generate substantial revenues.ply with applicable accessibility standards); His boss and mentor, Greg, stresses that Sam is on the payroll because hisand unique skills and abilities have enabled the firm to secure clients through his cut-• fees for consulting services (under cer- ting-edge business valuation approaches. Greg notes that wbile at times Samstain circum.stances). disability can require "some management," Sam bas enabled the firm to find a This tax credit can only be used to mod- treasure in someone that many other firms, frankly, overlooked. Greg says thatify existing facilities for compliance with "many potential employers failed to see Sams abilities because they wereADA; it cannot be used to finance new unable to see past bis disabilities." After all, some of Sams health issues make itconstruction. The amount of the tax cred- impossible for Sam to drive a car. Also, Greg has bad to help Sam develop cer-it is equal to 50% of the eligible access tain business etiquette skills. Greg admits tbat "managing" Sam requires moreexpenditures in a year, up to maximum attention than it would if Sam were like other employees; however, as Greg seesexpenditures of $10,250. There is no it, Sam is no charity case because be clearly helps the firms bottom line.credit for the first $250 of expenditures.Therefore, the maximum credit available Sam recently won the Southeast Tennessee Placement Consortiums Disabledis $5,0(X) ([$10,250 - $250 fioor] x 50% Employee of the Year Award. At that time, he said, "I hope this helps people= $5,(X)0). Furthermore, the expenditure understand it is okay to hire disabled people in the workplace. Just because youthat created the credit cannot be used to are classified as disabled does not mean you dont have value."increase the basis in the property.APRIL 2011 / THE CPA JOURNAL 59
Recruiting for the Accounting Second, the accounting profession race, national origin, age) when they see aProfession should avoid excluding any of the best can- disabled individual make a presentation at Hiring individuals with disabilities can didates, and not hiring disabled individuals a Beta Alpha Psi meeting. The idea thatprovide several benefits for accounting may be doing just that. Remembering that might (3ccur to many students is, "Gee, thatfirms and the accounting profession. First, almost one out of every five Americans individual is successful in the accountingin many areas of the United States, has some type of di.sability, some of the profession: there must be a role in account-accounting finns still l(X)k very homoge- brightest minds may be in bodies that have ing for me, too" or "Wow, that individualneous. Providing reasonable accomm(xia- disabilities. can be successful in the accounting pro-tions that enable recmiting and retaining Third, individuals with disabilities can fession; so can 1."talented workers with qualifying disabili- serve as models for others and assist inties not only can help a finn secure a capa- attracting individuals to the accounting pro- Recognizing the Value of Experienceble workforce, but also can send a positive fession. Imagine the impact on students, Statistics show that the likelihood ofmessage to potential employees about a those with and those without a disability, having a disability increases with age.firm" s culture. as well as those from a protected class (e.g.. Arguably, some of the accounting profes- sions most experienced andreliableemploy- ees will iilso be older workers. Having sea- soned accounting veterans with disabilities SUCCESS STORY 2 on limi stalls will help develop younger staff members, while providing tliem with valu- "I want to be productive and give back." able life lessons and good examples. Some firms have even concentrated on recruiting J onathan made quite an impression on his first day of class in intermediate older accountant.s becuuse tliey rccogni/x; the accounting. It is not every day that a professor gets a student with no immeasurable worth of their experience arms in class. Jonathan was in an accident several years ago that result- and loyalty. ed in the loss of his arms. He had the option of using the financial settlement from the accident to avoid pursuing another career, but he says, "I did not want Many of the.se sea.soned accountants— to sit around and do nothing for the rest of my life. I have been fortunate to thanks to advances in technology—can now receive kindness from many people, and I want to be productive in some way work from home. Finns are now recogniz- and give back." ing that having disabled employees with extensive experience work from home Jonathan has chosen to pursue a degree in accounting. As with most students enables them to benefit from the depth iuid in accounting, Jonathan recognized the importance of gaining experience work- breadth of knowledge of these workers, ing for an accounting firm, so he sought employment with the accountant who while .saving money on work space and pR)- has worked with his family for many years, Jack. Jack says that Jonathan began viding convenience and flexibility to the working for him in June 2006 and he has had to make no special accommodation workers. for him. Jonathan brings his own keyboard and his own mouse. Jack asserts that Jonathan is extremely independent and will go to extraordinary lengths to prove Attracting Clients that he can perform tasks himseif. Accounting firms should hire employees Jack says his intent in hiring Jonathan has been to let him know what working based on their ability to pertbnn the work in a small accounting firm is really like. His firm is a sole proprietorship that has ;uid be a part of the team: however, some been operating for 40 years. The personnel in the firm Include Jack, his wife accounting Fimis recruit students who can (who functions as an office manager), a bookkeeper who has been with the firm al.so bring in nature business. Tho.se fimis that 30 years, a receptionist, and now Jonathan. The firm handles work for individuals have employees with disabilities may have and small businesses. It does payroll work, general ledger work, and tax compli- a leg up on other linns when bidding for new ance. Jonathan has enabled Jacks firm to expand its services to include com- clients. It is probable that some potential puter software installation and programming troubleshooting. clients either have employees with disabili- When asked if clients ever comment to him about sending an employee with ties or are run by disabled individuals. no arms to help them. Jack says the most frequent comment he receives is, "We When selecting the finn to provide their think we like Jonathan even more than we like you!" Jack does admit that he accounting needs, these |X)tential clienLs may initially had a concern that Jonathan would be at a disadvantage because he look favorably upon an accounting fimi tliat can only handle papers with his toes. But his strong work ethic, can-do attitude, has invested in recmiting ;uid tiiiiiiing qual- professionalism with clients, and expertise with computers has eased any con- ified disabled employees. cerns Jack had. In fact. Jack, who is a member of the Georgia State Board of Accountancy Exam Committee and the Georgia CPA Licensing Board, says he Changes in the ADA Laws has every confidence that Jonathan will succeed in the accounting profession. In In addition to the benefits to firms for fact, when Jack retires in the next three to five years, he hopes that perhaps hiring disabled employees, changes in the Jonathan wili enabie his firm to carry on without him at the heim. ADA laws have provided an added incen- tive. The courts have been increasingly60 APRIL 2011 / THE CPA JOURNAL
reluctant to qualify some disabilities interviewing techniques that a skilled audi- disabilities and to make reasonableunder the ADA and, thus, have denied tor must possess; however, tliat professor accommodations for them. Certain expen-ADA protection to many Americiins who is viewing the profession from the view- ditures made to accommodate disabledmight otherwise qualify for accommoda- point of an auditor, and must realize that employees or patrons qualify for tax cred-tion under the law. On September 25, 2(X)8, the hearing-impaired person can play a vital its or tax deductions. In addition, moti-President George W. Bush signed the iind vibrant role in other areas of account- vating the best and brightest to join theAmericans with Disabilities Act ing where aural skills are not as crucial. accounting profession can only enhanceAmendments Act of 2(X)8. According to In addition, accounting pnifessors should its ranks. Finally, employing disabledthe Equal Employment Opportunity be cognizant of advances in technology and individuals may assist in attracting clients.Commission, this act "emphasizes that communications as they relate to disabled Accounting finns should dearly consid-die definition of disability should be con- students. For example, a professor might er placing additional emphasis andstrued in favor of broad coverage of indi- think that a student who has limited use effort on the recruitment of those withviduals to the maximum extent pennitted of his arms cannot work eflectively in the disabilities. Üby the terms of the ADA and generally accounting profession given the amount ofshall not require extensive analysis" memorandum writing and data entry that(www .eeoc.gov/laws/statu tes/adaaa_notice. is required in many accounting positions. Joanie Sompayrac, JD, MAcc, CPA, iscfm). Among the issues this act addresses He must realize, however, that special com- the University of Chattanooga Foundationare that it— puter keyboards are available that enable a As.Kociate Profes.wr of Accounting and• expands the definition of what consti- student to enter information without using John Fulmer, PhD, is the First Tennesseetutes "major life activities" to include more his arms. Professor of Finance, both at theactivities than previous court decisions, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.• asserts tliat "mitigating other tlian ordi- Importance of Recruitment Richard A. Tiirpin, PhD, CPA, is an asso-nary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall not There are many reasons to recruit and ciate professor of accounting at Troybe considered in assessing whether an indi- retain capable workers with qualifying University, Troy. Ala.vidual has a disability,"• notes that an "impairment that isepisodic or in remission is a disability if itwould substantially limit a major life activ- SUCCESS STORY 3ity when active," and• provides that individuals covered only "I want clients to focus on my work, not my inability to hear."under the "regaided as" prong are not enti- K aren was born deaf, and her parents insisted on making sure sbe grewtled to reasonable accommodation. up fully prepared to function in the bearing world. All of her siblings were able to hear, so her parents made sure Karen learned to read lipsRole of a University Accounting Program at an early age. Wbile Karen also knows sign language and uses certain aids to Accounting professors need to be aware assist the bearing impaired, sbe functions amazingly well in the hearing world.of positions in the accounting profession When Karen went to college in Ohio, many of her classmates were initiallythat students with different disabilities can unaware that she had a bearing impairment; tbey just "thought I talked funny,"successfully undertake. It would be help- she says. As friends and classmates discovered that Karen was deaf, most wereful for the profession to develop and pub- impressed at her ability to function so well in tbe collegiate environment. Therelicize a list of examples where individuals were those people, however, who appeared to shout at her and treat ber aswith disabilities are successfully employed though sbe were handicapped, which Karen admits sbe hated.as accountants. Professors could then usethese examples to offer encouragement and When Karen discovered her love of accounting, most of her professorsinspiration to disabled students. Many encouraged ber, but there were those who shared their concerns with ber aboutaccounting success stories are the result bow accounting firms would perceive ber ability to deal witb clients because ofof an accounting professor offering hope ber hearing impairment Wbat Karen has discovered is that clients are actuallyto an aspiring accounting student. (See incredibly candid with ber—sometimes witbout meaning to be. For instance, shethe Sidebars for three accounting-related notes that on some jobs, sbe notices client representatives talking among them-success stories.) selves about wbat to honestly share witb ber and what to keep to themselves, In carrying out their role as sources of witbout realizing that sbe reads lips. She finds these little moments more amusingencouragement and inspiration, accounting than anything. Sbe also notes that some of her clients still dont seem to fullyprofessors should be cognizant of the realize tbat sbe bas a bearing impairment.total profession, not just their particular spe- Karen has earned a masters degree in accounting and a CPA designation.cialization. For example, an auditing pro- She has found that ber impairment bas made her somewhat more approachable,fessor might think that a hearing-impaired and she thinks ber firm is more amenable to biring otber disabled accountantsindividual would not be successful in the now tbat it has realized how seldom her impairment affects her work.accounting profession given the extensiveAPRIL2011/THE CPA JOURNAL 61
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