Disability and Public Accounting

Living with a disability in the United States is hard and expensive. The National Disability Institute produced a research paper studying this inequality. Researchers determined that a household containing an adult with a disability that impacted their ability to work required about 28% more income to achieve the same standard of living than a household without a disabled individual. That amount is approximately $17,690 for a household at the median income level.

The term “disabled” is wide-ranging and does a lot of the heavy lifting in this conversation, so I want to clarify what I mean and where I personally stand. When I refer to an individual as “disabled,” I mean anyone who is considered a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disability is a broad spectrum of unique challenges that impact daily living and require accommodations. A disability can be physical, behavioral, mental, or invisible. I am not an expert in the rights and needs of the disabled, but I am someone who cares, and I want to expand on what I know now and learn more. I will be expressing my opinions and suggestions while focusing on the intersection between disability and public accounting.

Disabled Americans often have unique tax and accounting concerns that regular accountants can not easily address, either because they lack professional or personal experience. There is not much information regarding the level of disabled employment amongst public accounting firms, except for a research paper published in the UK in 2005.

Per a study of the Big 4 accounting firms, researchers Angus Duff and John Ferguson concluded that these firms could be doing better. In their own words, “firms’ have a minimal understanding of disability, that disability is not a significant component of firms’ personnel policies, that firms lag behind other organizations in their attitudes to disability, and images of disability are wholly absent from firms’ annual reviews.”

During my time in the COM 561 course at WSU, I want to use this blog to explore disability employment representation in public accounting. I want to understand what Public Accounting companies are doing to recruit and retain disabled accountants. I want to hear from the perspective of disabled accountants currently working in public accounting. My goal, and my hope, is to use that information to create a greater understanding between Public Accounting firms and disabled individuals, to bridge the gap between the two.

Resources:

Morris, Zachary, Stephen McGarity, Nanette Googman, and Asghar Zaidi. “The extra costs associated with living with a disability in the United States.” National Disability Institutehttps://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/extra-costs-working-paper.pdf. Working paper.

Angus Duff, John Ferguson,
Disability and accounting firms: Evidence from the UK,
Critical Perspectives on Accounting,
Volume 18, Issue 2,
2007,
Pages 139-157,
ISSN 1045-2354,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2005.09.002.

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