An organisation for people with disabilities has said action is needed over hiring graduates with disabilities.

New research shows that while over two thirds of companies have a diversity and inclusion strategy, less than 40% have targeted recruitment aimed at people with disabilities.

The research conducted for AHEAD shows that 83% of employers believe hiring people with disabilities is of benefit to companies.

More than 250 private sector companies with over 20 employees were surveyed by Behaviours & Attitudes for the report.

It found that 86% of companies believe a workforce that represents the diversity of society allows it to better understand the needs of their customers.

More than 500 graduates with disabilities have had paid mentored work placements through AHEAD's Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) programme since it started in 2005.

AHEAD said 80% of WAM graduates secured employment as a direct result of the WAM programme.

One graduate of the programme is Colm McNamee. He has an IQ of 134 but failed his Leaving Certificate and has faced many challenges when it comes to employment.

Colm is autistic, dyslexic and has ADHD - he is also intellectually gifted.

Having navigated an education system not designed for him, he is now a qualified teacher and is currently doing a MA in Educational Practice.

In 2019, he joined software company Salesforce as a WAM Graduate after the company actively sought to recruit someone with a disability, and is employed as an associate on the employee volunteerism team with Salesforce.

He said employers need to look at their own hidden biases and know that if they want to be competitive, the most exceptional people are the people who are exceptional.

"If you want 'normal', that's fine," he said.

"But if you want exceptional ability, you're going to have to look for people who are different."

The research also points out that disability is not always what some employers perceive it to be.

AHEAD said that while many people think of disabilities when they think of physical disability, most disabilities are hidden ones, including chronic conditions, mental illness, and autism.

The study shows 88% of employers also believe graduates with disabilities should disclose their disability prior to the job offer.

It found 45% believe it is a breach of trust if they do not disclose their disability to their employer.

But it also found that just over half of organisations (54%) proactively offer opportunities for candidates to disclose a disability during the recruitment process.

AHEAD said barriers to recruitment can start right at the CV stage and asked employers to take a different approach and understand their own biases.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, AHEAD Chief Executive Dara Ryder called on employers to engage in targeted recruitment and make their workplaces more inclusive for people with disabilities.

He said there is still "huge work to do" and Ireland has one of the lowest levels of employment of people with disabilities.

Mr Ryder said that there has been a lot of progress in relation to businesses strategic ambition, but the reality is that there is not enough strategic action to match this ambition.