5 reasons why employers should hire more people with disabilities

A previous version of this article appeared on InclusionHub.com, a crowd-sourced database powered by users and specialists dedicated to helping businesses understand and improve digital inclusion.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This landmark civil rights legislation was intended to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including schools, transportation, and jobs. 

Despite 32 years of progress, the U.S. employment rate for people with disabilities is only 37%, compared to the 77% of Americans without disabilities. When it comes to addressing the earnings disparity for people with disabilities, the U.S. isn’t alone. While accounting for varying definitions of what is considered a “disability” and the scarcity of easily comparable data, the United Nations states, “In most developed countries the official unemployment rate for persons with disabilities of working age is at least twice that for those who have no disability.”

In honor of the ADA, here are five reasons why it’s so important for companies to prioritize hiring more people with disabilities. One of the greatest assets you have in advancing your company’s accessibility and inclusion is to involve people with disabilities: “Nothing about us, without us.”

1. The disability community is a large, diverse group of individuals who are present in any target demographic or candidate pool. The level of intersectionality in the disability community is unparalleled. Regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender perception, national origin, age, marital status, or protected veteran status, people with disabilities exist across all identities. Additionally, acquiring a disability is highly unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any stage of life.

2. It makes business sense. We’re no strangers to using business as a platform for change. The inclusion of people with disabilities in your workforce is a wise business move. A 2018 study by Accenture, in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, found that businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities outperform their peers. Those more inclusive firms reported 28% higher revenue, two times greater net income, and 30% higher profit margins. 

Luckily, there is data to back up claims regarding the impact that inclusion has on brand loyalty. According to a U.S. Department of Labor survey, 90% of consumers “specifically agreed that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire individuals with disabilities.”

“As a customer, I view the company I am shopping at more favorably if there is truly equal opportunity employment,” Roshel Stafford, Therapist at Counseling Center of West Michigan, shared with me.

3. Skills on skills on skills. The disability community is no stranger to navigating challenges. In a world full of programs, products, and experiences built without them in mind, they know exactly how to overcome and get things done.

4. Improves company culture. Whether you’re aiming to increase your Self-ID metrics, keep accessibility top of mind, or increase retention rates, you’ll need people with disabilities to help foster an inclusive workplace. According to the UN, U.S.-based studies, including a 30-year analysis conducted by DuPont de Nemours, emphasize that people with disabilities “have equal or higher performance ratings, better retention rates and less absenteeism.” To attract this loyal talent, you’ll need to create a company culture that supports them. Discover more ways to advance inclusion.

5. It drives innovation. Here are several innovations fueled by inclusion, according to the World Economic Forum: the typewriter, email, audiobooks, and even the remote control. Inclusive project teams can develop solutions that help to create a more accessible future for all.

This article is a part of the year-long series Disability Inclusion exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.
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