As we mark the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4 percent last month, and more people are entering the workforce. However, far too many individuals with disabilities remain excluded from the workplace.
With more jobs than active job seekers, you would think that businesses would recognize this untapped workforce of dependable, hard-working and loyal employees. But the statistics show otherwise:
A large proportion of people with a disability — about 8 in 10 — were not in the labor force in 2017, compared with about 3 in 10 of those with no disability, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report.
In 2017, 18.7 percent of persons with a disability were employed, according to the report. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent.
One of the most disturbing trends is that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed than the general population, according to the BLS.
Microsoft Corp. is among the many companies, including Google, SAP, Specialisterne USA, Ford Motor and JPMorgan Chase, which have hired people with autism for their focus and unique perspective. “It’s never been more important to have a diverse and inclusive workforce including people with disabilities,” Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, wrote on the company’s Accessibility Blog this week. “Put simply, it helps us create better products that empower people with disabilities. When accessibility is done well, it becomes invaluable to daily life, the workplace, and play. It’s ubiquitous and easy to use.”
With several decades in the field of intellectual and other developmental disabilities, I’ve seen how a job can change a person’s life. Fortunately, there are companies who embrace diversity in the workforce.
“We greatly appreciate the valuable contributions of our team members with disabilities who enrich our vibrant workplace culture through their unique abilities, backgrounds, and experiences,” said Lynn B. McKee, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Aramark. “We are proud to be recognized as a top employer, providing people with disabilities with an encouraging environment where they can succeed and thrive.”
“Our fast-paced environment with a melting pot of clientele for events in the sports and entertainment industry requires different team members to ensure each guest is treated with the best hospitality experience,” said Greg Costa, Director of Operations for Levy Restaurants. “Sometimes – just a warm genuine greeting makes all the difference. We have found that by recognizing each of our team members for their abilities, not their disabilities, brings a true well-rounded team effort to that experience.”
“Here at Barclays center, we pride ourselves on having a diverse, disability-inclusive workforce. It is our job, through the barrier-breaking venue of sports and entertainment, to unify the masses,” said Levy Restaurant’s Jared Smith, Senior Manager of Human Resources. “Being able to have such a diverse team gives us a chance to take into account a number of perspectives when providing a great hospitality experience. The different experiences of our staff, as well as their drive, allows us to go that extra mile.”
Wells Fargo’s goal is to attract, hire, and support team members with diverse abilities.
“Wells Fargo is committed to hiring people who reflect the company’s diverse customer base,” said Kathy Martinez, head of Disability and Accessibility Strategy for Wells Fargo. “We actively hire and promote people with disabilities in all career tracks and levels of the enterprise, and are proud to honor their contributions to the company.”
“RXR Realty is an owner and operator of Class A Commercial Buildings in NYC. As a Property Manager, my primary focus is to deliver building services to our tenants. To do this our goal is to create a friendly work environment whereby our Property Management team works together to ensure all our tenant’s needs are met,” said Mitchell Grant.
“Having a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities improves the quality of our team experience. This has brought value to RXR Realty by helping us re-learn the skills we take for granted and see them in new a more meaningful light. This Benefits us by accomplishing more work in a day. Embracing the challenges of others and creating a diverse workforce that is inclusive of people with disabilities enriches all of our lives.”
“We recognize that talent comes in a kaleidoscope of forms and, by actively recruiting and developing individuals with diverse abilities (IwDA), we are able to create more innovative products and services that reflect the brilliant diversity of the customers and communities we serve,” said Kelley Cornish, Senior Vice President, U.S. Head of Diversity and Inclusion, at TD Bank.
“Nearly 30 years ago, Marriott International established one of the first corporate diversity and inclusion programs,” according to a Marriott International spokesperson. “Today, the company is one of the most diverse in the U.S. with 65 percent of its associates representing minority groups and 54 percent of its associates are women. Opportunities are abundant with more than half of its managers starting their Marriott careers as front-line associates.”
“There have been plenty of studies on the benefits of diversity on a company’s financial performance, Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Diversity & Belonging at Atlassian, said in a recent interview. “An in-depth report from McKinsey found multiple clear indicators tying an increase in diversity to stronger financial results. But there’s more to it than money.
“More diversity and inclusion also leads to happier people, greater engagement, employee retention, and more innovative ideas. It means institutional knowledge stays within the organization.”