The Can Do’s of Hiring People with Disabilities

No matter the state of the economy, we always hear, “Good people are hard to find.” Today, the lack of qualified workers in many fields is a reality. One segment of workers to consider are people with disabilities as a source for engaged, committed employees.

Growing Talent Pool

According to the Institute of Disability, in 2019, more than 1 in 8 people (13.2%) in the U.S. had a disability. During the first few months of the pandemic, 1 in 5 disabled workers became unemployed, compared with 1 in 7 in the general population. Why did this happen? Three reasons:

  1. The jobless rate for people with a disability has trended down since 2011. When Covid hit, it was sometimes “last in first out”. So, employees with the least seniority were the first to be let go.
  2. Many people with disabilities have underlying conditions, placing them at greater risk, especially if they were in essential-worker roles.
  3. Some employers were hesitant to hire people with disabilities during the pandemic out of fear that reasonable accommodations would be expensive.

Benefits of Disability Inclusion

Accessibility awareness and inclusivity support workplace equality and correlates with business growth and profitability. In a recent four year study by Accenture, companies that were deemed “disability inclusion champions” produced excellent business results:

  • 25% higher revenue
  • 2x net income
  • 30% higher profit margins

Of course, these companies also incorporate many best practices across their organization that contribute to this level of success. However, we do see companies that removed accessibility barriers also enjoy reduced turnover, lower recruiting costs, increased productivity and improved customer outreach.

The Do’s of Disability

  1. Create an Inclusive Culture: Some companies lack disability-inclusive cultures. Even if senior leaders and HR are on board, managers may not be. Underscore the importance of inclusion in your messaging and awareness across your organization. Remind yourself and your teams that 75% of disabilities are not visible.
  2. Weigh the Cost and Benefits: Be careful to ensure that you are not automatically rejecting accommodations for people with disabilities because you believe it may be too costly. Legally, an employer needs to show that an accommodation is truly too expensive to provide. And, as we’ve seen, including workers with disabilities can actually increase your bottom line.
  3. Don’t Say Goodbye: Employers should always discuss leaves of absence with employees when there is no other immediate alternative to help people with disabilities to keep working.
  4. Design Accessible Websites: Make sure your company’s careers/job website is accessible to people with disabilities. You run the risk of alienating this pool of candidates.
  5. Look for External Partnerships: We all rely on common recruiting methods, such as employee referrals and word-of-mouth. However, this may unintentionally leave out candidates with disabilities. You can partner with community-based organizations that assist with potential employee matchmaking. In addition, many of these associations offer PR opportunities that promote your business.

Studies have shown that even the most progressive and inclusive executives can be influenced by implicit bias. We work with our clients to intentionally and continuously evolve their approach to diversity and inclusivity.

Remember, disability doesn’t mean inability.


Cana Tighe