Hiring workers with disabilities brings benefits

The future of work is here, and it is a brighter future for all when it includes employment for people with disabilities. Michelle Dennard is president and …

When the pandemic fully eases, employers will want to hire workers they can deploy quickly and inexpensively. In the rush to ramp back up, a talent pool that research has shown pays significant long-term rewards may be overlooked.  

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and we want to encourage employers to see the opportunity that lies in hiring workers with disabilities.  

Employers may have concerns about liability, reliability, turnover and misconceptions that businesses would have to spend a lot of money to make special accommodations. Research shows the opposite is true. Workers with disabilities tend to be more invested in their employer, and therefore more loyal and productive.

The benefits spread well beyond an individual hire. Employing workers with disabilities has been shown to improve morale across a company’s workforce. It also fosters goodwill with customers, who appreciate inclusivity and representation of themselves and loved ones. One study concluded 92% of consumers felt more favorable toward companies that hire individuals with disabilities. 

In a 2017 study, Harvard Business Review uncovered enormous innovative potential in hiring and empowering employees who themselves have disabilities because they excel in designing products for consumers with disabilities. The study found people with disabilities tend to be very innovative because they face (and solve) a variety of problems each day, and demonstrate agility, persistence, drive, strategic planning and creativity. 

CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce development board, and The Able Trust, a Florida-based foundation that supports businesses and organizations committed to disability employment, partner toward the common goal of disability employment.

In Gainesville, The Able Trust High School High Tech program gives high school students with disabilities the opportunity to explore jobs or postsecondary education leading to technology-related careers. Each of CareerSource Florida’s 100 career centers includes a disability specialist, who can provide individuals with disabilities access to high-quality workforce services and prepare them for competitive integrated employment. 

Floridians with disabilities want to work for reasons beyond income. While work leads to independence and self-sufficiency, it is also a pathway to community, connection and purpose. And our state workforce needs these workers in its ranks.

In 2016, the Florida Chamber of Commerce reported 1.2 million people ages 18–64 have a disability — a huge talent pool we cannot and should not ignore. Our economy cannot be successful in its goal of full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic without tapping into every single component of our talent supply. 

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