From Students to Employees: Businesses Increasingly See Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities

There are 2.4 million students with disabilities nationwide and 3 out of 5 of them are not currently employed - making this population important for employers to include in their hiring strategies.  That’s according to the website Getting Hired, which teamed up with Hire Potential on a recent webinar for inclusive employers to explain “why it’s important to tailor talent acquisition strategy to engage and hire students with disabilities.” The organizations recommend three organization “touch points” on campus for recruiting businesses: the offices of career services and disability services, and student support groups.  Each plays a different role on campus, and can offer effective connections to students for businesses seeking to considering hiring them.

For the opposite vantage point, for students seeking to evaluate businesses as prospective employers – and their willingness to hire individuals with disabilities - a relatively new national rating may be helpful.

The Disability Equality Index will be issued for the 5th year in 2019, evaluating the practices of leading national corporations.   The DEI measures a wide range of criteria within six categories, including Culture & Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, Employment Practices, Community Engagement, and Supplier Diversity.

Developed by the DEI Advisory Committee, a diverse group of business leaders, policy experts, and disability advocates, the DEI is a national, transparent, annual benchmarking tool that offers businesses an opportunity to receive an objective score, on a scale of zero (0) to 100, on their disability inclusion policies and practices. The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN.

Former Connecticut State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., a leading advocate for persons with disabilities and Board Chair of AAPD, said recently “we cannot achieve our goals without engaging our friends in the corporate community.”

On the 2018 Index, among the Connecticut-based companies scoring 100% were Aetna, Travelers, and The Hartford.   A score of 100 on the DEI means that a company adheres to many of the numerous leading disability inclusion practices featured in the DEI.

Companies can register through January 31, 2019 to be evaluated for inclusion in the 2019 Disability Equality Index when it is published later this year.

For companies making the commitment to hire individuals with disabilities, a recent report suggested they’ve made a good business decision.

Companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers, according to a research report issued in November by Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and AAPD.

“Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture, and they’re a large consumer market eager to know which businesses authentically support their goals and dreams. Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of corporate social responsibility and mission-driven investing,” Kennedy said in the report.

The 45 companies that were identified as standing out for their leadership in areas specific to disability employment and inclusion had, on average over the four-year period, 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than their peers, according to the report. The analysis also revealed that U.S. GDP could get a boost of up to US$25 billion if more persons with disabilities joined the labor force.

Added David Casey, VP, Workforce Strategies & Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health: “People with disabilities tend to be some of the most creative, innovative and, quite frankly, most loyal employees. A person with a disability wakes up every day thinking about being innovative – that is a skill set. That ability to problem solve is innate to them. Our training programs quickly went from philanthropy to skill search.”