Five Strategies for Hiring Workers With Disabilities – And Boosting Your Bottom Line – in 2018 

Diverse group of coworkers collaborating at a clear writing board.

Eve Hill and Regina Kline

New Year’s resolutions are famous for falling by the wayside, but here’s one resolution that shouldn’t: having and keeping a hard-working, loyal, and diverse workforce – including employees with disabilities.

More and more companies are learning that people with disabilities have unique and valuable skills that can improve their corporate culture and boost their bottom line.

Hiring people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, and physical and cognitive abilities is proven to boost morale, increase creativity, prevent harassment and help companies reach better outcomes.

As Scott Page, a professor of complex system at the University of Michigan, recently noted in the New York Times: “diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it.”

So why is the unemployment rate among people with disabilities still so high?

One problem is that some company leaders are under the mistaken impression that hiring people with disabilities is expensive and difficult. The truth is, recruiting and onboarding talented people with disabilities is easy, inexpensive, and enormously beneficial – so there’s no excuse for not getting it right.

Here are five strategies for hiring and retaining workers with disabilities and boosting your bottom line in 2018.

  1. Take advantage of low cost and effective solutions that are freely available to help hire, onboard and train people with disabilities. Accommodations and services can make it easy, inexpensive – or even free – to bring on workers with disabilities and provide the supports and technologies that make the workplace accessible. Most reasonable accommodations cost nothing, and even the really expensive ones cost just $500 per employee. These services are readily available, you just need to know where to look.
  2. Connect with schools and supported and customized employment service providers who can help identify, train and integrate young people with disabilities into your workforce. Thousands of students with disabilities leave high school and college each year with valuable talents and skills. Their schools and service-providers are great resources for connecting with and recruiting these talented young people into your organization and for providing publicly-funded supports like job coaching and training.
  3. Demand that vendors, technology providers, and builders incorporate accessibility from the beginning. Decades ago, some businesses thought no women would be in their workforces, so they didn’t build women’s restrooms or lactation rooms – and lived to regret it. Make sure your vendors understand that you’re committed to hiring and integrating people with disabilities by building and incorporating accessible technology and workspaces into your business from the outset. Don’t live to regret not doing so.
  4. Create A Culture That Incorporates People With Disabilities. Go beyond focusing on the legal requirements of reasonable accommodation and nondiscrimination, and make a meaningful effort to create a culture that incorporates people with disabilities. This will strengthen your entire business including for people with and without disabilities alike.
  5. Make Sure Your Technology Starts Accessible and Stays Accessible. “Fix it and forget it” doesn’t work for accessible websites and other technologies, because they’re always changing. Too often, companies hire an outside consultant to make their website or other technology accessible and then walk away. That’s an inefficient and expensive approach. Building that capacity in-house can help ensure your technology starts accessible and stays accessible.

The evidence is overwhelming that effective organizations are inclusive organizations.

Make 2018 the year when your company stops leaving money and talent on the table and starts building a truly diverse workforce.