Employing People With Disabilities: A Nice Thing to Do?

Is employing people with disabilities a nice thing to do? Before we answer that question, let’s look at some statistics regarding disabled people. Disabled people make up 19 percent of the U.S. population. 54 million people in the U.S. are disabled. Eighty percent of this population is unemployed. This equates to 44 million people with disabilities who are unemployed.

If you’re disabled and have the ability to work, would finding a job be nice? It would put cash in your pocket vs. sitting at home doing nothing. If you enjoy playing video games, you could purchase new games with your paycheck. If you enjoy going out to eat and seeing a movie, you would now have the income to do this vs. sitting at home. Finally, the ability to make friends. Can’t make friends sitting at home. At the workplace, you’re exposed to a variety of people with whom you can form friendships.

What about the employer’s side. Why would they hire a disabled person? No business is in existence just to be nice. There are statistics from large companies such as Walgreens to prove that employing disabled people is a competitive advantage. Disabled people have a turnover rate that is 48 percent lower than non-disabled people. Out of 31 different job functions, the productivity results showed people with disabilities were equally as productive as non-disabled people.

On a larger scale, many people with disabilities are on Medicaid and Social Security. For the population of disabled people that can work, the opportunity exists for them to be hired in the private or public sector. Subsequently, giving them access to a paycheck and company health insurance. This could effectively take people off Medicaid/Social Security and reduce government expense to the entire U.S. population.

I need to disclose that I have a very personal interest to employ people with disabilities. I have a disease similar to ALS and my employer, Walgreens, allowed me to work even as I gradually became more disabled. I managed the company’s goal of hiring people with disabilities. As of this writing, Walgreens has hired over a thousand people with disabilities ranging from physical disabilities to cognitive disabilities. They have also assisted other companies to hire disabled people.

So, is it a nice thing to hire people with disabilities? I would say no. It’s the RIGHT THING to do for the disabled person, businesses, communities and for the nation.

Glenn Hultberg