October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time during which we were reminded of the contributions made by people with disabilities in the workplace.
An Accenture study conducted in 2018 found that companies who led in hiring people with disabilities saw vast improvements in their everyday performance. These businesses typically saw 72% more productivity, 45% increase in workplace safety, 30% higher profit margins and 200% higher net income.
However, these numbers do not reflect most businesses.
Employment rates for people with disabilities are substantially lower than rates for people without disabilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed in 2020, a decrease from 19.3% in 2019. For people who are blind or visually impaired, the national unemployment rate is 70%.
As employers struggle to hire qualified people to grow their businesses in today’s environment, turning attention to this often-isolated segment of the workforce can provide a competitive advantage. The CDC estimates 26% of people in this country live with a disability. Still, people with disabilities are the largest underrepresented group in the United States, largely overlooked and invisible to the public.
Both Bosma and United Way of Central Indiana have a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We aim to expand and enrich the DEI conversation—and the opportunities it brings—to include the perspectives and contributions of all those whose lived experience is less understood. This includes people with disabilities.
We encourage all those with an authentic interest in inclusion to consider the disabled in their DEI discussions and initiatives. By including people with disabilities in the conversation, we are acknowledging their lived experiences and encouraging others to include these strong, committed and capable community members in their hiring practices. In addition to hiring, companies can engage people with disabilities in their leadership and boards.
Join our organizations and others around the world in changing the conversation about people with disabilities. We are encouraging companies to share on social media the contributions that employees with disabilities make to their organizations and community. Through sharing these stories on public channels, we hope to inform employers of the value that people with disabilities can bring to their organizations and address any misconceptions or reservations employers might have.
By focusing on the potential of people with disabilities, you’ll help all to see the endless possibilities of this frequently overlooked workforce.•
Mittman is president and CEO of Bosma, a not-for-profit providing training and employment to people who are blind or visually impaired. Murtlow is president and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana.