Recruiting Employees with Disabilities
Carol Glazer and Howard Green
Carol Glazer and Howard Green
National Organization on Disabilities

For the 57 million Americans living with disabilities, the largest barrier to Quality of Life is finding employment. There are 30 million Americans with disabilities of working age but  only 20 percent of them participate in the workforce.

The barriers to employment usually stem from stigma about what individuals with disabilities can achieve and contribute to the workforce. A survey that we worked on with PwC found that many people try to hide their disability out of fear that stigma will keep them from getting a job or limit their job options.

That’s a huge waste of talent at a time when the American workforce needs it most. With Baby Boomers retiring and new jobs being created, there will be an estimated 47 million new job openings in this decade, according The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

Additionally, hiring people with disabilities can have unique benefits for employers. A 2012 study by Walgreens found that workers with disabilities had 48 percent lower turnover rates than the nondisabled employee population, 67 percent lower medical costs, and equal rates of accuracy and productivity.

Here are a few ways to ensure your organization is taking advantage of this talent pool:


Foster a disability-inclusive culture

Employees with disabilities are looking for a work environment where they feel safe discussing a disability with coworkers and leaders. A firm’s leaders can play an important role in starting and sustaining the conversation internally around disability, creating expectations and driving accountability for disability inclusion initiatives.  Include content and images addressing employees with disabilities on your company’s materials, social media and employee intranet, and review your disability policies and processes to ensure that these workers do not go unsupported.

The National Organization on Disability offers a suite of Disability Employment Professional Services that provide strategic guidance and practical steps customized to enhance each company’s organizational culture and improve hiring and retention rates for employees with disabilities.


Commit to a disability employment initiative

Create a program with the specific goal of hiring people with disabilities.  Create hiring goals and a strategy to achieve them.  Look for new places to find candidates, including disability-specific job sites or campus disability services offices. Depict people with apparent disabilities in your external recruitment materials and on your website. And educate recruiters and hiring managers on alternate interviewing techniques, as some wonderful candidates may have difficulty with traditional interviewing formats.

In addition, train your recruiters and managers on disability etiquette and awareness to help ensure that they understand the needs of candidates and new hires with disabilities—and current employees with disabilities, too. The most successful disability employment initiatives are multi-faceted and include both external outreach efforts and internal culture-change efforts.


Build a comfortable working environment

Set aside a central accommodations budget, so that employees with disabilities can access job tools and aides, without affecting departmental budgets. A study from the Job Accommodation Network found that 59 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500. The study found that providing accommodations led to retention of valuable employees, improved productivity and morale, reduction in workers’ compensation and training costs, and improved company diversity.


How is your organization recruiting people with disabilities? Let us know in the comments.

4 comments on “Recruiting Employees with Disabilities

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    Matthew Ross says:

    Does Sodexo participate in any program that provides on-site vocational training for adults with disabilities with the idea of hiring at the end of the training? My client has this type of program (Project Search) and asked if I could participate.

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    Tina Broerman says:

    I currently work with Project Search and I have found it extremely useful program. The program helps individuals learn about employment, they perform tasks in our kitchen on a routine basis for the length of their internship and they are tested on skills. I have hired an individual and found her to be accountable, customer focused and dedicated. They also provided a coach to work with this new employee as she learned new roles. I encourage you to work with your Project Search team.

  • Avatar

    I’m happy to hear such positive news coming from Sodexo. Has Sodexo considered attending or participating in Career and Vocational events aimed at people with disabilities? There are a number of organizations that have the funding to provide additional training and support for talented employees at all levels of business.


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