When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, it opened doors for inclusion and employment for millions of people with disabilities. However, stigmas and misunderstandings have persisted, especially regarding hiring.
People with disabilities have a much harder time finding work. In 2023, 7.3% of Americans with disabilities were unemployed. That’s more than double the 3.4% unemployment rate for people without disabilities.
Thankfully, more and more business leaders are recognizing the benefits of employing people with different capabilities and perspectives. Hiring inclusively is the morally right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. Companies that do so can see many benefits— including increases in profits and better workplace cultures.
9 reasons to hire people with disabilities
Here are the top reasons for organizations to hire people with disabilities:
1. Access to talent
Over 10 million working-age Americans with disabilities are an untapped resource. Hiring from this large talent pool gives access to unique perspectives and capabilities. With the right support, employees with disabilities can achieve success like anyone else.
Take major companies like Microsoft, for example, who have built successful disability hiring programs. They match strengths to roles, such as hiring neurodivergent programmers. The important thing is to provide the right support and environment. This enables employees with disabilities to thrive and contribute their innovative skills.
2. High motivation and increased productivity
Studies show employees with disabilities are very motivated.
For many, getting a job is a huge achievement. The chance to contribute boosts their engagement and productivity. This determination leads to high-quality work. One study by DuPont revealed that when employees with disabilities are graded on the same scale as other employees, 90% of them receive performance ratings of average or above average. Their motivation leads to better quality output, a major win for employers.
3. Reduced turnover
Employee turnover costs companies thousands each year.
Luckily, employees with disabilities are more likely to be loyal to the companies they work for. They are grateful for the opportunity and often show higher levels of commitment to their company. This leads to lower turnover, saving companies the high cost of replacing staff, which can cost anywhere between 16-213% of their salary. On average, employees with disabilities have turnover rates half that of other employees, which can translate to major cost savings.
For example, for the past fifteen years, Walgreens has implemented their Transitional Work Group program, a placement program that trains individuals with disabilities ranging from physical to mental and sensory. At their distribution center in Anderson, South Carolina, nearly 30% of the team has a disability— and the turnover rate for those employees are 40% lower than those without disabilities.
4. Great problem-solving skills
Daily life often requires creative problem-solving for people with disabilities. They bring this resourcefulness to the job. It leads to new thinking and solutions. Different perspectives improve how companies serve diverse customers. Input from employees with disabilities makes organizations more responsive to a wider range of user needs. Their innovation can lead to new products and services benefiting all customers.
At Intel, employees with disabilities helped design more accessible manufacturing equipment. This made the workplace a better place for all employees, not just those with disabilities. Their insight brought innovation, benefiting the entire company.
5. Reduced absenteeism rates
Stereotypes persist about employees with disabilities, including assumptions about absenteeism.
However, research reveals the opposite is true.
According to one study, employees with disabilities have better attendance records, having fewer scheduled absences than non-disabled workers. With fewer absences, their day-to-day work is more consistent. This steady productivity reduces disruptions.
6. Consistent performance
Consistent reliability is commonly reported among disability-inclusive companies. Better than just showing up every day, these workers do great work every day. As a business, this leads to a more stable environment where productivity is predictive and constant. It becomes easier to manage such a workforce.
7. Profit growth
Studies confirm hiring people with disabilities boosts profits. Compared to competitors, companies embracing disability employment see substantial gains in:
- Shareholder returns
In fact, companies actively hiring persons with disabilities had 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profit margins. Companies that improve disability inclusion over time see even greater financial results. Disability Inclusion Champions, as we call companies that focus on DEI, were also twice as likely to have higher shareholder returns.
8. Tax incentives
Federal and state programs offer tax incentives to hire employees with disabilities. For instance, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit provides income tax credits up to 40% of wages paid in the first two years of employment. You’ll also find the Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction and the Disabled Access Credit, among other opportunities.State programs may also provide additional tax breaks and other hiring incentives.
9. Better workplace
Today’s talent cares about corporate values. Building a reputation as a disability-friendly employer shows a strong commitment to diversity. It also makes the workplace more welcoming for all employees. More inclusive hiring fosters a caring and compassionate culture, benefiting everyone. Companies find disability hiring improves morale, retention, and performance company-wide.
The story behind Leads at Scale success
When Leads at Scale first launched in 2013, our founder made an initial hire of one sighted employee and one blind employee. As the young startup began to grow, there came a need to expand the small team.
During the hiring process, they made an important observation. Many of the strongest applicants were blind or visually impaired. Their communication, active listening, attention to detail, and other soft skills exceeded expectations.
This pattern led the founder to make a bold decision that would transform the company: Leads at Scale shifted its hiring model to focus on recruiting blind and visually impaired team members.
It was a major change, but one that proved tremendously successful. Leads at Scale found that, when provided reasonable accommodations, blind employees excelled in roles like:
- Customer service
- Call centers
- Quality assurance
- Client services
- Account management
- Data entry
Their retention rates were higher, reducing costly turnover. These employees brought diverse perspectives that strengthened client relationships and innovation.
The company also transitioned to a remote work model in 2015 to expand its access to talented candidates. This shift enabled the company to recruit the best talent across the entire country.
Today, Leads at Scale’s inclusive team is 100% blind and visually impaired. By recognizing the overlooked potential of this talent pool, the company tapped into unique skills and abilities. The decision gave Leads at Scale a competitive edge. It also created meaningful employment opportunities for the community.
Ultimately, this story demonstrates how organizations can gain tremendous benefits by giving talented workers a chance to excel. The company exemplifies the power of inclusion to drive business success.
The bottom line
Full inclusion for people with disabilities in the workforce is still far off, but companies can gain an advantage by leading the way. Let inclusive values guide hiring decisions and leverage the many benefits of a disability-diverse workforce. You’ll build a stronger, more innovative, and loyal team positioned for success, becoming a recognized disability advocate in your industry.