Solution Series: The Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution

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On October 3rd Fedcap held its 14th biannual Solution Series – The Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution. The overflow crowd included business partners, and representatives from community and government organizations that support the Fedcap family of agencies. If you were unable to attend the event, click here to view the Solution Series in its entirety.

Attendees were treated to an insightful and thought-provoking discussion of a topic of compelling interest to businesses large and small – why hiring people with disabilities is good for business. Panelists included:

• Elaine E. Katz – Senior Vice President for Grants and Communications, Kessler Foundation

• Larry Stubblefield – Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights at the Small Business Administration

• Amanda Tierney – Regional Learning Center Manager, Workforce Initiatives, CVS Health

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon welcomed the guests and thanks event sponsors Mutual of America and Staples. “One of the important themes that we will hear about today is that hiring people with disabilities is not just the right thing to do, it is good for business,” she said.

Martha Jackson, Assistant Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, spoke briefly, thanking Fedcap for its commitment to changing the lives of people with disabilities. Ms. Jackson talked about efforts of the Mayor’s Office to increase employment of people with disabilities, and to make NYC the most disability-friendly city in the world.

Elaine Katz said that among the benefits of employing people with disabilities are higher productivity and lower turnover. Research conducted by the Kessler Foundation shows that a culture of recruiting, hiring and retaining people with disabilities starts with a commitment by upper management. There is strong evidence that an inclusive culture increases the morale and productivity of all employees. Ms. Katz pointed out that the cost of workplace accommodations for people with disabilities is far lower than employers assume, and that tax credits and job training grants are available.

Amanda Tierney discussed CVS Health’s work with school districts in NYC. The company operates four work centers that replicate the retail environment, and serve as training centers for young adults with disabilities who are entering the workforce. A priority in these efforts is training job coaches. If the coaches are properly trained the employee is much more likely to succeed.

Larry Stubblefield discussed current legislative amendments that aim to increase the percentage of people with disabilities in the federal workforce. The US Small Business Administration undertook efforts to highlight success stories about employees with disabilities to help the agency “bust the myths, fears and stereotypes” about hiring people with disabilities that are still common in the workplace.

Mr. Stubblefield said that one in five Americans has a disability, and that many disabilities are unseen. He discussed SBA efforts on behalf of returning veterans, a number of whom have disabling injuries, and the importance of integrating them into the workforce. “As a society, we can tap into that talent pool, or pay for it in social costs,” he said.