The Next Chapter in Business Innovation: Hiring Those with Disabilities

Hiring and engaging people with disabilities isn’t about being nice, or being charitable. It’s smart business that can positively impact your bottom line and your talent needs from the mailroom to the boardroom.

Kris Foss, Managing Director, Disability Solutions @Ability Beyond

On October 3rd, we will be hosting our 14th Solution Series—an initiative of our Community Impact Institute, which is the research and innovation arm of our work here at Fedcap. The Solution Series convenes business, thought leaders, academia, and policy makers to engage in a conversation about  issues affecting business in the 21stcentury .   From the conversations we have in this forum come ideas, systems, programs, and solutions. The Solution Series events are among the high points of our year.

This fall’s series is entitled Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution. I am particularly excited about this forum as it reflects the heart of our work here at Fedcap.   There are close to 40 million people in the U.S., about 12.6 percent of the population, living with a disability. These individuals – your sisters, brothers, neighbors, parents, friends and colleagues – can perform the same work as people without a disability. Yet as of May, 2016, the US Bureau of Labor cites that only 28.3 percent of working-age (16-64) persons with a disability were employed, compared to an employment rate of 72.3 percent for those without a disability in the same demographic. By not integrating people with disabilities more fully into the workforce, we are neglecting a source of energy, productivity and talent that could address the needs of business in the 21st century. The social and economic vitality of our nation is also impacted. The poverty rate for people with disabilities ages 21 to 64 is 28.8 percent – higher than any other demographic group – compared to 12.5 percent for individuals without a disability. Their average annual income is $38,300, $5000 less than their peers without disabilities.

But there is reason for optimism.  On our panel are national experts and business representatives who will highlight efforts being made across the country to significantly expand the number of people with disabilities who are employed.   The business case  for doing is strong.  Hiring people with disabilities reflects a clear commitment to creating a more diverse workforce which in turn delivers a better return for shareholders.  To not hire people with disabilities means missing out on an untapped pool of creative, educated, and experienced individuals who bring a critical perspective to the workplace. For example, generally speaking, people who are living with disabilities tend to bring with them an innovative mindset. Because they have had to navigate a world that is often not easily accessible, they have had an opportunity to build resilience. They have often worked hard to find solutions to a variety of challenges those without disabilities may have never considered. Kevin Cox, the Chief HR Officer at American Express, suggests that hiring people with disabilities is the “next frontier” in business. He believes—and has proof—that hiring those with disabilities has improved the overall culture of the organization and has clearly impacted the company’s bottom line.  This has been my experience as well.

There’s still time to join us for this informative, engaging, and important discussion.  Please click here to register for this timely event on October 3rd in Manhattan. I look forward to a great discussion and I hope to see you there.