Cornell University

February 8 2013

Maximizing Potential Though Inclusivity

Workers with Disabilities Add Business Benefits, Report Says

Research released today by The Conference Board in partnership with the ILR School describes why expanding the workplace talent pool through employees with disabilities makes good business sense.

Consider:

  • Nearly 55 million people, more than one in 10 Americans, has at least one disability.
  • People with disabilities and their families earn an estimated $269 billion.
  • Almost 90 percent of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities.
  • It costs little -- and often nothing -- for companies to meet federal standards for accommodating workers with disabilities.
  • Managers of workers with disabilities are overwhelmingly likely to recommend hiring employees with disabilities.

Yet, only 33 percent of working age individuals with disabilities are employed in the United States, compared to 76 percent of their non-disabled peers.

This means that many companies miss out on performance advantages, according to "Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging and Advancing People with Disabilities."

Released by ILR and The Conference Board Thursday, the report describes best business practices that can help companies improve their organizational readiness to hire and retain people with disabilities and, ultimately, be more productive.

When ingenuity developed by people with disabilities in their everyday is applied to business problems, it can lead to better work team problem solving and decision making, according to the report, available at http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/edicollect/1292/.

Best practices for encouraging disclosure of disabilities by workers so that resources can be directed is another element of the report,

Mattel, Inc., one of the 16 organizations to participate in the report research, has already adopted some of its best practices.

Leveling the Playing Field was funded in part by ILR's Employment and Disability Institute under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Additional funding came from member companies of The Conference Board.

ILR Associate Dean of Outreach Susanne Bruyère and Linda Barrington led ILR's participation in the project.

Bruyère is director of the Employment and Disability Institute. Barrington is managing director of the Institute for Compensation Studies. The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association.

The report looks at how employers are building competitive advantage through workplace practices that engage people with disabilities, including recent military veterans and older workers.

In addition to improving inclusion and company performance, employing people with disabilities can increase workplace morale, productivity, safety, attendance and interactions with customers, Bruyère said.

Mary Wright, associate director of The Conference Board, led the working group of four public sector and 12 private sector organizations that participated in the research.

"It was a great opportunity for our members to work with some of the best-known and most respected researchers in the area of employing people with disabilities. The combination of their knowledge and the employers’ direct experience makes the report a unique contribution to the field," she said.

"Leveling the Playing Field" is the first of several initiatives between Cornell University and The Conference Board to explore ways of improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

The research working group for the report included 16 member organizations of The Conference Board: Alcoa; Bayer; CVS Caremark; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service; Discovery Communications; Fidelity Investments; Goldman Sachs; KPMG LLP; Lockheed Martin; Mattel, Inc.; New York Life Insurance; U.S. Department of Treasury, Comptroller of Currency; Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of the Army and Waste Management.