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New Hire Gauge Tool Makes a Splash

Abledbody & co. just created a great new tool for Think Beyond the Label that helps businesses calculate the financial benefits of hiring a person with a disability. Through our research and surveys, we discovered that companies can save $32,000 annually by hiring a person from this group — and even more if he or she is a veteran with a disability. Try out the Hire Gauge tool here.

We’re also thrilled that workforce blog Evolved Employer gave props to this trailblazing resource (not to brag, but we’ve never seen ANYTHING like Hire Gauge on the market) in an article about disability hiring. Barbara Otto, who spearheads Think Beyond the Label, dove right in to the advantages of hiring workers with disabilities, and gave some love to companies like Walgreen’s and Ernst & Young for their hiring and accommodation initiatives. And like Otto says, it’s not just about hiring. “Being known as an employer of choice for people with disabilities can help companies tap into a huge market segment worth one trillion dollars … the value of building loyalty within this market base should not be understated,” she says.

Starbucks Card Is a Nod to NDEAM

We really like Starbucks’s new braille card in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness month. The card features an autumn leaves theme and has the word “Starbucks” embossed in Braille at the top. This is a fantastic way to raise awareness for the Department of Labor’s annual employment campaign, and one that actually helps people who are visually impaired. Read more about it here.

Career Fairs Are a Start, But What Else?

BusinessWeek.com published an article, Getting People with Disabilities Back to Work (July 6, 2011), that started off with the right message. It referenced several Fortune 500s (AT&T, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Walgreens) that are trying to employ the disabled. Still, out of all the companies mentioned, Walgreens is the only company that’s able to speak about tangible hiring programs. That’s because Walgreens opened a distribution center in South Carolina that hires mostly people with autism and intellectual disabilities. They accommodated these workers and measured their productivity levels against other centers, and were surprised to learn that the S.C. location was one of the top three productive centers in the U.S. for the company. I’ve heard Randy Lewis, senior vice-president of supply chain and logistics at Walgreens, speak about this program, and it’s pretty impressive. Lewis has an autistic son.

If companies want to enjoy the accolades and brand polishing they believe they deserve for hiring the disabled, they need to put real programs in place, measure their results, and package it for public consumption. For example, Walgreens aims to increase hiring of people with disabilities to about 20 percent of its U.S. distribution center workers, up from around 10 percent in 2010.

The article mentions an upcoming career fair in New Jersey that many blue-chip companies are participating in; I’ve yet to glean hard data from a career fair — few people in the industry keep track of results. Measurement might include how many hires were made, how they were accommodated, how the candidates have progressed within the company, and how their contributions have boosted a company’s overall strategic goals.

I liked the mention of Lockheed Martin’s wounded warriors program; defense contractors like Lockheed need to hire veterans and the disabled in order to win federal contracts. So while we’re handing out laurels, we should also give the government, particularly the Dept. of Labor, a shout-out for working to enforce these regulations. Real programs, tangible results; that’s how you build and solidify your reputation as a forward-thinking company that wants to employ and reach the disability demographic.

A Look at Global Disability Numbers

A new disability study by the World Health Organization and the World Bank says the issue of disability is “complex, dynamic, multidimensional, and contested” around the world, even as its numbers continue to rise. In the first-ever research of its kind, the World Report on Disability, says more than a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability, or about 15% of the world’s population, up from 10% of the population recorded by WHO in the 1970s.

Today, disability encompasses more than just the stereotypical view that “emphasize wheelchair users and a few other classic groups such as blind people and deaf people.” People with disabilities include the child born with a congenital condition such as cerebral palsy, or the young soldier who loses his leg to a land mine, or the middle-aged woman with severe arthritis, or the older person with dementia, among many others, the report says. And their health conditions can be visible or invisible; temporary or long term; static, episodic, or degenerating; painful or inconsequential.

The June 2011 report depicts the situation of people with disabilities around the world and touches on areas such as health, environment, education; and employment. Some interesting findings:

– People with disabilities and their families have excessive out-of-pocket expenses such as for health care services, assistive devices, and transportation. In the U.K., cost estimates range from 11% to 69% of income.
– Women with disabilities around the world experience gender discrimination as well as disabling barriers and may be less likely to marry than non-disabled women.
– Those most excluded from the labor market are often those with mental health difficulties or intellectual impairments.

While the report makes wide-sweeping recommendations for global governments and organizations, such as developing a national disability strategy, better research, working to improve public perception and requiring relevant training on disability issues, WHO also gives some pointers to the private sector, which is refreshing to read. For corporations, WHO recommends:

– Promoting diversity and inclusion in work
– Facilitating the employment of persons with disabilities, ensuring that recruitment is equitable, that reasonable accommodations are provided, and that employees who become disabled are supported to return to work
– Removing barriers of access to microfinance, so that persons with disabilities can develop their own businesses
– Developing a range of quality support services for persons with disabilities and their families at different stages of the life cycle
– Ensuring that construction projects, such as public accommodations, offices and housing include adequate access for persons with disabilities, and
– Ensuring information communication and technology (ICT) products, systems, and services are accessible to persons with disabilities

Yes — this group is diverse, WHO says. Still, we know they share a common link: Facing adversity and learning how to adapt to, and surmount, the barriers that stand in their way.

abledbody & co. uniquely mixes disability market insights and critical business know-how to drive strategic communications for our Think Beyond the Label campaign. image description Barb Otto, CEO Health & Disability Advocates
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