Americans with disabilities may be the best workers no one’s hiring

Americans with disabilities may be the best workers no one’s hiring

Walgreens actually prefers disabled employees because they’re more efficient workers, explains a new report


Walgreens and now a report by the National Governors Association show businesses can benefit by seeing disabled workers not as charity cases but employees with uncommon qualities that can enhance profits.

Few people noticed, but last week marked the 23rd anniversary of the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That landmark law is best known for mandating such conveniences as designated parking for people with disabilities, wheelchair ramps, and Braille on elevators. A whole generation has now benefited from it. But one thing has not changed very much for America’s 54 million disabled people: landing a job.

That may change with a report last week by the National Governors Association. It is called “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.” Note the words “bottom line.” The report aims to help states support a trend in American business led by Walgreens. Since 2007, the drugstore chain has hired those with disabilities not out of magnanimous charity but for the competitive advantage in employing disabled workers.

Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.

More than 100 executives of major companies have toured Walgreens distribution centers where at least a third of workers are physically or mentally disabled. And last year, the US Chamber of Commerce committed to increasing the employment of people with disabilities by 1 million by 2015.

“Walgreens has shown that people with these disabilities can work alongside people without disabilities,” says Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa. “You can’t tell who is who and which is which.”

This isn’t just a business trend but a societal change in attitude. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the recent head of the governors association and the leader behind the report, says employers must focus on a person’s ability rather than disability – or even on how a disability enhances a person’s employability. Many disabled workers are so grateful for a job that they work harder. Some industries, such as software and data testing, prefer workers with certain disabilities, such as autism, because of a person’s intense focus on detail.

Still, business needs a partner in government to make this shift. The report cites successes in several states in linking up disabled people with employers and tracking the benefits of hiring such workers. Teens who are disabled need help, beginning in middle school, to assess their skills and the industries that need them. The report advises states to approach businesses with a proposition on the value that disabled workers bring to shareholders, not with “an appeal to their corporate responsibility.”

“Businesses tell states that they do not want to hire a candidate to meet a state’s need,” according to the report. “They want to hire a candidate that meets the business needs.”

Walgreens now plans to have at least a quarter of its workforce consist of people with disabilities. Other companies are following in its path. They have plenty of people to pick from. Only 1 of 3 disabled adults is employed. Finding them is half the battle. State governments are best equipped to help in such recruitment.

The incentive for government to encourage this trend is strong. More than a third of people on income-based assistance are disabled. Studies show employing them raises tax revenue and reduces entitlement spending.  But more than money is at stake. Disabled people simply want to be treated for the best they can offer – which might just be better than what a potential employer presumes. Reports Best Jobs for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees as well as state and local government employers of the same size. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act provides the same protections for federal employees and applicants for federal employment.

The ADA protects a qualified individual with a disability from disparate treatment or harassment based on disability, and also provides that, absent undue hardship, a qualified individual with a disability is entitled to reasonable accommodation to perform, or apply for, a job or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. The ADA also includes rules regarding when, and to what extent, employers may seek medical information from applicants or employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA. Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.

Health care is the largest industry in the American economy, and has a high incidence of occupational injury and illness.[1] Though they are “committed to promoting health through treatment and care for the sick and injured, health care workers, ironically, confront perhaps a greater range of significant workplace hazards than workers in any other sector.”[2] Health care jobs often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, sharps injuries,[3] and other dangers; many health care jobs can also be physically demanding and mentally stressful.[4] Moreover, health care workers with occupational or non-occupational illness or injury may face unique challenges because of societal misperceptions that qualified health care providers must themselves be free from any physical or mental impairment.[5

Several Million Healthcare Workers Needed by 2020

Several Million Healthcare Workers Needed by 2020

Regardless of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the United States will need 5.6 million new healthcare workers by 2020, according to a study.

The study, by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, also found that 4.6 million of those new workers will need education beyond high school.

“In healthcare, there are really two labor markets — professional and support,” Anthony P. Carnevale, the report’s lead author and director of the Center on Education and Workforce, said in a news release. “Professional jobs demand postsecondary training and advanced degrees, while support jobs demand high school and some colleges.”

There is “minimal mobility” between the two, Carnevale said, “and the pay gap is enormous — the average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • In 2008, 80% of entry-level RNs had at least an associate’s degree, up from 37% in 1980.
  • Rising degree requirements in nursing may be crowding out disadvantaged minorities, according to the authors: 51% of white nurses under age 40 have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 46% of Hispanic nurses and 44% of African-American nurses.
  • Healthcare has the largest number and proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers of any industry in the U.S. Among healthcare workers, 22% are foreign-born, compared with 13% of all workers nationwide. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.
  • Only 20% of healthcare professional and technical occupations earn less than $38,000 a year, and almost 50% earn more than $60,000.
  • More than 70% of healthcare support workers make less than $30,000 per year, but that percentage is still better than most available alternatives for workers of that skill and education level, according to the report.
  • Healthcare successfully competes for science and engineering talent. Because the healthcare, science and technology fields tend to require similar skills, healthcare programs at the associate and bachelor’s level often are appealing alternatives for science and engineering students.
  • One difference between the fields: People in healthcare jobs tend to value forming social bonds, while people who gravitate to science, technology and engineering occupations place a greater emphasis on achievement and independence, the researchers found.

To read a PDF of the executive summary of the report, visit To read a PDF of the full report, visit

Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities

Charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, but little is known about the factors contributing to these differences. In school year 2009-2010, which was the most recent data available at the time of our review, approximately 11 percent of students enrolled in traditional public schools were students with disabilities compared to about 8 percent of students enrolled in charter schools.

Read GAO Report: Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities

GAO also found that, relative to traditional public schools, the proportion of charter schools that enrolled high percentages of students with disabilities was lower overall. Specifically, students with disabilities represented 8 to 12 percent of all students at 23 percent of charter schools compared to 34 percent of traditional public schools. However, when compared to traditional public schools, a higher percentage of charter schools enrolled more than 20 percent of students with disabilities. Several factors may help explain why enrollment levels of students with disabilities in charter schools and traditional public schools differ, but the information is anecdotal. For example, charter schools are schools of choice, so enrollment levels may differ because fewer parents of students with disabilities choose to enroll their children in charter schools. In addition, some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling. Further, in certain instances, traditional public school districts play a role in the placement of students with disabilities in charter schools. In these instances, while charter schools participate in the placement process, they do not always make the final placement decisions for students with disabilities. Finally, charter schools’ resources may be constrained, making it difficult to meet the needs of students with more severe disabilities.

“What can YOU do?” Video Contest 2012 Winners Announced

“What can YOU do?” Video Contest 2012 Winners Announced

Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE)

The Campaign for Disability Employment’s 2012 “What can YOU do?” Video Contest challenged the general public, youth, and employers to produce disability employment awareness videos that reflect the diversity of skills people with disabilities offer, challenge common misconceptions about disability and employment, and reinforce the “What can YOU do?” initiative’s core message that at work, it’s what people CAN do that matters. The CDE’s national “What can YOU do?” initiative reinforces that people with disabilities want to work and that their talents and abilities positively impact businesses both financially and organizationally.

Contest winners were selected in three categories; General Public, Youth, and Employer. Judging was based on originality, content, reflection of campaign themes and categories, production value, impact, and accessibility. Three first place winners—one in each of the General Public, Youth, and Employer categories—will receive an *Apple® iPad®, while two runners-up each will receive $250.00, courtesy of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN®). Winning videos will now be used in support of the CDE’s national effort to increase the employment of people with disabilities.

Employer Strategies for Responding to an Aging Workforce

Employer Strategies for Responding to an Aging Workforce

by Francine M. Tishman, Sara Van Looy, and Susanne M. Bruyère

Executive Summary

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued in 2006, the number of workers over age 55 is projected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, with this demographic group projected to comprise as much as one-fifth of the nation’s workforce by 2015. The unprecedented aging of the world’s population and the strong correlation between aging and disability challenges many institutions, labor markets, and public pension programs.

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The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey issued a subcontract to Cornell University, ILR School, Employment and Disability Institute, to conduct research to explore how public- and private-sector employers are preparing for an increasingly older workforce that is likely to be a workforce with more disabilities. This work has been conducted on behalf of the NTAR Leadership Center, a technical assistance and research center housed at the Heldrich Center and supported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

In meeting the objectives associated with this project, the research team reviewed select recent academic, legal, and related literature on public- and private-sector employer strategies to prepare for an aging workforce. The team also interviewed national experts and thought leaders in the field of employer strategies for addressing an aging workforce, as well as specific public- and private-sector employers recommended by the national experts. The interviews contained questions about promising employer strategies to recruit, retain, train, and promote and enable bridges to retirement for older workers with disabilities. The report also provides numerous examples of successful public- and private-sector retention initiatives that suggest a needed policy platform to facilitate replication.

This literature and legal review, along with the recommendations gathered through individual interviews with leading, national experts on the aging workforce, gives credibility to the dialogue currently under way in Congress and in the media about the viability of the Social Security system given the large number of retired Americans and the number projected to retire within the next 10 to 20 years. Experts recommend that both public and private research efforts be directed to investigate the impact of changes in public policy (i.e., increasing the minimum retirement age, providing incentives to older workers to remain employed longer, and offering employers payroll incentives to hire and retain older workers). Understanding the high correlation between aging and disability, experts also suggest examining and documenting the cost, provision, and efficacy of accommodations from the business perspective.

How is “Disability” Is Defined Differently in Federal Laws for Children & Adults?

How is “Disability” Is Defined Differently in Federal Laws for Children & Adults?

Pathways for Disabled Students to Tertiary Education and Employment: Country Report for the United States

This document is the Country Report produced by the United States in the context of the EDPC activity on Pathways for Disabled Students to Tertiary Education and Employment. It is one in a series of Country Reports prepared by the countries participating in this activity. Each Report is published under the responsibility of the country that has prepared it and the views expressed in this document remain those of the country author(s) and not necessarily those of the OECD or its member countries.

Structure of Education in the United States

In the United States, the laws that apply to youths with disabilities in compulsory education may create distinct rights and obligations from those that apply to individuals with disabilities once they enter tertiary education and employment. Compulsory education includes primary school (most often called elementary school), middle school, and secondary school (commonly referred to as high school). Tertiary education, which is optional, is quite separate from compulsory education as far as admissions, curriculum, governance, finance, and policy. Tertiary education includes nondegree programs that lead to certificates and diplomas plus six degree levels: associate (a 2-year degree), bachelor‘s (a 4-year degree), first professional, master‘s, advanced intermediate, and research doctorate (3 to 6 years). The following website provides more information on the structure of education in the United States: .

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Need Help Finding Support Services?

Need Help Finding Support Services?

View more than
100 organizations nationwide that provide emotional, practical, and financial support services for people with cancer and their families.

Information from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) about support services for people living with cancer and their families. Get connected to more than 100 organizations nationwide that provide emotional, practical, and financial help. You can also get live, online assistance from the NCI’s LiveHelp service.

Top 10 CIO Strategies For Implementing Section 508

Top 10 CIO Strategies For Implementing Section 508

Last Updated: May 5, 2011

1. Adopt a Social Responsibility Perspective for Accessibility
Agencies unintentionally erect barriers to participation and inclusion for people with disabilities; however, a shift in perspective can fundamentally change their approach to accessibility (i.e., the staircase creates the barrier, not the wheelchair). Agencies that adopt a proactive position—actively seeking to prevent access barriers—will do much better than those who address accessibility as an accommodation “they have to do.” 

2. Manage Accessibility
The Section 508 office must be visible, backed by policies that lend it authority, and have access to IT decision-makers. There are many accessibility stakeholders within an agency, and to establish and maintain relationships with those components, organizational placement and structure are primary concerns for management. 
3. Treat Accessibility like Security
Much like security, agencies dedicate resources to accessibility and Section 508 reluctantly. They see it as a legal obligation while overlooking the benefits—improved usability for all users, increased productivity for employees with disabilities, and better online access to Internet government services. Under resourcing accessibility underestimates the consequences—slipping project schedules, cost overruns to retrofit projects whose design did not include accessibility, and the consequences of legal action that can include judges making agency IT decisions.

4. Design and Plan for Accessibility
Designing for accessibility starts at the concept phase, and thus requires formal inclusion in multiple phases of an organization’s development and procurement life cycles. Having a single process approval gate at the end of a project is not sufficient, because by then it is too late. Large and important project approval will likely trump retrofitting for accessibility, and adopting an inaccessible project exposes the agency to avoidable legal risk. Retrofitting applications and remediating accessibility issues is more costly, difficult, and time consuming than addressing accessibility at a project’s design phase, so take a proactive approach and place accessibility requirements into the life cycle early and often. 
5. Procure Accessible Electronic and Information Technology (E&IT)
Section 508 uses the “power of the purse” to improve the accessibility of products and services in the marketplace, but it is only effective when applied uniformly across many agencies. Do more than ask about accessibility; establish product and service accessibility criteria and validate accessibility claims with testing. Accessibility does not terminate with the purchase of products. Regardless of whether an agency or vendor performs integration, the agency must establish implementation guidance and acceptance criteria. 
6. Impose Targeted Standards
Ensure Section 508 standards are included in your agency policies, development life cycle processes, and as minimum requirements for all procurements. Describe how the agency will interpret the Section 508 standards and how they integrate with other agency specific accessibility requirements. Specify how the agency will evaluate accessibility requirements.
7. Test and Validate
An agency must evaluate and test products, applications, and electronic content if it wants positive and measurable accessibility outcomes. Vendor claims and, for that matter, agency development group claims are meaningless without scrutiny and a method to measure accessibility progress. As you prioritize what is tested, understand that validation is fundamental to improving accessibility. 
8. Study and Use Best Practices
Successful accessibility programs have many practices in common. Benefit from the best practices applicable to your agency, continue to evaluate and mature your accessibility program by learning from other agencies, and participate in communities of practice. 
9. Participate in and Join Communities of Practice
Communities of practice are important for sharing ideas, expertise, and creating a uniform marketplace for E&IT. Participate in Section 508 Coordinator workshops, interagency ad hoc committees, and comment on Notices of Public Rule Making. Consider participating in communities of practice beyond US Federal agencies. Section 508 spotlights the federal sector, but outside communities of practice are eager for agency participation. Take advantage of their wealth of expertise, creativity, technical guidance, process approaches, and policy examples. 
10. Employ People with Disabilities
Actively recruit qualified individuals with disabilities. President Obama signed Executive Order 13548 (Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities) with the intention of making the US Federal government a model employer for people with disabilities. Agencies have many tools to help them actively recruit these qualified applicants. Visit for more information.

Have you heard of the Soft Skills Curriculum?

Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success?

Published on May 17, 2012 by US Department of Labor

“Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success,” is a curriculum developed by ODEP focused on teaching “soft” or workforce readiness skills to youth, including youth with disabilities. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.

For more info on the Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success visit:

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