Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

There are 15.1 million working-age people with disabilities in the US, and 1 billion worldwide. As of July 2018, 29% percent of working-age (16-64 years) Americans with disabilities participate in the workforce – compared to 75% of those without. People living with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities. Some prospective employers are concerned about the cost of accommodations, others with the stigma of visible disabilities. This is patently discriminatory, as well as untrue: almost 60% of accommodations are free to the employer, and the rest are often relatively low-cost – about $500 per employee with a disability. These accommodations can also lead to direct and indirect benefits to the company in employee retention, productivity, training costs, as well as morale and customer interactions.

In addition to the moral imperative, the economic opportunity is huge: companies embracing disability inclusion gain access to a tremendous new talent pool, estimated at more than 10 million people in the US alone. Accenture’s 2018 report, Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, estimates that US GDP could grow by $25 billion if just 1% more of people with disabilities joined the workforce. Additionally, companies embracing disability inclusion were found to perform better financially, with higher revenue, net income, and economic profit margins over a four-year period.

Of course, people with disabilities are consumers, too. The Office of Disability Employment Policy classified people with disabilities as the third-largest market segment in the US, after Hispanics and African-Americans. A 2018 report estimated the discretionary income for working age persons with disabilities to be $21 billion.