As of September 2023, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was more than double the rate of those without. Considering the recent upward trend in DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) recruitment strategies, why is the gap still so wide?

According to a paper published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, employers are hesitant to hire disabled people due to a fear of low productivity levels and higher company expenses. This belief results in employers considering gender and ethnicity for their DEI programs, rather than disability.

Further research, however, suggests the very opposite. A recent article by Luisa Alemany and Freek Vermeulen in Harvard Business Review states that hiring disabled people is actually quite beneficial for companies, and not just because of DEI. In order to further counter existing stigma, let’s see what some of these benefits are.

  • Inherent strengths: Auticon, an IT consulting firm that exclusively recruits employees with autism, says that their consultants do well in problem-solving roles due to their strong ability to recognize patterns. Autistic consultants are great at spotting details in large data that others might miss, and clients of Auticon have noted significant improvements in their own performance after consultations.
  • Unique skills and advantages: Those with disabilities often end up developing new skills to navigate the world. People with visual disabilities, for example, tend to develop better auditory processing This means that they can perform well in jobs that require excellent hearing skills, like deciphering recordings for the police, or audio engineering.

The previously mentioned Harvard article also mentions job-specific advantages that come with certain disabilities. People with auditory disabilities are well-equipped to deal with the din that comes with working in elevator shafts. Wheelchaired security guards are eye-level with pickpocketing instances, and advanced wheelchairs can help them travel faster in an emergency than those on foot.

  • Company authenticity: Employees say that having disabled co-workers results in a more positive work environment; statistics show that outcomes include lower turnover and absenteeism as well. This is because staff and customers see companies that have disabled people in their teams as more relatable and genuine, and this helps foster a desirable internal culture.

La Fageda, a cooperative known for its yogurt, employs several hundred people with disabilities. According to its founder Cristóbal Colón, their visitors center is the best marketing program they have. When customers see the workers doing their jobs, they feel a bond with the company, and recommend La Fageda without being asked to.

The aforementioned benefits clearly show that hiring people with disabilities not only boosts company productivity, but also creates a more positive impression of the brand for customers and other employees. As the creative director of La Casa de Carlota says, hiring disabled people isn’t an act of kindness; it’s making a clever decision to push your company forward.

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