The statistics tell the story. Nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. And a little more than 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will acquire a disability before they retire, according to the Social Security Administration.
- As it stands, more than 44 million people have a disability, according to Shavonne Singleton, outreach and brand manager for Lansing, Mich.-based Peckham Social Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that provides job training and placement for individuals with disabilities or other barriers to employment. That means those with disabilities represent a large talent pool, Singleton told attendees at the recent SHRM conference.
- She mentioned that U.S. Department of Labor announced in 2013 a final rule that introduced a hiring goal for federal contractors and subcontractors, noting that 7% of each job group in their workforce should “be qualified individuals with disabilities.”
In her session, "Disability = Diversity! How to Recruit, Retain and Engage a Workforce with Disabilities," Singleton co-presented with Sarah George, Peckham's organizational employment manager.
George told attendees that hiring people with disabilities does not mean lowering performance expectations, because entities such as Peckham have "high standards." Many of Peckham's workforce do shift work that requires people to be in their seats to serve their customers.
"We are very clear up front ... we don’t have more lenient polices for people with disabilities,” she told attendees.
Singleton also explained that millennials, who experts say will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025, have expressed the desire to work for inclusive employers.
Singleton and George offered several simple recommendations for creating a welcoming culture for people with disabilities. For example, Peckham has Braille included in signage and the workstation and cafeteria table height is easily adjusted. Include video phones in the lobby and break areas and use color-coding (i.e., a specific color on bathroom signage for those with cognitive disabilities).