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What I’ve Learned By Hiring More Employees With Disabilities

Source | FastCompany : By SCOTT MONETTE

Everyone deserves a chance to succeed. And by my estimation, no group has been refused that opportunity more than people living with disabilities (PLWD). Sadly, less than one-fifth of this population is employed.

Even though I’ve made expanding opportunities for PLWD my life’s work, I nearly denied my first PLWD hire, Andrew, a fair shake. My company sells wine and donates all profits to nonprofits, so we host tastings at grocery and liquor stores. Now one of my top employees, Andrew began his first tasting in 2015 like a pushy car salesman.

Within minutes, I was reconsidering my hire, anxiously coaching him between interactions. And something happened that, in hindsight, I should’ve expected: Andrew listened to me, improving his approach with each customer. After all, nobody gets a new job right on the first shot. By tasting’s end, customers were lining up to speak with Andrew. We wound up selling twice our normal volume that day.

Something else happened, too. I discovered the true value of employing PLWD—not as token employees but as real members of my team. Now, three of my 10 employees are PLWD, and as I’ve learned, integrating PLWD into a workforce takes a little finesse but is well worth the effort. If you’re an entrepreneur or business leader, these are a few ways you can hire and prepare PLWD to become some of your most indispensable employees.


On Andrew’s first day, I mistakenly threw him into the fire with little preparation. Instead, take some time and care with the on-boarding process. You can even progressively acclimate newly hired PLWD through internships, on-location work trials, or job shadowing. The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that nearly three-quarters of employers participating in these programs saw positive results; only 8% said support needs were greater than anticipated.

In 2009, AMC Entertainment began hiring PLWD. To integrate its new talent, the theater chain collaborated with the Autism Society in Bethesda, Maryland. When asked about the program’s results, AMC’s chief people officer told Bloomberg, “You end up being a healthier company from a lot of different perspectives: innovation, engagement, morale, productivity.”

So while your crew flourishes because of your inclusion program, rest assured knowing your company will benefit, too. The i4cp study found that employing PLWD increased customer satisfaction by 44% and enhanced brands by 34%.


As is true for any employee, PLWD on your team thrive when their roles match their skills. Fortunately, PLWD have succeeded across employment categories, including administrative work, facility maintenance, food service, and patient care.

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