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Envisioning a disability-friendly workplace

Hi group members,
Is your workplace an environment where employees with disabilities can work hard, work safely, and be appreciated for their effort?   Accommodating those employees, as well as customers and others, is not only a duty, it’s also effective business practice.


According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) statistics, nearly 18 percent of people with a disability were employed, compared with 64 percent of those without a disability. Other relevant facts:

  • Employed people with disabilities were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.
  • People with disabilities were more than three times as likely as others to be aged 65 and over.
  • Individuals with disabilities were more likely to work in production, transportation, and materials moving and less likely to work in management and professional occupations.
  • Their unemployment rate was 13.4 percent, compared with 7.9 for those without a disability.


A disability-friendly workplace as “an inclusive culture that involves the full and successful integration of diverse people.  ” That inclusiveness addresses both formal and informal policies and practices and core values, including:

  • The presence of people with disabilities across a range of employee roles and leadership positions;
  • Respect for differences in working styles and flexibility in tailoring positions to employees’ strengths and abilities; and
  • Equitable access to all resources, opportunities, networks, and decision making.


Creating an inclusive workplace

Beyond compliance with legal regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an inclusive workplace brings other benefits, including:

  • Tax credits and other financial incentives for hiring people with disabilities.
  • An expanded market of customers with disabilities as well as their friends and families. One study found that 87 percent of consumers prefer to work with or spend money in businesses that include employees with disabilities.
  • Being known as an employer of choice.
  • Increased safety, job satisfaction, and productivity.
  • Reduced turnover costs, as workers with disabilities have higher retention rates than other workers.
  • Improved accessibility for customers and others.

Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathy Martinez from the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the Department of Labor said that an inclusive workplace is one where “people with disabilities feel welcome, safe, included, and bring their whole selves to work.” At these workplaces, employees can work at their full capacity because they have the productivity tools (accommodations) they need.  That means anything from assistive technology to flexible work arrangements.

The good news is that many accommodations are simple and inexpensive. A report by the Job Accommodation Network that revealed 58 percent of job accommodations cost nothing, while the typical cost of the rest is $500.  Most employers report that it pays for itself many times over in the form of reduced insurance and training costs, increased productivity and morale, and better employee retention.”


Have you been responsible for an employee that needed an accommodation in your workplace?  Can any members explain how the process went from the beginning where the employee self-identifies to the final step where an accommodation (s) is put into place?


Rochelle Kenyon, SME