Diversity and inclusion in a company is about more than hiring women and minorities. There are many progressive companies also hiring individuals with special needs and disabilities to enhance and expand their culture. These organizations provide tools for individuals to gain work experience, acquire new skills and become active members of their communities.
In 2002, Walgreens began investing in technologies for its new distribution centers and sought to include more individuals with disabilities in its workforce. To this end, the company created new systems, processes and machinery with a universal design to facilitate training and enhance worker productivity. When a South Carolina distribution center opened in 2007, Walgreens collaborated with local agencies to hire and train individuals with disabilities to work at the facility. The company also provided special training for managers to dispel myths about people with disabilities and to ensure an inclusive environment for all workers. Today, Walgreens hires people with disabilities and special needs at its latest distribution center in Connecticut. The company’s goal is to have individuals with special needs and disabilities represent over 20 percent of its workforce.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)
PG&E has a long history of recognizing the talents and skills that individuals with special needs bring to its company. To create and maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce, it provides its employees with training and workshops. It also recognizes in-house inclusion- and diversity-related achievements. PG&E’s Access Network Employee Resource Group welcomes and mentors new employees with disabilities and special needs. The group also provides community support, social networking events, and professional and career workshops. Multi-event celebrations throughout PG&E’s California territories focus on the company’s commitment to diversity as it invites all employees to share their experiences and backgrounds to raise employee awareness about the value of inclusion in the workplace.
Named “Employer of the Year” in 2014 by the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities, Kroger aims to create and maintain an inclusive and diverse workforce to promote an environment where all workers feel welcome, respected and valued. The company uses the unique talents, perspectives and ideas of its workers to improve its connection with its customers and drive growth. Kroger also partners with vocational rehabilitation services to help young people with disabilities transition into the workforce.
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
The AAPD is an organization that promotes policies and legislation to help individuals with disabilities find work and assists businesses with improving their practices and mentorship programs. The organization’s goal is to provide tools for individuals so they can become self-sufficient and more independent by improving their employment outcomes.
AAPD works with governments and businesses to eradicate discrimination and create more job opportunities for those who are disabled. It promotes the use of internships as professional development tools, as well as Disabled Mentoring Day to promote career development. The AAPD also works with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Business Leadership Network to promote inclusion and positive outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
Oregon-based Full Life provides vocational programs that help disabled individuals and those with special needs find fulfilling jobs. At the same time, the organization partners with businesses to provide them with talent. Full Life provides participants with job-specific training and coaching. In its Tech St. program, for example, individuals with special needs learn about teamwork and build computer skills to do tasks such as computer coding, data entry, blogging and product sales.
Full Life has a coffee shop, coffee-selling business and flower farm that employs individuals who are living with disabilities. It also provides art and recreation programs that provide meaningful activities for participants. Some of the participants even sell their handmade items or pieces of art in the Full Life coffee shop or online.
Other Companies that Actively Hire Disabled Individuals
Army Medicine Civilian Corps
Internal Revenue Service
The Neilsen Company
U.S. Secret Service
U.S. Department of State
National Institutes of Health
With companies, agencies and organizations acknowledging the value of a diverse workforce, more individuals with special needs and disabilities are finding fulfilling careers. Talk to a local vocational rehabilitation center to learn more about career training and opportunities for employees with disabilities.