A couple of weeks ago, I shared a YouTube video with all of you. It was part of an ad campaign showcasing the positive aspects of employing persons with disabilities, and to encourage people to take that into consideration. I also mentioned that the national average unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is more than double that of the current national average, this is definitely something that needs to change. People with disabilities from a business standpoint, are an underutilized resource. According to the US Department of Labor almost 70% of persons with disabilities are unemployed. Think about this for a minute… The health of an economy is usually indicated at least in part by low unemployment. The more people that are employed, typically the more healthy the nation’s economy is as a whole. With an unemployment rate of almost 70%, I would say that economic health is essentially on its deathbed as a person with a disability, not merely just unhealthy or in a recession.
So what do we do about this?
Short answer: I don’t know. I’m not an economist, and I am no longer a small business owner. What I can tell you is that disabled persons are far and away one of the most underutilized resources commission has. So many people I know have so many fantastic ideas that are actually feasible, that they might just be the source of one of those new projects, or new branches of business you might be searching for. As for cognitively disabled persons, I have a cousin who was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder which is on the autism spectrum, and he currently works as a stock boy at Walgreens. He loves his job and is one of the few people I know who is actually excited to go to work each day. How rare is it that you find an employee who actually likes stocking shelves? Pretty rare? Think about it.
Just to give you some perspective for those of you who are of the America-is-great bandwagon, most of the early economic prosperity wrought by the United States of America was either given to us on the backs of slaves, immigrants, or children… And often involved questionable labor practices. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t excited about them when I learned about what happened then, and I most certainly don’t advocate them now, and I only mention this for a couple of reasons. The first being that often times, when people hear the phrase “underutilized resource” they usually think cheap labor. That’s not what I’m saying here, and nor is the second reason, that we should employ persons with disabilities because we want to tell ourselves that we are better people for it. If that’s what you think you’re doing, then you probably shouldn’t be the kind of person who employs persons with disabilities, because you’re very likely to be the kind of person who is very condescending and is likely to get frustrated… We don’t need you, and more than likely, neither do most of your employees. While it’s true you would be doing persons with disabilities service in a sense, you’re also providing yourself with an even bigger opportunity to get to know some high-quality people who have much more to teach you than might appear at first glance.
Imagine employing people who actually want to work for you, and not because of status, but because they actually want to work for you, imagine being seen as progressive. While this shouldn’t be a primary motivator, it can certainly help drive customers to your business if your customers know that you are indeed community-oriented. These are just some things to think about, I’m by no means the smartest person in the world, but I’m definitely someone who thinks a lot. I hope this gave some food for thought and I hope you have an amazing day!