False Stereotypes of People With Disabilities Hold Employers Back

  • From the Huffington Post

    Almost twenty-five years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), physical architecture and some educational opportunities thankfully have changed, but negative attitudes and stigmas about people with disabilities have not. Indeed, a major Princeton study shows that while people with disabilities are seen as warm, they are not seen as competent.

    Meanwhile, a study published by Cornell Hospitality Quarterly analyzed results from a survey of employers at 320 hospitality companies in the United States. It found that all of the companies share a concern that those with disabilities could not do the work required of their employees. Another top concern was the potential cost of unspecified accommodations they might need to provide for a person with a disability under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is despite the fact that the record shows that most such accommodations are not exceptionally costly. Anecdotally, there is also evidence that employers fear legal action should they terminate an employee with a disability. It is far more difficult to prove discrimination for not being hired in the first place. So, given that that the perception is that people with disabilities aren’t competent, and could potentially be costly, why would an employer take the risk of hiring them?

    One of the employers who took the “risk” was Randy Lewis, former Vice President of Walgreens and Fortune 50 executive, who led Walgreens’ logistics division for sixteen years, as the chain grew from 1,500 to 8,000 stores. Randy introduced an inclusive model of hiring people with disabilities in Walgreens distribution centers that resulted in ten percent of its workforce consisting of people with disabilities. All of whom are held to the same standards as their colleagues without disabilities. The outcome?

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