Article from Fast Company

Less than a fifth of people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities are employed, but business leaders can help change that.

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.