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Imagine the Possibility and Respect the Ability: The Strengths of Employees With Disabilities
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Imagine the Possibility and Respect the Ability: The Strengths of Employees With Disabilities

Despite the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) almost three decades ago, disabled citizens of our country still continue to face a lot of stigmatization and discrimination at the workplace. Indeed, two independent surveys commissioned by Princeton University and Cornell Hospitality Quarterly confirm that although most employers may see employees with disabilities as competent, they still don’t perceive them as competitive with their non-disabled co-workers.

Among the main concerns that most of the 320 companies surveyed in the Cornell study shared was that people with disabilities may not be able to perform as required of their work, possible costs of special accommodation and/or services required, as well as the fear of legal action in case they had to terminate a disabled person's position.

Despite these shockingly common stereotypes, however, some employers have gone out of their way to bust the myths. Fortune 50 Executive and former Walgreen’s VP Randy Lewis is one such person.

Result? Astonishing as it may sound to some people, Lewis proved that disabled employees are much more productive and loyal to their jobs than workers without disabilities. Even in the few cases where Randy’s employees needed relatively pricier accommodations, these extra costs were far outweighed by their higher productivity.

Randy has even documented his experience with employees with disabilities in the 16 years he was at the helm of the logistics department at Walgreens in a new book he released recently.

Another company that has dared to take the “risk” is Ernst & Young (EY). Co-founded by a deaf and visually-impaired Arthur Young after it became difficult for him to practice law due to his disabilities, the accounts and audit giant has found inclusive hiring to be good for business and a win-win for everybody involved.

Other firms like Lowe’s home improvement & appliances chain, AMC Theaters and even some grocery stores have also reported excellent results after hiring workers with disabilities.

In his latest book “David and Goliath”, Malcolm Gladwell explains that since disabled employees don’t always find traditional approaches of doing things working for them, they often compensate for this by coming up with new and incredible ways of innovating and succeeding at the workplace.

So, why not hire disabled people? Unfounded stereotypes? After all, the world has had its fair share of beneficial contributions from people suffering from various biological, health and social inhibitions in their bodies: Albert Einstein failed in school; Thomas Jefferson and Sir Richard Branson had/have dyslexia; NFL super bowl champion Derrick Coleman is deaf; genius scientist Stephen Hawking can’t speak or do most physical chores for himself yet that didn’t stop his brain!

Acknowledge the disability, imagine the possibility, but respect the ability!

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More about career, work, employment, study, ADA

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