Companies have a vested financial interest in bringing aboard, retaining, and cultivating qualified people with disabilities. Specifically, such efforts have a direct impact on the Environmental, Social, and Government (ESG) metrics of their businesses. “ESG is the collection of factors that investors use to evaluate and understand a company’s relationships with society (such as its workforce, residents of local communities, customers, and political leaders). It also covers topics such as… adherence to labor laws… and respect for human rights throughout all levels of the organization, including global supply chains.”
Robert Ludke, at the Harken Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, innovatively points out, “The traits that have made so many people with disabilities successful as entrepreneurs, employees, and leaders are the very traits so many companies are searching for in their workforce… Equally important, the disability community has all the ingredients it needs to accelerate the realization of competitive integrated employment: connections to the most influential investors, a proven track record of engaging in the policy process, an ability to engage corporate executives, and the ability to mobilize a campaign to achieve change.” Indeed, in many quarters, this movement has already begun.
At a national and international level, private sector businesses have joined forces to promote greater employment opportunities and physical and programmatic access for people with disabilities. They are also sharing and implementing best practices among themselves and encouraging other businesses to do the same. People with disabilities and their advocates should utilize these resources to obtain the list of companies dedicated to full disability inclusion. They should also learn about businesses that want to participate in these collaborative efforts so they have the chance to work alongside fellow businesses to advance their disability inclusion agendas. Examples of these partnerships include, but are not limited to:
- Disability:IN is “a network of over 220 corporations expand[ing] opportunities for people with disabilities across enterprises. [Its] central office and 27 Affiliates serve as the collective voice to effect change for people with disabilities in business.” Businesses can sign the Joint Investor Statement on Corporate Disability Inclusion, joining the list of companies that have more than $2.8 trillion in combined assets and that are dedicated to “creating inclusive workplaces that can benefit from employing the millions of talented people with disabilities who remain underrepresented in the workforce.” They also can utilize the Disability Equality Index (DEI), “a comprehensive benchmarking tool helping companies build a roadmap of measurable [and] tangible actions toward disability inclusion and equality.”
- The National Organization on Disability (NOD) hosts a Corporate Leadership Council, whose membership is at least 54-strong and which “provides an opportunity for national and global business leaders to learn from peers about common challenges and leading practices in disability employment [and] to be recognized for their commitment to disability employment.” NOD makes available to companies its free Disability Employment Tracker™, “to benchmark [their own] organization’s disability employment policies and practices against the 200+ companies in the pool.” Completion of the Tracker makes companies eligible to receive the NOD Leading Disability Employer Seal™, granted annually as “public recognition applauding organizations that are leading the way in disability inclusion and tapping into the many benefits of hiring talent with disabilities.” Companies with 750 employees or more which complete the Tracker are also eligible to be considered for the Top 50 Companies for Diversity from DiversityInc Magazine. NOD also assists companies with fostering an inclusive environment in which people feel comfortable self-identifying as a person with a disability.
- The Valuable 500 is a collaborative conglomeration of hundreds of “national and multinational private sector corporations [being] the tipping-point for change and help[ing] unlock the social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world.” For its business CEOs whose companies become signatories, they have access to “a free [and] exclusive online toolkit designed to help leaders and their boards on their inclusion journeys.”
Here are some useful national resources of interest to job seekers and up-and-coming entrepreneurs:
People with disabilities in general:
- The AAPD Career Center’s online job board.
- AgrAbility is a “consumer-driven USDA-funded program that provides vital education, assistance, and support to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Through the combined dedication and expertise of the Cooperative Extension System and nonprofit disability organizations, AgrAbility helps thousands of determined individuals overcome the barriers to continuing their chosen professions in agriculture.”
- Easterseals’ Workforce Development Services “prepare people with disabilities find and keep a job through services like career exploration, job search assistance, job placement, and coaching.”
- The National Parent Center on Transition and Employment, part of the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER), provides “quality information on transition for youth with disabilities in a format that is useful to families, youth, and professionals.”
- The National Telecommuting Institute (NTI) helps people with significant disabilities find work-at-home jobs.
- SCORE works in cooperation with the Small Business Administration. SCORE’s mentors are available online to people considering starting a small business. Entrepreneurs can access free, confidential business advice from mentors who are experts in entrepreneurship and related fields.
- RespectAbility offers a comprehensive resource list for job seekers. Examples of national resources include abilityJOBS, AbilityLinks, Bender Consulting Services, Dreamers Merchants Coffee Company, Enable America, Getting Hired, Hire Disability Solutions LLC, HirePotential, Learn To Become, Manpower, and Work for Good.
- The Ticket to Work Program under SSA has a series of job search resources for the disability community. Examples include Apprenticeship.gov, CareerOneStop.com, Disabledperson.com, Equal Opportunity Publications, EveryJobForMe.com, IMDiversity, Lime Connect, Our Ability Connect and RecruitDisability.org. SSA has contracted with what are called Employment Networks (ENs) around the country. ENs are organizations that provide free employment services to Social Security disability beneficiaries ages 18 to 64. Offered services include career planning, job placement, and benefits counseling. To assist those who support beneficiaries, the National Employment Network Association (NENA) “serves employment networks, American job centers, and state vocational rehabilitation agencies operating the ticket to work and self-sufficiency program.”
People with intellectual/developmental disabilities:
- The ARC of the United States supports employers who want to hire people with developmental/intellectual disabilities. Through a program called [email protected] it provides “a comprehensive and multi-tiered approach to support corporations to develop, sustain, and scale disability hiring initiatives.”
- The Asperger/Autism Network has put together an Employment Toolbox, which contains free booklets on topics including getting hired, workplace disclosure, and sensory integration.
- Hire Autism offers “a job board, direct access to local employment opportunities, a profile builder, simple job applications, and helpful resources for the workplace.”
People with mental health disabilities:
- The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation provides employment resources “for individuals with lived experiences of mental illnesses/people in recovery in considering getting and keeping employment.”
- The Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities offers “toolkits and training guides for consumers who want to return to work and current research on supported employment and other program approaches.”
- The Ticket to Work Program under SSA has published a blog entitled “Job Searching with a Mental Health Condition.” It discusses issues such as knowing your strengths and talents, answering voluntary questions, and tackling the job search process.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers guidance and resources on the importance of work in its blog post “People with Mental Illness Can Work.”
People who are blind or visually impaired:
- The American Council of the Blind (ACB) hosts a job board called Job Connection.
- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) hosts the Blind Leaders Development Program which “is designed to increase upward mobility and create meaningful leadership experiences for individuals who are blind or low vision, who are already employed and in the beginning stages of their careers.” AFB also runs a series of employment summits “to bring together business leaders and rehabilitation professionals to develop initiatives to foster collaboration, maximize collective impact, and track outcomes for increasing employment rates.”
- CareersWithVision, a collaborative between the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and National Industries for the Blind (NIB), features accessible job opportunities for job seekers with visual impairments from NIB-associated agencies under the AbilityOne® Program.
- As part of NFB-NEWSLINE®, the free audio news service provided by the National Federation of the Blind, there are “more than 100,000 job listings from two national job sources.”
Deaf people or people who are hard-of-hearing:
- DeafJobWizard is “a niche-oriented job board that only lists deaf-related jobs in various job categories for both deaf and hearing job seekers.” The website lists job announcements by state.
- The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has published an employment toolkit, “an excellent resource for the employee with hearing loss as well as a current or prospective employer of a person with hearing loss.”
- The National Association of the Deaf’s Employment Resource Center (NERC) “provides employees and employers a single location with employment-related information, statistics, and publications.”
- VelvetJobs provides career resources and information for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing in a guide to assist them in their job search and to help them have the best possible experience, once they are employed.
People who are deaf-blind:
- The National Center on Deaf-Blindness has a webpage dedicated to supporting employment.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosts the Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) initiative “to connect veterans, service members, and military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities.”
- The National Resource Directory (NRD) is a federal government website with a broad range of employment-related and other resources for veterans, service members, and their families.
- disABLED, Inc. runs a job board for disabled veterans and offers free courses and certifications in productivity, computer science, IT infrastructure, and data science.
- The Paralyzed Veterans of America’s employment program, PAVE, “provides free employment support and vocational counseling assistance to all veterans, transitioning service members, spouses, and caregivers.”
- Recruit Military is a job board and publication that features “the largest single-source veteran database with over 1 million registered veterans.”
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is a training program, supported in part by the Small Business Administration. The training in entrepreneurship and small business management helps women veterans and female military spouses/partners find their passion and learn the business savvy skills necessary to turn an idea or start-up into a growing venture.
 “Solving ‘Then What?’: Empowering Investors to Achieve Competitive, Integrated Employment for Persons with Disabilities,” Harken Institute, December 5, 2020, https://harkininstitute.drake.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/103/2021/01/White-Paper_DI-in-ESG.pdf
 “Global Investor Group Representing $2.8 Trillion Appeals to Companies to be Inclusive,” Disability:IN, https://www.bloomberg.com/press-releases/2020-05-21/global-investor-group-representing-2-8-trillion-calls-on-companies-to-be-inclusive-to-people-with-disabilities