Making the Business Case for Hiring People with Disabilities

Americas, June 4 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA: National Disability Institute (NDI), in partnership with Kessler Foundation and Poses Family Foundation, assembled corporate leaders and community providers at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh for the event: Disability at Work, a Conversation with Randy Lewis. Mr. Lewis, a former Senior Vice President at Walgreens, shared evidence of “return on investment” when disability becomes a centerpiece of a corporation’s diversity and inclusion strategy to enhance workforce productivity and the bottom line.

In his address, Mr. Lewis emphasized the need to change perceptions about the key role people with disabilities can play within all areas of a business. “Most of us believe that people with disabilities cannot perform as well on the job as others. At Walgreens, we found that to be untrue – and unfair,” Mr. Lewis said. He continued, “We ended up hiring more than 1,000 people with disabilities. We didn’t lower the bar when it came to performance, but we did have to open the door wider to include those who are routinely overlooked. The results exceeded our wildest expectations.”

Corporate leaders in the Allegheny region took part in an interactive discussion that addressed how companies can create competitive disability inclusion programs that align with their corporate goals. Special guests, Kathy M. Manderino, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, and Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive, County of Allegheny, set the stage for what state and local governments can do to support employers who want to build a more inclusive workforce.

Jeremy Shapira, Special Projects, Diversity and Inclusion, and spokesperson for the event’s corporate host, Giant Eagle, Inc. said, “There is clearly a business case for hiring people with disabilities. At Giant Eagle, people with disabilities make great Team Members because they consistently arrive for work on time, work hard and love their jobs.” He added, “We get endless positive feedback from our customers, as well as other Team Members. We know our inclusion employment efforts have added to our bottom line. I hope more companies can learn from our experience and take advantage of this untapped candidate market.”

Meg O’Connell, Vice President of Workplace Initiatives, Poses Family Foundation said, “We are grateful to our partners, Kessler Foundation and National Disability Institute, for helping us elevate the important conversation about building an inclusive workforce. Through the power of collaboration, we can increase the employment of job seekers with disabilities in companies across the country.”

Elaine Katz, Senior Vice President of Grants and Communications from the Kessler Foundation, said, “People with disabilities are an untapped source of incredible talent. We thank Randy Lewis for his dedication to this issue and his advocacy. By working together, we can close the employment gap and make diversity part of business as usual.”

The previous day, Mr. Lewis met with community service providers to discuss how to create competitive, inclusive and successful employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. He also shared tips on honing conversations with employers about including persons with disabilities as part of their recruitment and hiring strategies to enhance their workforce productivity and bottom line.

Collaborating organizations for the event included Allegheny County Office of the County Executive, Allegheny County Department of Human Resources, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Bender Consulting, Giant Eagle, Inc., Highmark Health and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. This event was funded and made possible by Poses Family Foundation and Kessler Foundation, with the generous support of Giant Eagle and the Shapira family.

This convening is the first of several events that will be taking place across the country this year in select cities. Individuals can follow the tour at #DisabilityAtWork on social media networks.

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