Survey: Employers Not Doing Enough to Hire People With Disabilities

Even though companies recognize the importance of hiring employees with disabilities, they are still not hiring enough of these workers, and few are proactively making efforts to improve the employment environment, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

The report, sponsored by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability, found that little progress has been made in closing the employment gap between people with and without disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

According to the survey, only 21 percent of people with disabilities ages 18 to 64 reported that they are working either full or part time, compared with 59 percent of people without disabilities.

John Kemp, executive director and general counsel, US Business Leadership Network, and Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary, Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, will be featured speakers at DiversityInc’s learning event Nov. 8–9 in Washington, D.C. Click here to register.

The 2010 Survey of Employment of Americans with Disabilities was conducted by telephone and online between March 2010 and April 2010 among 411 human-resource managers and senior executives at companies with more than 50 employees. It is the sixth survey in the past 24 years designed to measure the gaps between people with and without disabilities on different indicators and to track them over time. These indicators include: employment, income, education, healthcare, access to transportation, socializing, going to restaurants, attendance at religious services, political participation and life satisfaction.

According to the survey, although 70 percent of corporations polled have diversity policies or programs in place, only two-thirds of those with programs include disability as a component. Additionally, only 18 percent of companies offer an education program aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. The low figures are particularly notable given that a majority of employers perceive the costs of hiring a person with a disability to be the same as hiring a person without a disability (62 percent).

 Among other findings:

  • Only 1 in 5 companies (19 percent) has a specific person or department that oversees the hiring of people with disabilities. This is in contrast to 1995, when 40 percent of companies hired someone specifically for this reason
  • Only 7 percent of companies with disability programs offer a disability affinity group. Employment represents the largest gap between the two groups

“This new survey reveals that most employers are not aware of the unique contributions that workers with disabilities can make, and [they] do little to recruit them,” says NOD President Carol Glazer. “The shockingly high unemployment rate among people with disabilities suggests that employers seeking dependable workers have a rich and ready talent pool of workers from which to draw.”

These results stand in stark contrast to The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities.

Consider the following about the companies on this year’s top 10 list:

  • All offer dependent-care benefits (including childcare and eldercare) versus 94 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50
  • All feature images and/or video of people with disabilities on their corporate websites, compared with 80 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50
  • Eighty percent offer alternative career tracks for parents or others with long-term family-care issues; 62 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 do so
  • Eighty percent have mandatory diversity training for all employees versus 64 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50

In The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity survey, as a result of the new US Business Leadership Network certification program for companies owned by people with disabilities, DiversityInc will require that all disability-owned suppliers be certified.


  • Anonymous

    It is telling that at the end of the day there are no comments yet. There is definitely work to do in this area.

  • Anonymous

    Great. Please keep them coming. Also, let us know of the companies that work well with those of us learning disabilities that ARE HIRING currently.

  • I find it interesting that there is no statistic for those that have one or more disabilities and do not report them to their company, for fear of reprisal on some level. Personally, I am in that situation and my disabilities so far have not proved to be a true hindrance to me in doing my job. However, there is a huge loss on the quality of life that I experience, and to me, that counts for just as much as the quantity of life and work that intersect with each other on a daily basis. Thank you for a very telling article.

  • One serious problem with “diversity programs” is that they still exclude persons with disabilities and don’t make their activities or programs accessible. Token images of persons with disabilities on a website are “nice,” but not truly indicative of how well a company walks the walk. Is the website accessible (Section 508-conformant, for US Federal gov. agencies)? Are there people with disabilities in meaningful jobs and committee positions? Generally speaking, at this point in time, the answers are pretty much no still.

  • Anuar Miah

    I agree with the above comments, people with disability are being ignored if I challenege an employer to recruit disabled people they say we already have share of the disability. It shows their attitute towards disability is negative.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with these comments that American Businesses need to take a more
    proactive approach to hiring disabled people for meaningful job opportunities.
    At the same time,HR departments need additional training to utilize these

  • Anonymous

    I’m really interested in this area – and how it impacts on quality of life.
    We are in prisons without walls – so nobody sees. Now that the economy is so fragile, surely it makes no sense to tether out talent: to immobilise those who could possess momentum.
    Encouragement and support is all it takes. Why is that so hard to do?
    When I’ve finished my research, I’ll get back to you with my findings……

  • We are still behind the ball with hiring people with disabilities. I have been in corporate america – technology for 7 years and have only seen 1 person in a wheelchair (myself). The federal and local govt’s are even more behind than corporate. The system is designed NOT to hire people with disabilities. The competitive points / special programs are all feel good ” we’re doing the right thing” initiatives. End of the day they will hire there in law / friend..

  • Anonymous

    I have multiple hidden disabilities and can no longer work at the the same position in my company; however, they have no positions I can transfer to either. They are just not set up to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace. I was told if I cannot be released to work at 100% capacity (ha! that will not be happening) then I can’t return to work.

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