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49% of Organizations Hire People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, but 81% in the U.S. Remain Unemployed

A new i4cp study examines the disability inclusion practices organizations are using to engage with workers with disabilities to meet current and future talent needs.

One in five people of working age in the U.S. has a disability, yet despite well-publicized talent shortages the national unemployment rate for people with a disability is nearly twice that of the broader population. For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), that number climbs to 81%.

A newly released study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), in collaboration with Best Buddies International, examines how organizations are tapping into these previously underserved talent pools.

The study, titled The Inclusive Talent Pool: Hiring People with Disabilities, is a follow-up to i4cp’s groundbreaking 2014 study Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, which has been used by countless supported employment groups and advocacy organizations to make the business case for hiring people with IDD. The current iteration examines the strides made since the previous study, while expanding focus to include all types of disabilities and the practices used to make workplaces, hiring, and organizational cultures more inclusive for these employees.  

Despite a disproportionally high unemployment rate among people with disabilities, i4cp’s new research shows that organizations are  increasingly adopting disability inclusion practices and forming supported employment partnerships to boost hiring and retention among this group. The study also shows that the roles people with disabilities are employed in are expanding and evolving – particularly in the areas of professional, white-collar, and knowledge worker jobs.

Notable findings from the study include:

  • 75% report currently employing people with disabilities, and 49% report currently employing people with IDD
  • 69% report currently engaging - or planning to within the next year – formally with community groups to build their recruitment pipeline for people with disabilities.
  • Since 2014, people with IDD are 3x more likely to be employed as knowledge workers, 1.5x more likely to be in customer facing roles, 4.5x more likely to be in management roles, and 6x more likely to be in senior leadership roles.
  • Perceived concerns regarding the challenges that come with hiring people with disabilities, such as the need for extra supervision, are almost universally less than what’s actually experienced – though respondents did express a need for additional training support for managers and supervisors, as well as help identifying appropriate roles and the accommodations needed to help employees succeed.

Convenience retailer Wawa, an early adopter of inclusive hiring practices and supported employment of people with IDD, embraces the benefits of hiring people with disabilities to both the companies and the community. Retired Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel wrote in his memoirs about providing employment opportunities to talented individuals regardless of disability: “At Wawa, we keep discovering new ways to support the people of our communities. We never intend to stop.” Wawa is one of several organizations featured in the report, alongside Boeing, Genentech, MOD Pizza, JLL, and UPS.

The Inclusive Talent Pool: Hiring People with Disabilities research report is available publicly - download it now.