New Employer Survey Reveals Corporate America Still Struggling to Hire People with Disabilities

NEW YORK – Despite record low unemployment and reports by hiring managers of an enormous demand for talent, a new survey of nearly 200 companies that collectively employ more than 9.5 million people reveals that U.S. employers are still not hiring larger numbers of people with disabilities to meet their talent needs. The findings come from the 2019 Disability Employment Tracker, an annual assessment provided by the National Organization on Disability (NOD), which has researched such issues since 1982 and advises large employers on how to create more inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities. Among the 199 companies surveyed, 40% are Fortune 500 companies with 61% having more than 10,000 employees.

"In a labor market where there is an enormous demand for talent – a demand that is only going to increase – we had expected to see the needle move more than it has," said NOD President Carol Glazer. "While we are seeing more employers embracing the notion that they can't afford to miss out on quality talent, including people with disabilities, these ideas are not translating into hiring numbers. Many employers either have not made it a priority or simply have not been able to figure it out."

• 4.0% - Average percentage of employees identifying as having a disability • 13% - Companies that have reached the Dept. of Labor target of 7% disability representation

Just over 1 in 10 companies surveyed (13%) have reached the target set by the U.S. Department of Labor for federal contractors that 7% of their workforce be represented by people with disabilities.

Other key Tracker findings include: While 98% of companies report that overall diversity is promoted publicly by a senior leader, that number falls precipitously to 76% for disability

89% of companies maintain employee resource groups focused on diversity, while only 64% have similar ERGs for disability

When it comes to hiring, barely half (51%) focus on campus recruiting for students with disabilities and only 42% create internships for that same population

"The Tracker very clearly shows that the various approaches to hiring people with disabilities all fall to the bottom of the list, despite how frequently companies tell us that hiring is their biggest goal," said Felicia Nurmsen, NOD's Managing Director of Employer Services. "This may be because some companies don't know how to approach targeted hiring, while others feel like they might not be ‘inclusive enough' yet to start. We try to explain that there are organizations like ours that are eager to help them get started."

Nurmsen added that NOD's work in Boston, where NOD has been implementing a pilot program called Campus to Careers, finds that once employers actively engage on a campus and open a dialogue with disability services, those barriers are quickly broken down, leading to employment.

"The good news is that we are seeing some positive gains in other key areas," said Nurmsen. "One such change is there is a broader awareness of disability inclusion, and meaningful increases in training. In 2018, for example, just 13% of HR generalists report having been trained in disability employment. That's up significantly in 2019 to 69%. So we have a workforce that is more capable of bringing people into the fold once hired. That tells us that if we can get employers to improve their recruitment efforts, those new employees will be able to make a smoother transition."