Employing persons with disabilities: A model of successful corporate culture change

by Douglas Waxman


This paper surveys and synthesis the literature on myths and misinformation about persons with disabilities that create attitudinal barriers to employment. It further examines the literature on best practices in employing persons with disabilities, the literature on the business case for hiring persons with disabilities, to produce a model for changing corporate culture to integrate employees with disabilities successfully into a corporation’s work force.

The paper identifies a number of myths that create barriers to employment for persons with disabilities, around supervisor and coworker attitudes, organizational values, attitudes towards accommodations, concern over litigation if the employee is disciplined or terminated.

The paper discusses that management practices are behaviors that can be changed through learning and that corporations can derive a completive advantage by tapping an unused resource, in this case persons with disabilities, as their employment improves productivity, lowers turn over rate and leads to other corporate cultural improvements for all employees. The diversity of workforce also leads to enhanced and expanded customer loyalty.

Then the literature on successful cases of employing persons with disabilities is reviewed and best practices distilled to create a model of how to integrate persons with disabilities. It starts with visible leadership from the top of the organization. Then it requires the right supervisors in place who are sensitive to disability issues in the workplace. All employees receive disability training. Key is to assure the right match between the employees’ skills and the job. The employee with a disability receives pre-employment safety and skills training. Mentoring from other employees is beneficial.

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