Expressing commitment, both internally and externally, is one of the easiest ways to foster a disability-inclusive workplace. Examples include equal opportunity statements that specifically mention disability on company websites, statements by top company leaders, advertisements featuring people with disabilities, articles in employee newsletters about disability-related issues and more. Such simple strategies go a long way toward communicating an inclusive workplace culture that seeks the skills and talents of all applicants and employees.
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The following resources can help small businesses learn more about ways to express a commitment to disability inclusion:
Thomas Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield, Connecticut proactively communicates its commitment to disability inclusion in a number of ways. In addition to statements on its website and other collateral materials, the brewery, as part of its involvement in the Connecticut Business Leadership Network, sponsored a “Best Practices and Brew Party” to encourage other local businesses to learn about how to integrate people with disabilities into their workforces and the benefits of doing so.
Residents of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire are likely familiar with the businesses that comprise VERC Enterprises—a family-owned chain of convenience stores, gasoline stations and carwashes that prides itself on customer service and a commitment to community. Reflecting this, the company has set an impressive goal: to comprise 20 percent of its workforce with individuals who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. It’s a commitment to disability diversity that VERC expresses proudly and publicly through a statement on its website and other proactive communications efforts, including a bylined opinion-editorial article in the Boston Globe. “When society takes the initiative in recruiting and hiring those with disabilities, it avails itself of a worker population that has proven to be exceedingly reliable, trustworthy, thorough and committed for the long haul,” wrote VERC President Leo Vercollone.
1st Bank, a division of Glacier Bank with branches in Wyoming and Utah, is known for its commitment to both customers and community. And thanks to strong support from top level leadership, the bank is also a recognized leader in the employment of people with disabilities. Seyed Yadegari, the bank’s executive vice president and chief operations officer (COO), has hired and advanced numerous individuals with disabilities during his 30 years in the banking industry. It’s a practice that benefits his bank as well as the employees he hires.
“I have found that the employment of people with disabilities has proven to be a good and common sense business decision,” says Yadegari. “It reduces operational cost, increases efficiency and uplifts the morale among other employees.”
Yadegari’s bank branch currently employs several individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities who spend their hours doing clerical work and document imaging. As a result of his career-long experiences with disability inclusion, Yadegari has become a champion of the business practice, always quick to share best practices and encourage others to capitalize on the disability dividend. Both in his internal work as the bank’s COO, and in his role as Board chair of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, he frequently works to demystify disability employment for other peers and business leaders.