<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=672348691155252&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to content

Improving Disability and Inclusion Efforts in Manufacturing

03 February, 2023

Does your workplace aim to be more inclusive? Providing opportunities for all is not so difficult and improves a workplace's productivity. Christine Torres of IndeeLift, the "People Picker Upper," hosts a chat on inclusion efforts for #USAMfgHour on Twitter.

Does your workplace provide equal opportunities? People with disabilities can hold jobs of all types. In fact, there are articles about blind and visually impaired workers who weld and veterans who use wheelchairs in assembly work. Bringing that awareness and growing more opportunities is important to the economy, and Christine Torres of IndeeLift, manufacturer of the "People Picker Upper," talks about the subject for #USAMfgHour on Twitter.

Workplace Inclusion

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) recently revealed the top-scoring companies deemed "Best Places to Work" for making improved efforts in job accommodations and employment of those who have disabilities. Companies such as Northrop Grumman, Pacific Gas, and Electric, DuPont, and Lockheed Martin are among workplaces that score high. Some of the effective accommodation solutions that top-scoring companies implemented were amplified floor signage for emergency exit plans, large-print visual aids for training and work area communication, and individualizing training for improvement.

Have you considered people with disabilities for jobs in your workplace?

"I don't know if this topic has ever been raised here, but I am sure to bring it up now," said Dan Bigger of Chenango Valley Technologies in New York.

"Yes. Personally, I don't think I've ever NOT considered people with disabilities," said Sue Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing in Rockford, Illinois.

"It crosses my mind often as our facility is not ADA compliant in a lot of ways. It's a very old building and no one has put money into updating it," said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic in Wisconsin.

"Yes. We actually have people who have different abilities who work for us," said Chris Korte of Pure Country Air in California.

"Yes, in our case, we are a software company, and we have several positions where disability is never a barrier," said Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ in New York.

"I have always seen people. I judge on merit," said Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis in Wales, UK.

"We do! We are definitely an equal opportunity employer and accommodate employee needs as much as possible," said Christine Torres of Duralabel in Oregon.

"One of my best team members was deaf. His attitude and work ethic were the best. I learned basic sign language and hired an interpreter for our weekly meetings. She stayed as long as I needed her to. My meetings were rarely longer than 20 minutes," said Bill Garland, a business consultant in Arizona.

"We hire people who have disabilities," said Shannon Simpson of DuraTech in Wisconsin. "And they are great employees! Reliable and hardworking! No difference. Just great team members."

Companies throughout the U.S. are facing a war for talent and a lack of qualified workers, according to IndeeLift. Individuals with disabilities are being recognized as a source of engaged, committed employees. 

  • According to the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Institute on Disability, nearly 1 in 8 people in the U.S. has a disability, and that number increases annually. 
  • Companies that succeed in incorporating candidates with disabilities have seen 28 percent higher revenue and two times higher net income. 
  • Those companies also experienced reduced turnover, lower recruiting costs, increased productivity, and improved customer outreach, according to an Accenture 2018 white paper on accessibility.

What deters people from hiring people with disabilities?

"Cost. They think accommodating their needs will cost too much," said Obsidian.

"I think they may not be prepped for it," said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing in California. "Employers and HR pros face some unique challenges when they hire people with disabilities. They must learn how to assess, interview, & hire candidates with disabilities in a reasonable manner while also adhering to regulations designed to prevent discrimination."

"It adds another layer of complexity AT FIRST. It took time for James & I to work out a system for us to work together. In time, we created our own language where he could tell me what was going on. I must admit, I was intimidated at first. Give people a chance," said Garland.

"Uncertainty and fear are big challenges to overcome for employers. We must look beyond the disability and see the person," said Packer.

"It is the fear of the unknown and they are afraid to take a risk. Hiring is tricky enough, but this adds another layer that probably isn't there. Opinion," said CVT.

"I can only speak from past experience on this. Fear. Former employers had the fear of a possible liability or "fitting in" with other employees," said Nick Rivers of Obsidian.

"I would say it's the mindset and fear. If you have never done something before, it's naturally a bit scary experience. They simply need to be a bit open-minded about their hiring practices," said Gupta.

"Some older facilities maybe aren't properly equipped and spending the money to make them compliant is cost-prohibitive," said Julie Basello of Radwell International in New Jersey. "It's really difficult because it can be really expensive to get compliant."

"Misunderstanding and uneducated mindsets," said DSI/Dynamatic.

"I hate to say it so bluntly, but ignorance. Not being open-minded, not ADA compliant, and do not want to spend the money to be," said DuraTech. "ANY employee can be a liability."

"Guessing it's fear of the challenges and cost," said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative in New Jersey.

"I am guessing you are right. Little do they know that there are grants out there for this kind of thing," said CVT.

"The top three reasons typically refer to the cost of accommodations, lack of awareness as to how to deal with workers with disabilities and their accommodation needs, and fear of being stuck with a worker who cannot be disciplined or fired because of the possibility of a lawsuit," said IndeeLift. (Here is a great article by SHRM on employers not understanding what differently-abled people can do.)

What are some benefits of hiring a person with a disability?

"Here's one: You become an ?inclusive' company, making it easier for others with disabilities to apply for a job with you," said DSI/Dynamatic. "Here's another: You might learn something from them."

"It can expand your workforce. They can do tasks that other workers detest and without complaint. I have to believe that they would be intensely loyal," said CVT.

"I'm struggling with answering this question because I really don't base quality (good or bad) of an employee on their physical abilities. We've had employees who are color blind, and our entire file and job systems are based on color-coding," said Obsidian.

"I think it shows a lot about the mindset of the company. I believe it shows that the company is interested in investing in the "people" to succeed. It can also open the mind of a close-minded person," said Rivers. "I also notice when I am looking through social media - I always stop on the success stories of a person with a disability being honored. Their perseverance is contagious!"

"The knowledge that the employer has put trust and commitment into the employee. That employee will return that commitment many-fold," said Packer. "How many people include a customer group persona with disabilities? They represent up to 10% of potential market opportunities. That's a lot of sales."

"There are many benefits to hiring a person with a disability: more diversity in the workplace; the social benefits of being inclusive; giving someone with a disability an opportunity to change their career, and the list goes on," said Rusine.

"Attitude. Drive. Ambition. Tenacity. James wanted to show us what he was capable of. People respected him A BUNCH. I did not give out Employee of the Month awards as I was trying to get everyone to strive for excellence every day. I never had to worry about him," said Garland.

"Well, you might be missing on a very talented pool. You never know where your next rockstar might be. Eliminating someone for no logical reason is not very wise," said Gupta.

"Diversity can help bottom line especially if you also welcome that same diversity to decision making," said Gail Robertson of GailNow marketing in Canada.

"How many people include a customer group persona with disabilities. They represent up to 10% of potential market opportunities. That's a lot of sales," said Packer.

"Findings show that benefits of hiring people with disabilities included improvements in profitability (e.g., profits and cost-effectiveness, turnover and retention, reliability and punctuality, employee loyalty, company image), competitive advantage (e.g., diverse customers, customer loyalty, and satisfaction)," said IndeeLift. For example: Marriot learned how to improve their hotels for various abilities by hiring people who could relate.

Future Hiring

Does your workplace have any plans for more diversity and inclusion hiring?

"Again, Unknown, we are hiring anyone that we can at the moment. As far as products or services, no. We contract work for other OEM's," said CVT.

"The nature of my business is very inclusive so if there's one that would qualify and if I am looking, absolutely!" said Rusine.

"Depends on the disability. Sadly, though, we can't accommodate anyone in a wheelchair without big improvements. Example: We could put Braille on our nameplates, but I'm not sure blind people would be using our products in the first place," said DSI/Dynamatic.

"During my time, we did not hire any new employees. I would have not thought twice about hiring another deaf person nor someone who was in a wheelchair -- inspectors were badly needed," said Garland.

"The disability market is about 10% in the USA. Think about them when you are developing products. Just because people have a disability does not mean they do not want to buy your products. Can your blind customers buy your products online on your website?" said Packer.

"This is most certainly an important factor to be a socially responsible organization. As we grow more, we plan to implement D&I practices more," said Gupta.

"This is one I am not aware of!" said DuraTech.

The 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey showed that while 57 percent of respondents had diversity hiring goals, only 28 percent had goals for hiring people with disabilities, according to IndeeLift. 

How can you make your workplace more inclusive?

"Depends on the disability. Sadly, though, we can't accommodate anyone in a wheelchair without big improvements. Example: We could put Braille on our nameplates, but I'm not sure blind people would be using our products in the first place," said DSI/Dynamatic.

"It is up to all of us to have an inclusive culture and give people the opportunity to contribute. There are organizations here that specialize in hiring & training people with disabilities. They would be an excellent resource & a way to find great people," said Garland.

"I don't make those decisions, but I believe Obsidian Mfg. would see this as something they GET to do - not HAVE to do. We GET to make changes. We GET to be diverse. A product will be a product, but a person? A PERSON makes a difference," said Rivers.

"It all starts with talking about it, developing a plan of action, and carrying out the plan," said CVT.

"Don't forget veterans," said Packer.

"These are great ideas!" said DuraTech.

"We wouldn't even know where to start, to be honest. It makes me sad to even say that," said DSI/Dynamatic.

"Create a council that focuses on inclusion periodically," said IndeeLift. "Partner with outside groups such as local and state alliances. For help recruiting people with disabilities, companies can turn to community organizations."

Many companies celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and benchmark their progress with tools from nonprofit organizations, and feature employees with disabilities in branding materials. 

"Providing access goes beyond making sure people who use canes or wheelchairs can navigate stairs or doorways. Inclusive design means that people with disabilities can also use websites and digital tools. Prioritizing accessibility and accommodation is critical to meeting inclusion goals," said IndeeLift.

For example, General Motor's Disability Advisory Council is a cross-functional team of executives and employee resource group members focusing on improving the inclusion of those with disabilities. The council has championed captioned broadcasts, improved processes for requesting accommodations, generated better lead resourcing for talent acquisition, and hosted educational lunches, according to IndeeLift.

Organizations that carefully examine and enhance these four areas will be well on the way to improving their inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Building a more diverse workforce can not only boost the bottom line, but also increase productivity, reduce turnover, and create a better brand image. 

There are several simple worksite improvement solutions that employers can practice that benefit all employees. Leverage the experiences of people with disabilities to engineer new ways to connect and engage by taking those workers into account when performing a job hazard analysis. Ensure all employees comprehend what is being taught, regardless of barriers such as language or the inability to read. Visual communication using large-print, pictograms, embossed signage, and the use of various types of mediums and training materials can increase visibility as well as understanding. 

About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @CVTPlastics, @DCSCinc, and @SocialSMktg.