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A corporate example of disabled individuals in the workplace

Recent articles about Social Security disability benefits have cited data indicating that a majority of SSDI beneficiaries don’t have plans to return to the workforce. However, those articles don’t provide other important details and context. The starting point is each individual’s prognosis and recovery timetable. For example, a disabled worker’s condition might prevent him or her from performing any work duties. Others may hope for a recovery, but the timetable of their improved health may be uncertain.

Some disabled workers receiving SSDI payments may have seen improvement in their condition, but would not additional accommodations before returning to the workplace. It is this last group that the Americans With Disabilities Act seeks to protect, and an issue to which some businesses have already devoted time and resources.

Walgreens, in particular, has a commendable track record for hiring disabled workers. At the company’s distribution centers, more than one-third of the workers have a physical or mental disability. That percentage is so noteworthy that over 100 executives from other major companies have toured Walgreens for guidance in this area.

Readers might question whether it is financially viable to hire a substantial number of disabled workers. True, each worker may require unique accommodations. However, studies done of the cost impact to Walgreens’ distribution centers proves the opposite. The technology and education needed to accommodate disabled workers has been a minimal cost, and the benefit has been lower turnover and absenteeism in the workplace. The employee morale also seems positive, with disabled workers working alongside their non-disabled peers.

Source: csmonitor.com, “Bottom line, disabled people might be better employees,” Aug. 6, 2013

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