10 Employers that Empower Workers with Disabilities

Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)? To become an organization that is truly diverse and inclusive, it’s imperative to recognize the important role people with disabilities play in the workplace. In fact, this year’s NDEAM theme is ‘Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.’ With 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that those with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities, it’s time for employers to step up and create work environments where all workers are part of the equity equation. As we support organizations in cultivating cultures of inclusivity, we’re taking a look at 10 companies – from small businesses on a mission to large corporations – that are getting it right when it comes to empowering workers with disabilities. 

  1. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee: Now this is a coffee shop that has more perks than most. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is on a mission to create a positive workplace where people with disabilities are accepted, valued and a true part of the community. Opened in 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, the shop started with 19 team members with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Today, the business has over 23 locations with over 200 employees and has created buzz across major news outlets for their huge success and meaningful mission.
  2. Hugs Cafe: Imagine a world where people are recognized for the things they can do rather than the things they cannot. That’s exactly what Texas’ Hugs Cafe’s mission is. Founder Ruth Thomspson combined her passion for people and food by teaching cooking classes to adults with special needs, which led her to make her cafe dream a reality. HUGS stands for hope, understanding, grace and success, and their inspiring mission has spread from Texas to across the country.
  3. Sunflower Bakery: Something is baking in the world of worker empowerment. Sunflower Bakery in Maryland is a place where caring is the main ingredient to business success. This small but mighty bakery is dedicated to providing skilled job training and employment opportunities for adults 18+ with learning differences. Organizations around the U.S. are seeing the amazing difference that Sunflower Bakery makes and following their great example.
  4. John’s Crazy Socks: Did you know that socks can tell a story? John’s Crazy Socks is a father-son enterprise inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down Syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks. They offer over 2,000 fun sock designs, and more than half of their employees have differing abilities. This brand is paving the way for workers from all walks of life to have a place where they feel valued and included.  
  5. Publix: As a large grocery store chain with heart, Publix is making big strides when it comes to hiring workers with disabilities. In fact, Publix received an award for hiring 1,190 people through the state of Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program during the past five years. Through their commitment to diversity and inclusion, Publix shows how large enterprises can make just as much of an impact as smaller, more specialized businesses. 
  6. Walgreens: One company that’s making a difference in the community is pharmacy chain Walgreens. Walgreens has partnered with the Disability Alliance to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. From signature hiring programs to working with community organizations in every location, Walgreens has certainly inspired corporations far and wide to follow in their footsteps. 
  7. Microsoft: Here’s one tech giant that’s modernizing inclusive hiring. Microsoft has made technology accessible for workers with disabilities a priority by incorporating new roles across a variety of disciplines. Not only does the enterprise empower workers in its own organization, but it helps companies around the globe with technology that supports a wide range of needs. 
  8. Inclusively: Here’s an organization that “inclusively” approaches the hiring process. At Inclusively, the proof is in the process. This organization prides itself on unlocking the value of hidden talent through their inclusion platform with accommodations that include insights, access, training and support. Inclusively has shown that when it’s done right, empowering workers with disabilities fuels the success of business operations and the productivity of all employees. 
  9. Accenture: One brand that knows all about creating opportunities for their disabled employees is Accenture. Technology and AI work to help accelerate the journey of workers from all walks of life, which is at the core of Accenture’s culture. They’ve received a number of awards for their inclusive environment, including the National Organization on Disability Employer Seal of Approval. Every milestone matters when working toward positive change for workers of all abilities.
  10. Google: Known for its empowerment of workers with disabilities, Google certainly deserves a spot on the top 10 list. Executives are actively making Google a workplace where everyone can learn, grow and have an impact as well as ensure the hiring process is fair and accessible for all. With accommodations, countless resources and accessible training, Google is showing the country how to empower all workers, regardless of their abilities.

At Work Shield, we applaud the many organizations that are trailblazers in creating workplaces that are diverse and inclusive. Workers with disabilities have a voice that must be heard and deserve space to truly be included in the workforce. May we all take pages from these 10 businesses’ books to create environments where employees from all walks of life are valued and heard.

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