People with Disabilities

Our Director Of Product Engagement, Andrew Williams, talks with electronics manufacturing publication EMS Now Publisher Eric Miscoll about how award-winning, state-of-the-art electronics manufacturing and employing people with disabilities go hand-in-hand in this video interview.

Reasonable accommodations for employees of all abilities are taking their place as vital components of a thriving, competitive business. Why? Because strategically incorporating accommodations can offer several business benefits. Before we delve into them, what, exactly, is a “reasonable accommodation”?

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reasonable accommodation is “any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities.” The definition goes on to specify that “accommodations are considered ‘reasonable’ if they do not create an undue hardship or a direct threat.”

But the thought of implementing reasonable accommodations still scares some employees—to their loss.

A Myth That Needs Busting

Fear surrounding accommodations for employees with disabilities is largely based on the myth that they’re expensive. They’re not. Over half of surveyed employers report that accommodations cost nothing, while 37 percent report a median one-time cost of just $300. The same employers report many benefits that far outweigh the small expense. Here, we detail the top six business benefits of offering accommodations for employees.

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Attracting and Retaining Valuable Employees

Offering reasonable accommodations gives businesses a competitive edge by demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as employee well-being. Potential employees—with or without disabilities—are more likely to choose employers who foster a welcoming and supportive work environment. Providing accommodations also improves employee retention, which is crucial considering the prevalence and high cost of turnover. A 2019 Gallup survey reported that employee turnover costs U.S. businesses $1 trillion per year. A 2023 poll of 1,007 U.S. hiring decision-makers said turnover costs their companies an average of $36,295 annually, and 20 percent pegged the cost at $100,000. When weighed against these high costs, offering and implementing accommodations—effectively expanding the employee base—is well worth it.

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Improving Productivity

In a groundbreaking report by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 53 percent of surveyed businesses reported that accommodations improved employee productivity. It’s important to note that employees without disabilities also receive accommodations—tools and resources to maximize their performance. Extending these measures to employees with disabilities makes sense, as it removes barriers that may impede their abilities. For instance, an adjustable desk can equip an employee in a wheelchair to be a top producer. Written or signed instructions for Deaf employees can eliminate language obstacles, boosting their productivity. Similarly, employees who become overwhelmed in noisy environments may outperform peers when moved to a quieter area. In today’s business world, recognizing that talent and productivity are accessed through diverse avenues, including accommodations, is imperative.

Boosting Morale

Belonging is a basic human need and a crucial component of workplace morale. When employees feel that they belong—their needs understood, respected, and supported—satisfaction naturally improves. Access to reasonable accommodations is a vital component of a welcoming, inclusive environment. In an article in The Journal of Business and Psychology, researchers found that “accommodations send important and positive signals to employees” and that such signals factor into morale—not just for the accommodated employee, but for the whole team. Belonging and measures to achieve it are so vital to the workplace that it is widely studied. A Harvard Business Review study found that a high sense of belonging is linked to a 56 percent increase in job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, and a 75 percent reduction in sick days. Simply put, welcomed and supported employees want to be at work, engage with coworkers, and give their best efforts—all leading to a better workplace culture.

Improving Company Diversity

A diverse company is a thriving company. According to McKinsey’s “Diversity Wins” report, organizations in the top quartile for cultural diversity are 36 percent more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. As employees with diverse abilities gain their rightful place in diversity initiatives, normalizing reasonable accommodations becomes vital to achieving the the business benefits of an inclusive workforce: a widened talent pipeline, greater appeal to socially conscious investors, greater organizational innovation, and overall greater market reach. But diversity is more than a buzzword or a hiring strategy. It’s a vital part of a forward-thinking, human-centered organization.

Improving Safety and Reducing Workers’ Compensation Costs

According to the JAN study, companies that offer reasonable accommodations increase safety by 29 percent. By adapting the workplace to meet the needs of employees, including people with disabilities, the likelihood of accidents and injuries decreases. Similarly, the presence of reasonable accommodations may allow a sick or injured employee to return to work sooner. Beyond the human toll caused by insufficient safety measures, there’s also a significant business cost. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workplace injuries and illness are on the rise, costing business around $48.15 billion in 2023. As reasonable accommodations stand to reduce that cost by over a quarter, they should be part of every organization’s safety strategy.

Improving the Bottom Line

Naturally, where employee retention, productivity, and morale rise and workers’ compensation and training costs fall, businesses see a better bottom line. When providing reasonable accommodations attracts and retains employees with and without disabilities, profits may increase even more. A study by analyst firm Accenture found that companies who actively employee people with disabilities see 1.6 times more revenue, 2.6 times more net income, and 2 times more economic profit than organizations that don’t include people with disabilities. A National Institutes of Health Review reported similar findings, including improved customer loyalty and satisfaction.

At PRIDE Industries, we know that inclusion works—literally. Decades of experience has shown us that, with just a little assistance, including reasonable accommodations, people of all abilities can and do thrive in the workplace. 

Let Us Help You Build an Inclusive Labor Force

Inclusive workforces, including those that employ people with disabilities, boast 35 percent greater productivity. PRIDE Industries has helped hundreds of companies to make their teams more inclusive, helping recruit, hire, train, and support this reliable talent pipeline—free of charge to employers.

“You must first learn to go slow before you can go fast.”

This motto became a source of inspiration for Sherryl Kubel during her extensive recovery after an acquired disability in 2017. A car accident left her with multiple fractures and a brain injury, impacting her speech, memory, and mobility. Consequently, she had to relearn various fundamental life skills. Embracing the idea of “slow before fast” gave her room to do so.

Sherryl would soon apply this adage to another milestone when, after more than a year of physical rehabilitation and three months of brain rehabilitation, she was medically released for work. At that point, she wanted to initiate the second phase of her recovery from the accident: employment.

Upon conducting some initial research, Sherryl quickly discovered that finding a job wouldn’t be easy. Only about a third of people with disabilities, including acquired disabilities, are employed. When it comes to getting hired, they find themselves up against myths and stigma—which is unfortunate not only for people eager and skilled to work, but also for potential employers who miss out on the benefits this workforce boasts: high retention rates, low turnover, and low absenteeism—to name a few.

Creating a Path to Employment with an Acquired Disability

Fortunately, Sherryl’s search led her to the California Department of Rehabilitation which, in turn, referred her to PRIDE Industries. There, she was linked to job developers who helped her with every step of the pre-employment process.

“They showed me how to write a resume, how to write a cover letter, how to fill out applications, and how to interview,” said Sherryl. “I learned how to seek accommodations and ask for them if needed. Then they worked with me on skill-development toward my employment goal of office assistant.”

Sherry’s job coaches also trained her in multiple office skills, including data entry, phone etiquette, software, and even video meeting practice.

“At each level, my job coaches gave me the space to ‘go slow before I went fast,’” said Sherryl. “A strategy that proved, as it had during my rehabilitation, fruitful.”

From there, Sherryl underwent one of the most helpful parts of her PRIDE Industries program: a simulated work environment. For three weeks, she went to an office every day as if going to a full-time job.

“While I did this, they tested me on around 50 different tasks, providing feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. This helped me to clearly understand what I needed to work on going forward.”

Watch Sherry tell her story in the video below. 

An Internship, a Job, and a Certification

After that, PRIDE Industries offered Sherryl a five-month internship in the proposal department as a Proposal Development Assistant. The proposal team was so impressed with her that they soon offered her a full-time position. Three years later, after gaining skills and knowledge in the field, she has a new milestone to celebrate: acquiring the Association of Proposal Management Professional’s (APMP) Foundation-level certification.

As the global standard for developing and demonstrating proposal management competency, the certification program is robust and the test comprehensive.

“I studied for it, intermittently, for three years,” said Sherryl.

Sherryl’s work within the Proposal Department also equipped her for the test.

“It’s not something you can pass just by studying,” she said. “You have to have had exposure to the whole process and have experience applying the knowledge.”

The certification signals Sherryl’s competency in a career she enjoys.

“This is what I like doing,” she said. “It’s my passion and makes use of my degree in technical writing.”

Sherryl’s achievement has also been noted by her supervisor, Proposals Manager Lisa Forester.

“This is a big accomplishment for Sherryl,” said Lisa. “But it also brings value to the proposals team and to PRIDE Industries. Not every proposals professional has this certification, and Sherryl took the initiative to go after it while working and supporting our department.”

Continuing the Path of Recovery and Employment

Not only has Sherryl brought her own unique qualities and skills to the PRIDE Industries Proposals Department, but she has also embodied significant employment truths: People with disabilities, including brain injuries, can and do make great employees. In fact, in several areas, their presence in an organization brings many business benefits, including higher retention, more revenue, more net income, and more profit.

Slow before fast, Sherryl has accomplished much—with no signs of stopping.

 “I’m on my way to advancing my career as a proposal writer,” said Sherryl. “It’s like a dream come true!”

Make a social impact

PRIDE Industries builds inclusive, diverse work environments where people with disabilities can thrive. Is your company seeking well-trained, reliable employees? Join our Employment Partner Network today.
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Sherryl Kubel had to re-learn how to complete many basic life skills following an acquired disability

“I’m on my way to advancing my career as a proposal writer. It’s like a dream come true!”

Living with Tourette Syndrome (TS) isn’t easy at any age, but it’s especially tough for a child—something Ian Webster knows all too well, as he was diagnosed with TS when he was just five years old. At the time, he couldn’t have known that, one day, finding an employer that supported neurodiversity in the workplace would be crucial to achieving his dreams.

Also called chronic motor and vocal tic disorder, Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary “tics”—sudden vocalizations and movements. People who have it are often misunderstood and frequently viewed as rude or disruptive. Sometimes perceived this way by his classmates, Ian struggled through elementary, middle, and high school, and then into community college.

“Sometimes, it made it hard to keep going,” Ian said.

So hard, in fact, that Ian left college after a year, opting to work as a window cleaner for his mother’s business. While he liked that work, he wanted more independence. He also wanted all the things that come with employment at a large organization, including a better salary, medical benefits, and room for growth.

“I had a goal to work at the state someday,” he said. 

Realizing that he would need more employment experience under his belt to get there, the 22-year-old reached out to PRIDE Industries, a social enterprise with a mission to create employment for people with disabilities and experienced at supporting neurodiversity in the workplace.

Accommodating Neurodiversity in the Workplace

At PRIDE Industries, Ian was paired with Caryl Balko, a job developer, and Tameka Rich, then the Rehabilitation Services Supervisor. The two showed Ian what support for neurodiversity in the workplace looks like. They began by assisting Ian with employment preparation, including a two-week trial position as a dishwasher at a senior care facility. While he worked there, he underwent an assessment to determine his skills and strengths.

“His assessment went so well,” said Caryl. “His motivation and work ethic were admirable. Even though he was young, he was one of the hardest workers we’d seen.”

Both Caryl and Tameka recognized that Ian was also gifted with a friendly, personable nature and a great sense of humor. Unfortunately, soon after starting his trial position, Ian experienced some personal life changes that required him to leave the workforce. But by then he’d made an impression on the PRIDE Industries team, and they asked him to return when he was able.

Back on the Path

Six years later, in 2019, after gaining more job experience as a part-time packager with UPS, Ian did just that. He’d held onto his goal—full time employment with a large organization that could, eventually, ready him for a state job. He was also as eager and personable as ever. Once more at PRIDE Industries, he worked with Tameka, who reinitiated the employment preparation process. Three months later, he was placed in a custodial position at the Sacramento Metropolitan Airport—where he began on the graveyard shift.

“I was glad to get my foot in the door,” said Ian.

He thrived in his position, eventually moving to the much busier day shift, which allowed him to work more independently and get the type of experience he needed to move forward in his career.

“I loved the environment and my supervisors and shift leads,” he said.

They loved Ian, too. So did Caryl and Tameka, who observed in him the same work ethic and great attitude he’d exhibited years before.

“We saw him really come into himself and grow in confidence at the airport,” said Tameka.

2019 and 2020 found Ian thriving in his position.  As much as he enjoyed working at the airport, however, his ultimate goal was still to secure a job with the State of California.

Later in 2020, he reached his goal, gaining a custodial position with California’s General Services Administration.

Arriving at Home Ownership

Though Ian worked only 16 months as a PRIDE Industries employee, that time had a huge impact on his life. First, he saw that neurodiversity in the workplace can and should be normalized. Second, he realized that he had what it took to excel at work and become financially self-sufficient.

“PRIDE Industries was the first steady full-time job I ever had,” he said. “It allowed me to become more independent.”

Tameka and Caryl couldn’t be happier for him.

“PRIDE Industries was a steppingstone for Ian,” said Tameka. “Great for him and great for us.”

A steppingstone, indeed, along a path that now includes home ownership.

“I pay my own mortgage now,” Ian said.

From part-time job to full-time, independent employment, Ian has come a long way. You could say that his journey has led him, literally, home.