How Americans with Disabilities are Underrepresented as Managers and Professionals, in One Glaring Chart



A man in a wheelchair is smiling and looking at a book he is holding open on a table. Next to the man is a woman sitting with a folder on her lap


  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics released 2021 data about the employment situation of people with disabilities.
  • Of employed people with disabilities, 36.5% work in management, professional, and related occupations.
  • That is less than the share for employed people without disabilities working these jobs, at 42.7%.


People with disabilities can be great job candidates, but their labor force participation was still low in 2021 and unemployment remained high compared to those without disabilities.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the employment situation of people with and without disabilities in 2021. Only 21.3% of Americans age 16 and over with disabilities were working or actively looking for work, far below the 67.1% rate for Americans without disabilities.

The latest release also highlights the kinds of jobs people with disabilities are working in compared to those without disabilities:

“Persons with a disability were less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations than those without a disability,” BLS wrote in the news release, where 36.5% of employed Americans with disabilities worked in those occupations, well below the 42.7% of employed Americans without disabilities.

People with disabilities may face discrimination that can make it difficult to land a job — or even get through the application process if applications aren’t accessible.

Workers with disabilities face barriers reaching management positions

Charles Catherine, director of corporate and government relations at the National Organization on Disability (NOD), told Insider that the gap in management and related roles could be due to a few reasons.

“One is people with disabilities are on average less educated than the average population,” Catherine said. “And that’s because of a lot of reasons — discrimination, difficulty to access education, low expectations.”

“So when you’re looking to hire people at the managerial level for companies,” he added, “it is objectively difficult to find qualified candidates with disabilities.”

Another problem is companies may have a hard time finding people who self-identify as having disabilities because of discrimination. Catherine said there could be more managers out there with disabilities but they might not feel comfortable disclosing this.

“On the employer side, some of them are forward-thinking and know that there is an untapped talent pool there and they want to hire people with disabilities,” Catherine said. “And we at NOD work with many of them. But, they don’t necessarily find that talent of people who self-identify because we know that there is discrimination against people with disabilities.”

He cited a study that highlights this problem. The study looked at made-up applications written by the researchers to over 6,000 accounting positions where a third of cover letters didn’t mention a disability, a third noted a spinal cord injury, and a third mentioned Asperger’s Syndrome. The authors found that the “fictional applicants with disabilities received 26% fewer expressions of employer interest than those without disabilities, with little difference between the two types of disability.”

One of the main results the authors found was the “disability gap in employer interest is concentrated among experienced applicants, indicating that higher qualifications do not erase the labor market disadvantages associated with disability.”

Employers can improve their practices and be more accommodating for workers with disabilities during the interview stages, in addition to once workers land the job. Employers can also make more of an effort to recruit this talent pool.

“When it comes to getting employed, there are barriers in the recruitment, hiring, and retention phase of employment,” Josh Basile, community-relations manager at accessiBe, previously told Insider.

Catherine said it’s on the employers to reach out and better recruit and promote this talent pool of workers.

“Building accessibility and improving the inclusive hiring process is not only a compliance issue,” Basile said. “It’s smart business, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Originally published on Business Insider

4 Ways to Expand Inclusion of People with Disabilities

February 21, 2019, Deborah Stadtler

As companies face a war for talent and a lack of qualified workers in many fields, individuals with disabilities are being recognized as a source of engaged, committed employees. According to the 2017 Disability Statistics Report from the Institute on Disability, nearly one in eight people in the U.S. has a disability and that number is rising annually.

Companies that succeed in incorporating candidates with disabilities have seen 28 percent higher revenue and two times higher net income, according to a 2018 whitepaper on accessibility from Accenture. Workplace Initiative, a network of companies, nonprofits, and government agencies working to remove barriers for those with disabilities, reports that those companies also experienced reduced turnover, lower recruiting costs, increased productivity and improved customer outreach.

“The most immediate challenge for many companies looking to advance disability inclusion in their workforce is knowing where to start. Topics like digital accessibility, Section 503 compliance, or self-ID surveys may be new territory,” said Felicia Nurmsen, Managing Director of Employer Services at the National Organization on Disability (NOD). “A good first step is to establish your baseline, so you can prioritize goals, strategically allocate resources, and track year-over-year progress. One tool is NOD’s Disability Employment Tracker, which offers essential data to benchmark your employment practices and performance against other companies.”

Companies looking to recruit and hire those with disabilities can leverage many of the practices developed for their diversity & inclusion programs. A 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey showed that while 57 percent of respondents had diversity hiring goals, only 28 percent had disability goals.

Consider the following four ways of building inclusion:

1. Create an inclusive culture. 

Companies that are inclusive of those with disabilities manage their culture in various ways. Some survey employee attitudes and invite employees to self-identify; others nominate a diversity champion and support disability specific resource groups. Including senior leadership in messaging and awareness efforts helps underscore the importance of inclusion.

General Motors extends their culture of inclusion by partnering with outside groups, such as a pilot program with the Michigan Alliance on Autism, as well as internal special interest groups (SIGs), such as the GM Able employee resource group. “Further, we have a Disability Advisory Council that meets quarterly to focus on specific issues for the constituency,” said Ken Barrett, Global Chief Diversity Officer for General Motors.

“Marriott has created Talent Network Teams (TNTs) that were designed to bring associates together to ideate, collaborate and build relationships,” said David Rodriquez, Executive Vice President & Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Marriott International. “We created a TNT on improving the guest experience for Travelers With Disabilities, which generated tangible and actionable outcomes and engaged our associates.”

“We feel strongly that creating an inclusive culture where people with different abilities are present, welcome and accommodated is the best approach,” said Julia Trujillo, Senior Vice President of Global Talent and Workforce Development at MetLife. “We have taken steps to raise awareness and develop skills with our employees, as well as to ensure our processes and systems are inclusive of all abilities.”

2. Broaden your talent practices. 

Companies should examine practices at all stages of talent management, from recruiting and benefits to retention and advancement, when attempting to recruit and hire those with disabilities.

“Inclusion is a deeply ingrained aspect of our company culture dating back to the company’s origin as a family business,” said Rodriquez. “Marriott has a longstanding commitment to hiring and supporting people with different abilities in the workplace. Our hiring initiatives focus on partnerships with community-based organizations, ensuring our locations are trained on laws related to disability, and regular disability awareness communications.”

“In many of our markets, we have partnered with external organizations to help us hire talent that is differently abled, “said Trujillo. “For example, our recruiters have been trained to maximize engagement opportunities with, and accommodations for, candidates of all abilities. We’ve also trained our recruiters to ensure they know how to engage with candidates who have unique needs.”

3. Foster wider awareness. 
“A new disability inclusion effort will fall flat without building trust among employees,” said Nurmsen at NOD. “Raising awareness is an important step to combat stigma and lend authenticity to your message, and representation and storytelling are powerful tactics that bring your corporate values to life.” Many companies celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, benchmark their progress with tools from non-profit organizations, and feature employees with disabilities in branding materials.

“Our culture of inclusion is strengthened by TakeCare, Marriott’s global employee well-being program, “ said Rodriquez. “We cultivate and celebrate our shared responsibility to maintain an environment where every associate feels they belong and can freely express their ideas and talents. A few years ago, we launched the Ability to Succeed campaign with a video that highlighted a number of associates whose journeys include a variety of disabilities both visible and non-visible. The campaign kicked off a series of events, communications and enhanced training that led to increased self-disclosure of disability status in our workforce.”

“We have long had an employee resource group to support our employees who are differently abled or are caregivers,” said Trujilo. “This group has done a tremendous amount to raise awareness with our employees.”

4. Prioritize access for all. 

Providing access goes beyond just physical structures to resources, electronic and digital access, and inclusive design. Accenture, a company that has won accolades for its inclusion of people with disabilities, includes job skills training, accessible software design and artificial intelligence solutions as part of their strategy.

Prioritizing accessibility and accommodation is a critical area in meeting inclusion goals. GM’s Disability Advisory Council is a cross-functional team of executives and employee resource group member focusing on improving 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 and articles.

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 will not only boost the bottom line, but increase productivity, reduce turnover and create a better brand image.

Read on HR People +Strategy


Want Your Business to Succeed? Hire Moms. Hire Vets. Hire Boomers. Hire People With Disabilities. Here’s Why

These overqualified groups are just waiting to be snatched up by smart companies.

By Leigh Buchanan and Kate Rockwood Editor-at-large and contributing editor, Inc.

Companies are fighting over the same Harvard MBAs and Silicon Valley talent. Instead, they should hire these underrated people. Here’s why aging Boomers, career pivoters, and those in overlooked talent pools might be the best recruits you ever make.

Moms: The most overqualified talent stuck at the playground

The Case for Hiring Them
Plenty of employers dream of hiring temporary or part-time teams of seasoned pros adept at running multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns or spearheading strategic analyses. What they don’t realize is that playgrounds can be full of them: experienced professionals turned parents, who are eager to work but have been sidelined by parenthood for a few years or don’t want the full 9-to-5 commitment of their previous gig. “Small businesses have a unique advantage in that they can usually offer a lot more flexibility than a larger enterprise,” says Allison Robinson, founder of digital talent marketplace the Mom Project.

How to Help Them Succeed
Communicating expectations and needs–on both sides–can help get new hires integrated faster and increase their tenure. Some women returning to work after a few years away are eager to embrace a traditional workweek, but others may crave flexibility–to work remotely, to create a set schedule that’s not 9 to 5, or to work the hours needed to get the job done rather than hewing to a strict 40-hour standard.

Where to Find Them

Check out the Mom Project, the Second Shift, Après, Werk, and Mom Corps. Each org’s process varies–from a DIY job board to having the team screen and curate candidates for you–as does the fee structure. There’s also been a bumper crop of work-training hybrid programs aimed at tuning up people’s skills after a few years on the sidelines. OnRamp Fellowship connects companies with legal and finance people, and through the nonprofit Path Forward, companies offer “returnships,” mostly for tech employees who have been out of the workforce for at least two years to focus on caregiving. The Mom Project also offers a “maternityship” option, in which you cover an employee’s maternity leave with a temporary hire of a parent looking for reentry.

Worth Knowing
Temporary or returnship roles can be a great way to test the waters: At Intuit, three-quarters of the 30 women who participated in its returnship program in India have joined full time. In March, the company rolled out the program in the U.S.

Companies Doing It Right
Returnships are up and running at giants such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, and PayPal and at upstarts like Instacart and Udemy. Box, Aflac, Netflix, Etsy, and Facebook are just a handful of the businesses using the mom-targeted placement firms to find their next hire.

Veterans: Wired for everything from customer intel to robotics

What Roles They Fill
Military specialties such as aircraft maintenance and construction equipment operations translate directly into civilian life, says Ross A. Brown, head of military and veteran affairs at JPMorgan Chase. At his employer, for example, those previously in military intelligence excel at customer research. Many vets also have experience with advanced technology, including GPS, A.I., drones, robots, and virtual reality, says Katherine Webster, founder of VetsinTech. Cybersecurity is a sweet spot, she says: “They have security clearances and an ingrained desire to protect.”

Female Strong
One of the fastest-growing populations of veterans is women. (Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

In addition to tech skills developed in the military, many veterans are certified in software from Salesforce, and more than a dozen other technology companies have pledged to train 60,000 veterans and military spouses, mostly for free, by 2021.

“Companies overlook veterans’ amazing skill sets, particularly when it comes to technology, leadership, team building, and transparent decision making.”
Julia Taylor Kennedy, senior vice president at the Center for Talent Innovation

How to Help Them Succeed
Communications in the military are simple and direct, lacking the nuance and social niceties of typical business exchanges, so teach new hires the less formal language of their new profession. Rising through the military is like walking upstairs: Each step is well defined and predictable. Rising in a business is like rock climbing: You’re always looking for handholds, sometimes going sideways before you rise. Managers should lay out career paths and requirements to veterans in detail. They should pay particular attention to leadership, to which many veterans will want to return.

Companies Doing It Right

Starbucks was recently criticized when an episode of racial insensitivity toward some customers got national attention. In hiring, however, the company has pursued diversity, including a push, begun in 2013, to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by this year. It’s already reached 15,000, and is on track to hire 25,000 by 2025. Most are young people early in their civilian careers with a single tour under their belts coming in as baristas. But “we also look for more senior veterans to fill leadership positions: store managers and district managers,” says Matt Kress, Starbucks’ senior manager of veterans and military affairs. “When we put veterans into field leadership positions, the retention is so high it is amazing. This started as a national obligation, but we quickly realized that they make us a better company.”

Where’s the Opportunity?
One-third of veterans are underemployed. (Source: ZipRecruiter and the Call of Duty Endowment)

Retirees: Who wants golf when you can reinvent yourself?

The Case for Hiring Them
Older adults can bring to the team both deep business experience and jam-packed Rolodexes. They’re also more loyal: In 2016, workers above the age of 55 had a median tenure of more than 10 years with an employer, versus 2.8 for Millennials, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And research indicates that multi­generational workforces are more productive and have less turnover than companies without age diversity.

Where to Find Them
You might want to target “boomerangers”–people eager to return from retirement–or those looking to scale back from full time but not quit work entirely. Wahve is a contract staffing firm that specializes in those who are “pre­tiring,” mainly in insurance and accounting., which targets the 50-plus crowd, spans roles from CFO to sales associate.

Check Your Bias
According to AARP, nearly four in 10 workers over age 65 plan to continue working, compared with about one in 10 less than three decades ago. It is estimated that, by 2060, 27 percent of people age 55 and older will still be working, according to the BLS. Yet when the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco sent out more than 40,000 dummy job applications for lower-skill positions that included age indicators (such as date of college graduation or lengthy work experience), it found that applicants between the ages of 29 and 31 received a full 35 percent more callbacks than those ages 64 to 66.

Consider installing the Google Chrome extension Unbias Me, which hides an applicant’s picture when a profile is viewed on LinkedIn, Twitter, or GitHub. Also, give your want ads some close scrutiny: Recruiting for a “digital native” is straight-up biased, but there are more subtle signals that could be discouraging older workers, like bragging about the free beer and Ping-Pong perks or describing the culture as “young and dynamic,” says Kieran Snyder, co-founder of Textio.

What Roles They Fill
Some senior workers expect to stay in their same industry, just charging ahead into their 60s, 70s, or 80s without slowing down. But others may be eager to mix things up, says Tim Driver, founder of “Compared with younger workers, people coming out of retirement are more apt to look for creative ways to plug into a company and help.”

Companies Doing It Right
While many large accounting firms still usher older partners out the door in their 60s, PKF O’Connor Davies actually seeks and hires senior accountants who have aged out at other firms. Many of the company’s silver-haired hires are paired to mentor less experienced employees–and most stay with the firm for five years or more.

People with disabilities: They’ve spent a lifetime problem-solving

What Roles They Fill

People with disabilities range from greeters at Walmart to the late Stephen Hawking (left). “There is a bit of a craze now for hiring people with autism for tech jobs because the jobs lend themselves to repetitive tasks and require an eye for detail,” says Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability.

The Case for Hiring Them
“If you think about people who have to navigate a world that was not built for them, you have to be a good problem solver,” says Glazer.

51%: The estimated segment of people with disabilities–both employed and not–seeking new jobs.

Source: Kessler Foundation

How to Help Them Succeed
Companies should ensure the application process itself does not discriminate. Job descriptions sometimes include unnecessary requirements. For example, written tests may exclude the blind, while behavioral interviews, which assess things like eye contact, weigh against people with autism.

Worth Knowing
Glazer recommends that if a manager has a disability, he or she discuss it openly. “You can almost hear a sigh of relief go through the workforce when a senior leader discloses a disability,” she says.

Career Pivoters: Hungry to recast their agility to fit your industry

The Case for Hiring Them
Advertising, media, health care, retail–what industry isn’t undergoing turmoil or transformation? As a result, people who have spent a decade or more working their way up in a field that is vastly changing are suddenly hungry to reinvent their careers elsewhere. Their transferrable talents might be less obvious, but think creatively and you might discover your next best competitive weapon.

Where to Find Them
“We tend to look for talent where we’re used to finding talent, but that search bias can block you from cross-industry finds,” says Marion Poetz, an innovation professor at Copenhagen Business School. To poach from other fields requires some extra legwork: Tap colleagues in adjacent industries who can recommend problem solvers they know; and keep an eye out for universally coveted traits, such as strategic chops and original thinking, rather than sector-specific experience.

How to Help Them Succeed
Treating outsider hires like experiments will almost guarantee failure. Instead, invest the time in educating them on your industry and provide very specific guardrails, says Kimberly Grotto, whose Chicago-based firm, Grotto Marketing, regularly plucks talent from other fields, including architecture, fashion, and product development. “The magic is in their drive and the way they go about solving problems,” she says.

Worth Knowing
Every career reinvention isn’t going to be a slam dunk, but the new platform Opus–currently being beta-tested by seed- to Series C-funded startups–is helping minimize those risks. The company coordinates six-month paid positions as a trial run. “We wanted to mirror the consulting world, where people bounce around between sectors and clients,” says co-founder Juliette Lim. Hiring for a project, rather than a full-time position, is also a good way to test-drive before you commit.

Read this article from the June 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine on their website.



Bring in talent with diverse perspectives to solve business challenges, using PwC’s disability inclusion data to develop customized recommendations.


PwC’s leaders opted for the Disability Inclusion Accelerator™ to chart a path forward. PwC collaborated with NOD to understand the analysis of its Disability Employment Tracker results and built a high-level action plan to accelerate company-wide efforts to recruit top talent with disabilities.


“Our Tracker report showed our strengths and insights into other high-level benchmarks we could aspire towards in our disability inclusion journey. We obtained a different lens to direct our focus on talent that we next opted for NOD’s Disability Inclusion Accelerator™. The Accelerator gave us an even more data-rich, customized benchmarking, plus a specific action plan that would help us chart our short-term, medium- and longer-term initiatives and a roadmap for senior management’s evaluation. Our team was very pleased with what we learned and we’re now moving ahead with greater confidence with these new tools in hand.”

Brad Hopton | Partner, PwC


Lowe’s + NOD: Case Study


To provide assistance in recruiting and hiring people with disabilities at four of Lowe’s distribution centers and to provide training to Lowe’s staff, managers, and local partners.


Lowe’s hired more than 150 new workers with disabilities in the first year, and an additional 250 workers in the following 18-month period. NOD provided training for more than 400 staff members and helped Lowe’s develop a local lead partner and a recruiting pipeline.

Among the new hires, turnover and absences were lower than or equal to that of other Lowe’s employees

After 18 months, with transition support from NOD, Lowe’s committed to expanding the program nationally, hiring a full-time disability employment expert to oversee the process


“Everybody wants to do the right thing. And everybody’s on a different part of their journey. What’s great is that NOD can play in all parts of that journey to help people be successful. It’s not only the right thing to do – it’s right for business.”

“Lowe’s has worked with the National Organization on Disability and many state vocational rehabilitation agencies to assist in hiring and increasing awareness of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. NOD has been a valued resource for Lowe’s and we commend them for the work they are doing…”

Steve Szilagyi | Supply Chain Executive, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

REI + NOD: Case Study



To recruit and employ people with disabilities to join the REI team at the state-of-the-art distribution center in Goodyear, Arizona. REI is already known for creating a progressive work environment that is inclusive and respectful. Through their partnership with NOD, REI had a goal of building a workforce reflective of the community and their customer base, by including people with disabilities.


In previous efforts to create a working environment welcoming to people with disabilities in other REI facilities, the company noted how long the transition typically took. Working with the NOD team, REI saw near immediate results in the facility’s culture, including employees who took it upon themselves to learn sign language to communicate with a new co-worker who uses sign. NOD’s training program – created for all levels of employees, including leadership – taught the REI team how to work with and lead team members with disabilities. These training sessions, including etiquette and awareness lessons, were delivered to more than 30 REI managers and 120 staff members in anticipation of hiring more people with disabilities from the greater Goodyear area. Another key portion of the REI and NOD partnership was a comprehensive review of their existing inclusion policies resulting in specific recommendations to advance their inclusion goals.


“If anybody were to ever ask me if I’d work with the National Organization on Disability, my answer is a heartfelt ‘yes!’ They’ve been a fantastic partner to us and most importantly it wasn’t about them having a canned program that they had set that they would roll out to every employer. They truly take the time to understand you, understand your business, understand the opportunities in your business and really match those up. There’s no force fed, pre-programmed set of ideas they have for you. They really work with you to make something right for your company. I really appreciate that and I’d highly recommend the National Organization on Disability as a key partner on your initiative to find, recruit and employ great talent.”

Chris Joyce | Director of Operations, REI

“The NOD really set the foundation for us and gave us a base and a ground to really start walking. We were there, but I think we were more crawling towards that direction. The NOD really got us walking and really got us to run towards the goal we had. They were a great coach and mentor.”

Christian Saldana | Operations Supervisor, REI



Rutgers Evaluation of NOD’s Disability Employment Hiring Engagements

In 2010, NOD partnered with Lowe’s to pilot NOD’s unique disability employment hiring model, “Bridges to Business”. An independent evaluation of the program by Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development found that: “Of all the programs designed to place people with disabilities in employment… ‘Bridges to Business’ demonstrated the greatest success in job placement.”