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What if we told you there is a huge group of very good employees waiting to be hired, but very few employers give them the chance to succeed?

Studies from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) show almost 75% of employers rate their employees with developmental disabilities as good to very good on work performance factors like dependability and work quality. Unfortunately, many companies skip over applicants with disabilities, leading to less than 20% of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities participating in the today’s workforce.

Rosie, who works at Sprouts grocery store thanks to support from Adelante’s employment program, is a great example of how people with disabilities can be successful working at local businesses.

Rosie is a courtesy clerk at Sprouts in Albuquerque. She always brings a positive and upbeat attitude to work. It’s easy to see her coworkers love her. “Everybody is nice and respectful to me,” said Rosie.  Anyone spending  just a few minutes with her will see she’s a bit of a celebrity at work, with many Sprouts regulars lining up at her register and saying, “Hi Rosie, how are you today?”

Just like anyone else, people with disabilities enjoy the power that comes with earning a wage and participating as a member of our community. Making close friends at work, for example, is one of the tangible benefits. Visiting with her coworkers and keeping her social life active at work is one of Rosie’s favorite things about her job. “[I enjoy] talking to my coworkers, and talking to my friend Stephanie. She’s nice.”

And Rosie knows the customers’ needs as well. “She knows my particular way I want things bagged,” one customer said.

Rosie is on the left and Stephanie is on the right. They are wearing their uniforms, and standing together and smiling. They are standing in the vitamin department at Sprouts.
Rosie and Stephanie posed for a picture together!

The study from the i4cp cited earlier notes that almost nine out of ten employers surveyed found their employees with developmental disabilities to meet or exceed employee dependability expectations. Rosie is no exception to this, becoming a proud member of Adelante’s “decade club” last year, a group of people with disabilities who have successfully held jobs in the community for ten years or longer. “How long have you been working here?” asked one employee. “Ten years.” Rosie replies. Working at Sprouts creates value for her life, and she creates great value for Sprouts’ business model.

Even though most people with developmental disabilities are genuinely good employees, our society still has a startling problem: not enough workplaces are taking the opportunity to give people like Rosie a chance to shine. 81% of people with disabilities do not have a job in the United States. In fact, many of the people who participate in Adelante’s EmployAbility program who are looking for competitive jobs in the community, working with the assistance of our job developers, look for years only to be repeatedly turned down. It remains evident that tired prejudices hinder the disability community from growing in myriad ways.

Rosie is bagging groceries. She is reaching for a bag of carrots on the counter. To her left are two heads of cauliflower and two cartons of almond milk. There is also a banana and apples on the counter. Rosie is smiling.
Anyone’s who’s met or worked with Rosie knows she has a good attitude and excels in this busy environment.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Inclusion benefits all of us. Involving people with disabilities in your workplace can help improve your customer service, your training techniques and materials, and show you how your product and environment works for a variety of potential customers. When all voices are included, you learn a lot. Plus the IRS offers tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities. The government designs tax credits to encourage employers to hire disadvantaged individuals who might otherwise have difficulty finding gainful employment.

Another point is employee retention. According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), once individuals with disabilities have found a good match, their job retention rates are comparatively high. Marriott, for example, found that the turnover rate for employees hired through a program for people with special needs was 6 percent while their overall turnover rate was 52 percent. In today’s hiring market, those are good reasons to look at employees with disabilities.

 If you’re a person with a disability seeking employment, or your company would like to hire a person with a disability, call (505)341-2000, or email ExplorePrograms@GoAdelante.org.