I believe every person living with a disability should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and that finding meaningful employment is an important part of that goal. The unemployment rate amongst disabled people, however, remains staggeringly high. Giving people living with disabilities the opportunity to prove their potential will slowly erode misconceptions and replace them with a recognition of the talent and commitment disabled people have to offer to the workplace. This is precisely what Mark Wafer has done.
Mark is a successful business person and advocate for people living with disabilities. Born deaf, Mark quickly learned first hand the challenges of holding down a job when you have a disability – so he became an entrepreneur. Today Mark owns and operates seven Tim Horton’s franchises. He purchased his first Tim Horton’s franchise 20 years ago. Five years later he advertised an opening for a new dining room attendant and Clint, a young man with Downs Syndrome, walked in and applied for the job. At that moment, Mark made the decision to give Clint a chance, knowing that unfortunately most business owners would not. He hired Clint and engaged a local community organization to train him to give him the best chance to succeed. Not only did Clint meet the job expectations, he exceeded them, quickly becoming Mark’s best employee. Since then Mark has hired over 100 employees with disabilities – both cognitive and physical. To Mark, hiring people with disabilities simply makes good business sense.
Why is the unemployment rate for disabled people so high?
If it makes such good business sense to hire people with a disability, why does the unemployment rate for disabled people remain so high? As Mark explains, it is simply fear, rooted in misconceptions about the potential that lies within disabled people to make meaningful contributions in the workplace. Specifically, employers have a misconception that hiring disabled people will result in more time off, more training, safety concerns, and higher employee turnover. But in Mark’s experience, the opposite is true. Employee turnover is the best example of why hiring disabled people makes good business sense. While his competitors have annual turnover rates of up to 100%, Mark boasts an impressively low turnover rate of 38%. The average tenure of an employee who has a disability is seven years, as compared to the 1.3 year average tenure of his non-disabled employees.
In addition to the reliability and dedication his disabled employees display, there are further benefits to including people with a disability in the workplace. Mark states, “people tell me they come to my business because we hire real people who make up the fabric of our community”, explaining that 53% of us have someone close to us with a disability.
Mark knows there is a compelling business case for hiring people living with disabilities. Let’s share this important message to help break down misconceptions about the value people with disabilities have to offer in the workplace, and replace fear with hope.
*image via blog.aarp.org