Are You Seeking Dedicated Workers? Learn How Investing in Disability Employment Pays Off

/ March 16, 2021

By Lisa Primm

Inclusive employment isn’t a passing fad. Buzzwords like “equity,” “diversity,“ “inclusive workforces,” and “disability employment” are here to stay. This is because there is no question of the value of diverse workforces.

People with disabilities are the largest minority group and the most underemployed group in the United States. There are more than a million people with disabilities in Tennessee alone. Our disability community is a massive and diverse talent pool. Made up of people of all races, ages, gender identities, and beliefs, we bring with us varying experiences and wide-ranging skills.

Time and again, research shows that companies and organizations that invest in inclusive employment practices and diverse workforces have better business outcomes. They have a wider pool of talent to draw from. Their diverse staff brings more creative solutions to their work. Many companies boast of greater punctuality and lower turnover because people with disabilities want to work. And businesses also find that the practices that recruited and advanced people with disabilities, promote successes for their entire workforce.

And there’s more! Data routinely shows that companies investing in diversity have higher profits than competitors who do not. Investing in inclusive business practices pays off. This has certainly been true at Disability Rights Tennessee where our diversity investment has helped us grow our impact by leaps and bounds.

This year, Disability Rights Tennessee had to shift gears to virtual advocacy to address a crisis we’d never before experienced in our community. Thanks to our staff’s tenacity, creativity, and diverse skills, we’ve been able to continue to benefit Tennesseans with disabilities during a difficult time. Read more about our work. Our investment in inclusive employment has definitely paid off.

This sounds great, doesn’t it? It is. And we want to shout it from the mountaintop. We want everyone to feel excited about and capable of implementing inclusive employment practices in their business or organization. This is why we created our Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon or DEAL.

DRT’s DEAL is an annual event to boost our community commitment to disability employment as a sustainable business solution and to share the skills that make it possible. Each year our event brings together more than 350 people from nonprofit, government, and business sectors to learn how to build an inclusive workforce. And each year, speakers confirm the positive impact of disability employment.

Randy Lewis, a retired executive of Walgreens, shared some of the many benefits of hiring people with disabilities in his DEAL 2015 keynote:

“Everybody asks about performance [when hiring people with disabilities]. We [Walgreens] studied about 400,000 hours at 35 jobs across four centers and looked at all the statistics – had statisticians come in – and performance is the same. Not surprisingly, safety is better among people with disabilities; retention is better, less absenteeism. So, performance is the same, but oh by the way, we get a dedicated workforce that are MORE than working.”

Meg Lawrence of Microsoft spoke at DEAL 2017 about the creativity people with disabilities bring to developing products that are both accessible AND “the next big thing.”

“You see children today pick up a screen, whether it’s a phone or a tablet, and they’re pinching and zooming, because they’ve come to expect that level of usability. That never would have happened if we’d never started by thinking about it in terms of accessibility.”

This year, DEAL is on April 13, 2021, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Central Time, and is VIRTUAL and FREE, making the event easily accessible across the state. This year we’ll learn from keynote speaker Ernie Dianastasis whose company, The Precisionists, Inc., has set a goal to employ 10,000 people with disabilities by 2025. Read more about Ernie Dianastasis. Attendees will also learn tips from a diversity expert and hear directly from employers and employees who are actively reaping the benefits of disability employment. Read more about DEAL 2021.

We hope you’ll join us at DEAL on April 13, and we encourage you to spread the message of inclusive workforces by inviting leaders in your network to DEAL 2021. Register for free at

I appreciate the fact that Lisa and Disability Rights Tennessee have created their Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon and encouraged our state agencies and national and local businesses in Tennessee to focus on enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in our state. I come away each year energized and encouraged by the efforts the luncheon showcases. I know many of you who read this blog are family members, individuals with disabilities or folks connected to disability service agencies, and you may not be a position to hire or to boost employment opportunities. I would ask you to pass this information along to employers or human resources people YOU know. Encourage them to attend this virtual event, and maybe they will be encouraged to consider hiring people with disabilities. If you have questions or concerns, please email me at Thank you!

Lisa Primm headshotLisa Primm is the executive director of Disability Rights Tennessee.  She has more than 30 years’ experience in client advocacy, health care policy, mental health treatment, and civil legal services. She is a Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker and holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work in Nashville and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Alma College in Michigan.

March 16, 2021

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