Ronald Vigliano has proven himself as a valuable employee with nearly 22 years of experience working at Shoprite. He prepares orders, delivers them to customers, and processes returns at the bustling store.
Tonya Hopson enjoys her job at Target and has worked at the store for 18 years, stocking and organizing in different departments and preparing drinks at Starbucks.
Vigliano and Hopson are two of thousands of people with developmental disabilities who have unique skills and a desire to work in the United States. Yet across all age groups, people with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than people with no disabilities.
The 2018 American Community Survey found that only 36 percent of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 77 percent of the total population. Workers with disabilities earn only two-thirds as much as the average worker without a disability, according to a 2019 Census Bureau report. Workers with disabilities have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, making this a critical time for inclusive hiring practices in American economic recovery.
“If they have the ability to do the work, they should be allowed to have a job,” Vigliano said. “Why not?”
Vigliano’s boss, store manager Frank Juba, said the store welcomes employees with different abilities and works to accommodate them.
“We’re flexible, and a gentleman like Ron is fully capable,” Juba said. “We find a position that suits their abilities.”
Vigliano and Hopson receive job coaching support from Community Access Unlimited (CAU). Every week, Deirdre McCray visits them at work to provide supervision and assistance with any work-related tasks that they need, such as learning how to use a register or taking a training test. People with disabilities seeking assistance in their job search or job readiness training, as well as businesses looking to hire people with disabilities in New Jersey can contact CAU. CAU is an Elizabeth-based nonprofit that seeks to integrate individuals into the community through comprehensive supports.
“The people I work with know their jobs,” McCray said. She added that she helps members stay on task and follow any business procedures and rules, and may pitch in physically depending on the member’s needs.
The extensive benefits of hiring people with different abilities are becoming well-documented. A 2018 study by Accenture in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN reports that businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities outperform businesses that do not. Their revenues were 28% higher, net income was two times more, and profit margins were higher by 30%.
Additionally, workers with disabilities have high employee retention rates, high reliability, and a positive effect on employee motivation.
Vigliano and Hopson said that working is an important part of their lives. They feel productive during the day, get out of the house, and most importantly, earn an income that helps pay their bills and other expenses.
“I like to be out of the house and the activity- I like to be working,” Vigliano said.
Hopson said she loves the people she works with and appreciates that the store hires people with different abilities.
“There’s someone at my job who is deaf but she works great,” Hopson said. “They’re equal at my job and there’s no prejudice or anything.”
After paying bills, Hopson said her favorite way to spend her money is to take care of her dog, Lexie. For Vigliano, it’s important to have extra funds to buy his favorite foods.
“We work to find the right jobs for people with different abilities, and we want businesses to see the opportunity and benefits of hiring them,” said Sandra Lynch, managing assistant executive director of supported employment and vocational programs.