The Small Business at Work Toolkit

Helping small businesses welcome employees with disabilities
A man and a woman shake hands on the factory floor

Business Case

How disability inclusion benefits a business

Your people are your business

Now more than ever, getting the right people in the right place at the right time can make or break your small business. Unlike big businesses, you have fewer options for dealing with a labor shortage. Being able to hire skilled, reliable workers directly and immediately impacts your bottom line. According to several recent surveys,[1] small businesses report that finding skilled people is now a number one challenge.[2]

Can you afford to ignore 20% of the available talent?

You might not know it, but about one-in-five people who apply for jobs or are working in your business are doing so with a disability. Because of assumptions made about their skills, people with disabilities are one of the largest untapped sources of talent in our country today. And they are qualified, talented and often dedicated to their employer. They are ready to work for you. Are you ready for them?

It’s about talent, not charity

Business people walking through office lobby while discussing a projectHiring people with disabilities is not about charity and it’s not about pity. It’s about getting good people who can contribute to your business success. Many people with disabilities have the education and qualifications needed for the workforce.[3]  Also, several studies[4] have shown that people with disabilities perform as well on the job as those without disabilities (see Tool 3).

Hiring people with disabilities is not a “nice to do.” It is a key source of competitive advantage for small businesses in the United States today.  

The loyalty dividend for small businesses

According to a recent Zenefits survey of over 600 small business across the United States,[5] turnover is a significant cost for small businesses and a clear threat to their business growth.[6] On average, it costs small businesses 16–75% of annual salary to replace a worker who leaves. Several studies[7] have shown that people with disabilities are less likely to leave a job and, on average, stay on the job nearly 5 months longer than workers without disabilities. A study of Pizza Hut franchises found that the annual turnover rate of workers with disabilities was 20%, as compared with 150% of those without disabilities.[8] These and other studies of turnover rates among workers with disabilities bring home the importance of the loyalty dividend—of including people with disabilities in the small business workplace.

The biggest barrier is not the disability

The philosopher W. I. Thomas tells us “What is believed to be true will be true in its effect.” For people with disabilities, this phrase rings only too true. People with disabilities often tell us that the biggest barrier they face in the workplace is not their disability. Rather, it is the misperceptions of others—the negative beliefs that, though disproven by both research and experience, still drive employers’ decisions about hiring workers with disabilities. As a small business leader, you can make a difference, not only for your business, but also for your community.

About veterans

A standing woman looks at a laptop on a desk with a seated woman who has a prosthetic legMost small business leaders agree: Veterans are welcome in their workplaces. But too many do not extend that welcome to veterans with disabilities. There are currently nearly five million veterans in our country who acquired a disability while serving.

Fortunately, supporting and accommodating these veterans in the small business workplace is not difficult. And, when hired, these veterans will perform on the job as well (or better) than workers without disabilities. For small businesses, having a disability-inclusive workplace will make the difference between whether or not these veterans will feel welcomed in your workplace.

Sending a message about what you stand for

As we’ve shown, disability inclusiveness is about business. But it’s also the right thing to do. It sends a strong message about what your small business stands for—a message heard by your current workforce, your potential talent pool, your community, and your customers.

  • A 2008 study showed that 88% of customers prefer to give their business to a company that includes people with disabilities in its workforce.[9]
  • Small business owners told us that their workforce was like a family. Did you know that 30% of US families have at least one member with a disability?[10] Think about the implications of this for both your workforce and your customers.

People want to work for a company that supports its workforce with and without disabilities. What does your business stand for?


[1] Schindelheim, R. (2018). Small businesses say worker shortage is biggest challenge. WorkingNation.

[2] Bannister, C. (2018). Labor shortage ‘single biggest’ problem for small businesses as record 37% report unfilled jobs.

[3] National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Students with disabilities. Fast Facts.

[4] Hastings, R. (2008). Study compares costs, benefits of hiring people with disabilities. SHRM.

[5] Spencer, J. (2019). Employee turnover is a more costly problem than researchers thought, here’s why. Workest.

[6] Jolley, J. (2014, November 21). What does employee turnover mean for small businesses? PeopleKeep Blog.

[7] Hernandez, B., & McDonald, K. (2010). Exploring the costs and benefits of workers with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 76(3), 15–23.

[8] Disabled World. (2009). Disability employment information, facts, and myths.

[9] Lengnick Hall, M. L., Gaunt, P. M., & Kulkarni, M. (2008). Overlooked and underutilized: People with disabilities are an untapped human resource. Human Resource Management, 47(2), 255–273.

[10] American Association of People with Disabilities & Disability:IN. (2018). Getting to equal 2018: The disability inclusion advantage (PDF). Accenture.