By Joshua May
Walgreens, Walmart, Amazon, CVS and Target, have received recognition from the Disability Equality Index (DEI). These companies were named “DEI Best Place to Work” for their policies that allow an inclusive work environment for employees with disabilities.
Thad Rueter, a writer on the business journal progressivegrocer.com reports that Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS scored 100%, while Amazon scored 90%, and Target scored 80%. The scores are based on accessibility, employment, and community services toward those with disabilities.
However, a 100% score doesn't indicate perfection, according to the index. It instead shows that a company uses “disability inclusion practices” recommended by the index operators. Any company that scores 80% or more is considered a DEI Best Place to Work.
“I underestimated Austin over and over and over, and he surprised me again and again and again,” former Walgreens Senior Vice President Randy Lewis said of his son, who is on the Autism spectrum. “I came to the conclusion that there was a whole group of people out there probably that could do the job as well or better that we were unjustly leaving behind.”
The Autism Site, an advocacy blog, says that’s when things really started to change at that company. According to them, up to 10% of Walgreens employees have a disability, as of the time of its publishing.
A Walgreens employee mentioned by the autism blog, Julie, has hearing difficulties and a learning disability. Her role at Walgreens is at the distribution center, where she earned the nickname “Speedy” for how fast she works.
When she was young, doctors predicted that her disabilities would severely limit her options in life. However, she was hired at Walgreens after graduating from high school. Initially, she feared being ostracized at work, like she endured during her teenage years. She ended up enjoying her job, and the company of her co-workers.
“They just like you for who you are, and it’s been a big change in my life,” she said.
A press release from Carlos Cubia, vice president and global chief diversity officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said “This honor [of obtaining a 100% score from the DEI] affirms our commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities are a priority in our search for talent." The DEI is a joint initiative by a disability rights organization called Disability:IN as well as the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
“The best way to attract, retain and grow talent with disabilities is to create an accessible, inclusive workplace,” said Jill Houghton, president and chief executive officer, Disability:IN. “This year’s top scoring Disability Equality Index companies are demonstrating their commitment to many of the numerous leading disability inclusion practices featured in the DEI, recognizing that there’s still room for improvement.”
For example, some of the businesses have developed training programs for possible employees who have disabilities.
Even the State of Wisconsin uses the Walgreens “employees with disabilities” program as an official educational tool. The technical specifications on the State website list assessment requirements of potential candidates like being able to use a ladder to reach items and having a good attitude that customers will appreciate.
Houghton said she considers her organization to be partners with “corporate allies who are committed to advancing disability inclusion and equality” across the United States and around the world.
In a world where employment is scarce for those with disabilities, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and other high scoring companies seem to be beacons to people who struggle with finding employment -- and the businesses who need positions filled by talented workers.