Delaware’s Gov. Markell urges ‘focus on the ability rather than on the disability’ in hiring

Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. (AP file photo/Steve Ruark)

Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. (AP file photo/Steve Ruark)

Next month will mark two years since Delaware Governor Jack Markell introduced his landmark initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities,” as chairman of the National Governors Association.

The report found 20 percent of Americans have a disability, but just 20 percent of them were employed or looking for work.

“We have so many people in Delaware and across the country who may have some kind of disability and, as a result, are not given a shot at employment,” Markell said. “But we know that when we focus on the ability rather than on the disability, they can make a big contribution to their employer.”

Some business owners, however, are skeptical of the idea that hiring people with disabilities will improve rather than damage their bottom line.

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Not so, says Markell. He recently sat in on an event where Walgreen Co. president and CEO Gregory Wasson told a group of business leaders that hiring people with disabilities helped his company make money.

“The people that [Wasson] has employed show up, they’re grateful to have the job, there’s less absenteeism, less turnover,” said Markell.

In response to Markell’s efforts, programs to encourage the hiring of those with disabilities are ongoing in states including Wisconsin, Florida, California and, of course, Delaware.

So what is a success story to Gov. Markell?

“[People with disabilities] being given the shot to improve themselves and, as a result, when they wake up in the morning they have a purpose, they have a place to go, they’re making a contribution where otherwise they would not have that opportunity,” he said.

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