National Survey Provides New Directions for Expanding Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Workplace

November 20, 2017

2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey

A new national survey shows that employers are striving to recruit, hire, train, and retain people with disabilities, and reveals areas of opportunity for even greater successes in the workplace. This survey, the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives, is the first survey to look at the effectiveness of these practices from the perspective of supervisors of employees with and without disabilities. Commissioned by the Kessler Foundation, the survey was conducted by a team led by Drs. Andrew Houtenville and Kimberly Phillips at the Institute on Disability.

More than 3,000 supervisors responded to the Kessler Foundation Survey, providing detailed information on the processes and practices used by their employers to promote success in the workplace, and their effectiveness for employees with and without disabilities. When a practice was not available, they were asked whether it would be feasible for their organization to implement the practice.  They also answered questions about their own commitment and their perceived commitment of upper management to specific processes and practices that support success of their employees.

“Results of the Survey are encouraging,” explains Dr. Andrew Houtenville, Research Director at the IOD. “They show that the majority of employers have processes and practices in place for the inclusion of employees with and without disabilities, and that the commitment to the success of employees with disabilities is shared by supervisors and upper management.”

“The findings offer insight into how effective these processes and practices are for all employees,” shares Dr. Kimberly Phillips, Project Director at the IOD. “They point to new directions for expanding their availability, and increasing their effectiveness for individuals with disabilities.”

The Survey has important implications for employers seeking to diversify their workplaces and improve productivity. “Many companies are having difficulty finding qualified candidates,” said Dr. Houtenville, “but are underutilizing practices that can help them achieve these goals. Companies that partner with a disability organization, for example, find this practice overwhelmingly effective for meeting their recruitment needs. Only 27%, however, engage in this practice, although the majority of supervisors see this practice as feasible.”

Supervisors find certain practices, such as outside assistance with job training, are effective for employees with and without disabilities, “While supervisors found short-term assistance by job coaches and temporary training programs to be extremely effective, only 19% of companies utilize such services,” said Dr. Phillips.

Encouraging broader implementation of effective practices could expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  “For example, while most organizations have effective processes for recruiting and supporting new hires,” noted Dr. Houtenville, “these processes are not as effective for candidates with disabilities. We need to look into how these processes can be improved,” he advised. “On the other hand, certain practices are seen as highly effective for employees with disabilities, but are underutilized by employers. The most striking example is a centralized accommodation fund, found to be 97% effective, but maintained by only 16% of employers.” 

“With its unique view of corporate culture, this Survey gives us new direction for increasing inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace,” concludes Dr. Phillips. “When there is commitment from upper management, and effective practices are in place, all employees and their supervisors achieve success, and businesses reap the benefits of their diverse and productive work force.” 

Since the Survey’s Release, Drs. Houtenville and Phillips have travelling to discuss the results and next steps for employers. They were on NH Public Radio’s The Exchange with Laura Knoy, presented during the November nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar, and spent time in Washington, DC for the initial release.

To learn more about the results, and to access Executive Summary, Survey Results, presentation slides, and survey questions, visit