Persons with Disabilities: Part of the Workforce Solution
by Stacy Aesoph, Director of Workforce Development

If you speak with an employer who has grown their workforce by hiring those with disabilities, they will tell you those employees are some of the most hardworking, dependable workers they have ever hired.

Many Brookings area employers have embraced hiring people with disabilities. A few employers who come to mind include Aramark, Bel Brands, Daktronics, Hy-Vee, and Trendz. Representatives from these businesses spoke on a panel in November 2016 to discuss all topics related to employing persons with disabilities.

The panel discussion was hosted by the Employer-Led Disability Alliance (ELDA), a committee I serve on, which was created in 2016 to connect employers and employees with education, awareness and resources for a healthy workforce that is inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Attendees at the event heard firsthand about accommodations, as well as benefits and concerns of hiring persons with disabilities. The employer representatives shared that the accommodations were inexpensive and any concerns they may have had about hiring someone with a disability were unnecessary. The employers noted that in some cases they needed to provide additional training or individualized training for those with disabilities, but it was worthwhile as those employees ended up being very dependable and detailed-oriented.

On June 6th, ELDA is bringing in a disabilities expert speaker to discuss hiring and retention of those with disabilities. This event will be another opportunity for local businesses to ask questions and learn more about employing persons with disabilities.

What is considered a disability? Most people think of physical disabilities, such as a person in a wheelchair or a person with a vision or hearing impairment. But it can also be someone with a learning difficulty or a mental health condition such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Disabilities can be long-term or temporary.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 7.3% of the Brookings County population has a disability. That equates to about 2,492 people. That number is probably much higher because the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t account for mental health disabilities.

The South Dakota Division of Rehabilitation Services estimates that statewide there are 11.5% to 12.7% of individuals with a disability. Specifically, between the ages of 21-64 the percentage is 10.5%.

There are several resources available for employers to learn more about hiring and retaining people with disabilities: Division of Rehabilitation Services, Ability for Hire (, Job Accommodation Network ( and the Employer-Led Disability Alliance.

If you are a business owner or manager, consider hiring those with disabilities. They may be part of your workforce solution.

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