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Why People with Disabilities Can Excel in Customer Service

In late July, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability—turned 32. For more than three decades now, inclusion of the disability community has been mandated in the U.S. and many accommodations have become standard, but much remains to be done.

The reality is that inclusion of the disability community is good for business, and companies with inclusive hiring practices experience a happier workforce and increased profit margins. The benefits of inclusion have been increasingly studied and realized, said disability rights attorney and former Connecticut state senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., who lost a leg to bone cancer.

“Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture. Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion,” Kennedy Jr. said.

The reason for this acceleration is two-fold:

1) Research bears out the fact that companies with a focus on disability inclusion outperform their competitors (See the “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage” report produced jointly by AAPD and Disability:IN).

2) The current labor shortage means companies are turning to previously underserved communities, including people with disabilities, to fill job openings.

For members of the disability community who want to work, the time has never been better to seek employment. However, other people with disabilities still struggle to find jobs because they lack work experience or have gaps in their resumes.

Over the years, NTI has found that people within the disability community can be uniquely suited to careers in customer service. Obviously, every person is unique, and every disability is different, but there are some generalities that when aligned can make people with disabilities uniquely suited to be contact center agents. Here’s why:

People within the disability community often need to think creatively.

Of necessity, they have learned to live in a world that was not designed to meet their needs. Whether they are modifying clothing or designing personalized wheelchair accessories, people with disabilities often create unique solutions that make everyday life easier for them. This creativity is a great skill for customer service jobs.

People with disabilities frequently become advocates for themselves and others with similar disabilities.

Sadly, it is all too common for families (and even health care professionals) of people with disabilities to minimize and misunderstand their actual needs. To be heard and understood, people with disabilities often research treatments, solutions, and therapies themselves. They start and join support groups, and they use their experiences and knowledge to help others. This drive and ability to self-advocate and help others is another useful skill that helps people excel in customer service careers.

The experience of day-to-day living with a disability can increase empathy for others who find themselves in challenging situations.

This is true even if that situation is customer service related and not due to a disability. Empathy is a “soft skill” most companies desire in their employees, especially those who are in customer-facing positions.

The new acceptance of remote work, combined with the current labor shortage, means the outlook for people with disabilities who want to work is better than ever before. Talent acquisition professionals are increasingly turning to the disability community as an underutilized labor pool. To make jobs more attractive to the disability community, many companies are allowing reasonable accommodations of fully remote work and part-time jobs. All of this is a step in the right direction and helps reduce job discrimination for people with disabilities, and that is something to celebrate. The fact that the very companies who are hiring more people with disabilities are also the ones seeing better profits is just the icing on the cake!