Public and Private Partnership Educates Employers about Hiring People with Disabilities by Virginia Ability
December 5th, 2023

In the heart of Virginia, a transformation is underway as the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities and Virginia Ability strive to reshape the employment landscape for individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities are a valuable workforce that employers may not know how to tap into.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 21% of people with disabilities were employed last year, compared to 65% of people without a disability. In Virginia, there are approximately 1.6 million people with disabilities, and the reality is that they are three times more likely to be unemployed or underemployed.

The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities and Virginia Ability want to change those sobering statistics. This summer, the state agency and the nonprofit partnered on a billboard campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities. The $63,000 public awareness campaign targeted employers to send a resounding message about a skilled and valuable workforce that is ready to work.

Virginia Ability is a nonprofit whose mission is to partner with businesses to open the doors of opportunity for people with disabilities to find purposeful, inclusive employment. The nonprofit offers employers educational resources and training as well as opportunities to collaborate and network.

“Sometimes employers may have an unconscious bias or belief that immediately says, ‘this person with a disability is not capable or unable to do this job’,” Bob Lancaster, Past Chair of Virginia Ability, said. “Businesses that understand the potential will hire individuals with disabilities because they are capable, dependable, reliable, and ready to work.”

Virginia Ability educates businesses to dispel the myths around disabilities. One prevalent myth they address is the belief that hiring individuals with disabilities will burden employers with additional challenges, such as the need to provide costly accommodations or concerns about increased supervision and absenteeism.

Teri Morgan, Executive Director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, said “Our board funded this project because we understand that people with disabilities have a lot to contribute to the workforce if given an opportunity to show their abilities, skills and talents. People with disabilities, like everyone else, want employment that is meaningful, dignified, and offers them a better quality of life.”

Businesses and employers should consider this valuable talent pool when they are looking to hire new employees. Sara Stone, Director of Career Outreach at Commonwealth Senior Living, serves on Virginia Ability’s board. Stone said the senior living community had hired people with disabilities in the past and received two or three referrals from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) a quarter. She hopes to establish stronger relationships with DARS and other agencies and organizations, like Virginia Ability, that serve people with disabilities to help recruit qualified employees. “It’s important to work with individuals in those agencies because they have a talent pool that is a good talent pool to recruit from,” she said. For more information on how you can make your business inclusive and hire a person with a disability, connect with Virginia Ability at


Virginia Ability is a non-profit association focused on improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Through our programs and partnerships, we educate businesses on the proven benefits of hiring qualified individuals with disabilities into their organization, cultivate business and community employment resource partnerships to connect workforce talent with job opportunities, and empower businesses to build distinctively inclusive cultures that are accessible for all employees.