Private Sector


Your business can play a vital role in ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy their human rights. Too often people with disabilities are denied the right to work and other interrelated rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living. What can you do to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy their human rights? Read the text of the right to Work and Employment (Article 27).
Take action:

  • Do not discriminate against people with disabilities in your hiring, job retention and promotion practices.
  • Employ people with disabilities.
  • Protect the human rights of your workers with disabilities by providing safe working conditions, and paying them equal worth for work of equal value.
  • Train people with disabilities in marketable skills.
  • Enable people with disabilities to return to work, and to be promoted.
  • Comply with laws, policies, and regulations that support the human rights of people with disabilities, including positive measures like quotas. Consult with government, people with disabilities, and trade unions on the development of future policies consistent with the CRPD.
  • Make Reasonable Accommodations. Accommodations are modifications which are provided to people with disabilities so they have an equal opportunity to work. They are termed “reasonable” when they do not cause undue hardship to the employer. Accommodations can include installing a ramp or changing a job description.
  • Support youth and other people with disabilities starting their own businesses and entrepreneurs with disabilities.
  • Do business with entrepreneurs with disabilities. Contract with people with disabilities or their organizations. Establish businesses based on public private partnerships.
  • Support vocational and professional rehabilitation.
  • Enable people with disabilities to join trade unions.
  • Do not use people with disabilities as forced labor.

Remove obstacles which prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their right to work:

  • Provide an accessible workplace, facilities, services, technology and information.
  • Provide accessible transportation so that people with disabilities can get to work.
  • Ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to healthcare.
  • Provide employment information in accessible formats.
  • Work with educators to ensure that people with disabilities are learning marketable skills.
  • Do not discriminate against people with disabilities when providing financial and other services.

Ensure that:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility activities include people with disabilities. For instance, join The United Nations Global Compact which prohibits employment discrimination “on the basis of physical or mental disability.”
  • People with disabilities form a considerable market niche. Consider providing products and services as yet unavailable to people with disabilities.
  • Develop social enterprises with people with disabilities.

Many companies are now developing anti-discrimination or specific policies inclusive of people with disabilities. To ensure that your business does not prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their human rights:

  • Develop policies for employees and consumers which take a human rights-based approach to disability. Consult with workers with disabilities, their champions, or representative organizations on how to develop, implement, and monitor these policies. Enable workers with disabilities to organize so that they may provide input.
  • Provide training on the rights of people with disabilities, as well as the responsibilities of your company.
  • Act internationally. If you are a multinational company, support all the countries in which you operate to advance the human rights of people with disabilities. Provide technical assistance to businesses or business associations in other countries.

Countries are obligated by the Convention to protect the right of people with disabilities to work. They will need to make certain that businesses do not prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their human rights, or commit human rights violations against them. Businesses employ people with disabilities not only to fulfill legal and moral obligations, but also for economic reasons.

Hiring persons with disabilities makes economic sense:

  • Persons with disabilities are high quality and reliable employees. Many workers with disabilities have equal or higher performance ratings on the job than workers without disabilities.
  • Many workers with disabilities have higher job retention than non-disabled workers.
  • People with disabilities have underutilized talents and perspectives that can assist in developing new products and broaden the consumer base of your company. People with disabilities may also bring abilities to a position due to the affect of their disability, for instance an unusual degree of creativity, high level of accuracy, or attention to detail.
  • Enhance your business culture, employee moral and your business reputation. Non-disabled employees may feel more positively about their company and its contribution to their community. Managers may come to feel that they are better able to learn the needs of their staff and to improve their communication with the general workforce.
  • They are an overlooked consumer sector. People with disabilities represent 10-20% of the population and so represent a significant market. Innovative designs such as speech recognition software can have universal application.
  • Most reasonable accommodations do not carry any significant cost, and non-disabled employees commonly require accommodations.

Accommodations that involve physical modifications also benefit consumers and non-disabled employees by creating a universally friendly environment. For example, a ramp that benefits a wheelchair-using employee also benefits customers with prams and non-disabled employees who transport inventory. There are “ripple effects” that emanate from reasonable accommodations. These include higher productivity, greater dedication, and more widespread use by workers without disabilities of efficiency-enhancing technologies previously used only by their peers with disabilities.

Upholding your legal and moral responsibilities so that people with disabilities can claim their right to work is important. A significant cultural myth is the notion that people with disabilities are unable to be effective workers. By employing a person with a disability your business is helping to erode prejudices and misconceptions regarding the group. Employment is a hallmark of true citizenship for it enables individuals to participate meaningfully in society. The workplace is where meaningful conversations occur, where meaningful relationships form, and where loyalty to coworkers is forged. Being a part of this community is a crucial way for people with disabilities to be full members of society, and to be deemed as such.

For detailed information on employing persons with disabilities, read our academic publications, utilize the Employment resources section of this website, and read the full text of the Convention.

© 2008 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.

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