Walgreens is expanding its efforts to employ people with disabilities, with a new focus on inclusion at retail stores.
The national drugstore chain, which first embraced inclusion with a goal of having employees with disabilities make up 10 percent of its distribution center workforce, is rapidly bringing the concept to the storefront.
Through a pilot program that began in Texas, Walgreens is partnering with local service providers to identify and train those with disabilities for jobs as cashiers and other retail positions, company officials said.
The program is currently in place in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York as well as parts of Wisconsin and Connecticut, according to Walgreens spokeswoman Vivika Panagiotakakos who indicated that further expansion is expected.
Though the drugstore is behind the training initiative, some participants accept jobs at other retailers as well, said Panagiotakakos who characterized the initiative as “very successful.”
In addition to actively hiring more people with disabilities, Walgreens has become a model for other large companies as well. Last year, Proctor & Gamble cited Walgreens’ example when they announced that at least 30 percent of employees at a new packaging facility in Maine would be people with physical or developmental disabilities.
While welcome by many in the disability community, the corporate inclusion efforts are far from the norm. Americans with disabilities faced a 15.8 percent unemployment rate in February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — significantly higher than the 8.3 percent jobless rate experienced by the general population.
Meanwhile, a number of employers are actively campaigning against a proposed new rule from the Labor Department calling for most government contractors to ensure that 7 percent of their employees are people with disabilities.