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Business Sense

Diverse Perspectives: A Competitive Advantage

Take a look at successful businesses, regardless of size or industry, and you'll find certain commonalities, such as strong leadership, an efficient business model and the ability to effectively adapt to changes in market needs. Another similarity you'll likely see is actually dissimilarity — within each business's own workforce.

By fostering a culture of diversity, or a capacity to appreciate and value individual differences, employers benefit from varied perspectives on how to confront challenges and achieve success. Although the term is often used to refer to differences in race or ethnicity, diversity actually encompasses an infinite range of individuals' unique attributes and experiences. As the nation's largest minority — comprising 54 million individuals — people with disabilities add an important dimension to diversity.

As such, diversity is one of the key themes highlighted in The Business Case for Employing People with Disabilities, an online, multi-media resource that illustrates how people with disabilities add value to America's businesses across six key concerns common to all employers. In addition to diversity, the Business Case addresses return on investment, human capital, innovation, marketing and social responsibility.

According to The Dow Chemical Company, a diverse workforce inclusive of people with disabilities is critical to innovation and growth. Dow affirms this belief company-wide through a Global Positioning Statement: "People living with disabilities are a unique source of talent who can deliver substantial value to our company, our customers and our communities."

But companies don't need to be multinational to benefit from the perspectives of people with disabilities. Whether corporation or corner store, an inclusive workforce adds value to the bottom line — and to America's economy and ideals.

The Business Case for Employing People with Disabilities, which includes Frequently Asked Questions on disability employment, is one of many resources available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to help America's businesses implement policies and programs that foster more inclusive workplaces.

Special Note: July 26, 2009 marks the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For information, resources, and technical assistance on the ADA contact: your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) at www.adata.org; visit the Job Accommodation Network and the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN).

For additional news and resources, sign up for ODEP's e-mail updates.