Employment First Benefits for Your Company

Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order in November 2017 declaring Arizona an Employment First State. Employment First is a national initiative that promotes competitive employment in an integrated setting at minimum wage or higher for individuals who have disabilities.

Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Business Services staff can connect your company to a pool of qualified and ready-to-work job candidates to fill your vacancies.

Arizona is full of opportunities, as Phoenix is one of the fastest growing cities in the county. There is an abundant need for tech jobs, and a community of high-performing individuals looking for the chance to contribute. One in 59 people in the Greater Phoenix Metro Area are on the Autism spectrum, a third of which can become gainfully employed if supported by training and assessment.

This equates to 30,000 people, of which over 75% are under- or unemployed, looking to help their communities grow.
Inclusivity in the workplace not only provides this ready and willing community of workers with fulfilling opportunities to thrive, but also profits companies who benefit from a loyal and committed workforce that brings with it diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Here are just some of the ways employees with disabilities can benefit your company:

Return on Investment (ROI)

Since individuals with disabilities tend to stay employed with the same company longer, your company will benefit by saving on training and recruitment costs.

Loyal Customer-base

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, customers with disabilities and their families, friends and associates represent a trillion-dollar market segment who purchase products and services from companies that best meet their needs. Hiring individuals from this demographic can help your company bypass marketing costs to influence this customer-base who often prefer to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities.


Innovation is key to your business’s success. Employees with disabilities bring unique experiences and perspectives that can transform a workplace and enhance products and services. As part of your team, employees with disabilities can help build your business and lead your company into the future.

Tax Credits

Employers may qualify for a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for every individual with a disability who is hired.

What is a disability?

Disabilities can be cognitive, physical, sensory, or other and include a continuum of functionality that may get better, or more challenging, over time. Normal conditions of a disability may be mild, moderate, severe or profound.

Disabilities by the numbers:

In 2017, the percentage of individuals with disabilities who were actively seeking employment and not working was 7.4 percent.

The unemployment rate for veterans with a service-connected disability was 4.3%.


In 2017, the prevalence of disability in the US was:

  • 12.7 percent for persons of all ages
  • 0.8 percent for persons ages 4 and under
  • 5.4 percent for persons ages 5 to 15
  • 6.2 percent for persons ages 16 to 20
  • 10.6 percent for persons ages 21 to 64
  • 25.1 percent for persons ages 65 to 74
  • 48.7 percent for persons ages 75+
Disability Type

In 2017, the prevalence of the six disability types among persons of all ages in the US was:

  • 2.3% reported a Visual Disability
  • 3.6% reported a Hearing Disability
  • 6.9% reported an Ambulatory Disability
  • 5.1% reported a Cognitive Disability
  • 2.6% reported a Self-Care Disability
  • 5.6% reported an Independent Living Disability

In Arizona, there are more than 26,000 individuals ages 16 years old and over with a disability who are unemployed.

According to Hire-Ability.org, individuals with disabilities generally have equal or better job performance, lower absenteeism, lower turnover, better safety record, and in most cases, no increase in insurance or Worker’s Compensation rates.

What will employee accommodations cost?

According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network:

  • 15% of accommodations cost nothing
  • 51% cost between $1 and $500
  • 12% cost between $500 and $1,000
  • 22% cost more than $1,000

Employers who hire people with disabilities not only benefit from a more inclusive workplace but also a team of eager workers who often bring innovative perspectives and an expanded customer-base of clients who prefer to patronize inclusive businesses.

If you are interested in growing your employee-base to include Arizonans with disabilities, please contact our DES Vocational Rehabilitation Employer Liasions at RSAEMP@azdes.gov. To learn more about no-cost services for Arizona employers, please visit our website.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy and Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), Office of Disability Employment Policy's Job Accommodation Network, 2017 Disability Status Report prepared by Cornell University, Greater Phoenix Council and Greater Phoenix Economic Council

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