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Walgreens' hiring initiative for disabled workers on the rise

You may think that your disability is going to keep you from ever working again, but an increasing number of retailers are providing special accommodations for people with mental and physical disabilities, opening a new set of opportunities that had previously been unavailable.

People who receive disability benefits may be better able to find a permanent place in today's job force, thanks to the efforts of a nationwide pharmacy chain. Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore franchise, has announced that it is expanding efforts to hire individuals who may have previously been receiving Social Security Disability benefits, allowing those people to re-enter the workforce with the promise of special accommodations and aid.

A new training program will launch in 2013 that is designed to help disabled individuals gain employment at the franchise's stores. Walgreens partners with community organizations, including disability services providers, to identify potential candidates for the program. After completing a training course, the individuals are qualified to apply for a job at Walgreens or other community retailers, according to company leaders.

A pilot program launched in New York and Texas has trained about 4,000 people. Nearly 50 percent of those have gone on to work at Walgreens or another major retailer. The training program will expand to an additional 12 states during 2012 calendar year, with other states joining in by the end of 2013.

Not only is Walgreens providing employment opportunities at its retail stores, at least 10 percent of individuals working in the company's distribution centers are also disabled. Company representatives say they would like to reach the same numbers in the Walgreens retail division.

Walgreens has sparked an important national trend that will encourage employers to hire more people with physical and developmental disabilities. Pharmaceutical giant Proctor & Gamble have announced that at least a third of the workforce in its new packaging facility would be disabled.

Disabled individuals are far more likely to face unemployment and uncertain financial futures. However, the working world seems to be moving in a positive direction for those with disabilities, which may allow more disabled people to get off of SSD and get on with a traditionally productive life.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Walgreens expands disability employment effort nationwide," Michelle Diament, May 21, 2012

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