While The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, only 17.5% of people with a disability were employed in 2015, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

That compares to a 65% employment rate for people without documented disabilities, Peter McDermott, CEO of MDI writes in an article on IndustryWeek.

Even considering educational levels, unemployment rates are much higher for people with disabilities.

Large organizations like IBM and Proctor & Gamble have a better track record than most employers. They are more likely to recruit people with disabilities and accommodate their needs. But even businesses committed to inclusive hiring practices employ people with disabilities at a fraction of their percentage in the population.

Small and midsize manufacturers and industrial companies in particular have a long way to go —with much to gain.

However there are some companies that make it a point to have inclusive hiring practices. MDI in Minnesota, which manufactures plastic packaging solutions such as the plastic totes used by the U.S Postal Service, has a workforce that is 50% people with disabilities.

“We train our employees to grow within MDI or seek jobs beyond our organization; they have a choice,” explains McDermott.

“We sometimes encounter worry or reluctance to hire people with disabilities,” he adds. “But more often, there is praise from a customer whose fears and stereotypes were shattered by hiring one of our employees. Ninety-four percent of customers surveyed said our employees with disabilities met or exceeded their performance and quality standards.”

At MDI, people with and without disabilities work side by side, producing the best possible products for our business-to-business customers. People with disabilities successfully operate plastic extruders, run gantry robots, and work on a variety of automated process equipment, such as assembly systems and boxing machines.

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IndustryWeek is a companion site within Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain Group.