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Ep 470: Disability Inclusion


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and with so much focus on DE&I in the workplace, this significant proportion of the population needs to be included and not overlooked.

My guest this week is Dr Jennifer Luebke, Chief Workforce Inclusion Officer at PRIDE Industries. PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise creating sustainable career opportunities and training for people with disabilities, and Jennifer has some hugely valuable insights to share.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The story of PRIDE Industries

• Projecting a welcoming attitude as an employer

• Accommodations and adjustments

• Misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities

• How does disability inclusion fit into DE&I?

• The Advantages of employing people with disabilities

• Neurodiversity in the workforce

• How to tap into new communities of talent

• Making it safe to disclose non-apparent disabilities

• Advice for employers

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.


Matt Alder (0s):
Just before we start the show, a quick message to say that I need your help. Whether, you are a long-term listener, or you literally just found us, I would be incredibly grateful if you could go to and fill out a very short survey about this podcast. It won T take longer than two minutes of your time and will be incredibly helpful to me as I develop Recruiting Future into 2023 Just. To recap, the website address is, and it will take just two minutes of your time to complete the survey.

Matt Alder (40s):
Go on, press pause, and do it right now. Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 470 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and with so much focus on DE&I in the workplace, this significant proportion of the population needs to be included and not overlooked.

Matt Alder (1m 25s):
My guest this week is Dr. Jennifer Luebke, Chief Workforce Inclusion Officer at PRIDE Industries. PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise creating sustainable career opportunities and training for people with disabilities, and Jennifer has some highly valuable insights to share. Hi, Jennifer, and welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (1m 48s):
Thank you so much, Matt. It’s great to be here.

Matt Alder (1m 50s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (1m 56s):
Yes, my name is Jennifer Luebke and I am the Chief Workforce Inclusion officer for PRIDE Industries. And my team’s role in the company is to create employment for people with disabilities. So we help people with disabilities find jobs, retain jobs, and develop in their careers.

Matt Alder (2m 15s):
Tell us a little bit more about PRIDE Industries and what it does.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (2m 19s):
Yes. PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise and we have several different services that we provide other companies. We do facilities maintenance. We have manufacturing. We do custodial services. We take care of the commissaries on various military bases. We do all of this work while hiring people with disabilities.

Matt Alder (2m 42s):
Just tell us a bit more about Disability Inclusion and what that means in terms of employment.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (2m 50s):
Right. Well, stepping back a bit, our world was not built for people with disabilities. Our world was built by people who can see or can hear, or who can walk, people of typical abilities. And so, therefore, our systems, our architecture, it was all built for people that don’t have the disabilities that the people we work with have. So that being said, even our employment systems, the way that we interview all of that was designed by people with typical abilities for people with typical abilities or people who are non-disabled. And so oftentimes, people with disabilities, let’s say somebody who is hard of hearing or perhaps someone who is blind or perhaps someone who is neuro-divergent, meaning they may be on the autism spectrum or they may have ADHD, people with intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (3m 47s):
All of these people who can and want to work, find it difficult and challenging to access our employment systems in order to make a living. And so what Disability Inclusion means in employment is that we create access for people to work, to develop a career. We make accommodations and adjustments to the work setting so that people with disabilities can be successful. And then most of all, I think the inclusion part comes when we project an attitude and a posture that is welcoming and that really takes into account each person’s unique strengths and abilities, and we focus on those strengths so that people will be successful at work.

Matt Alder (4m 38s):
What are some of the misconceptions that you come across about hiring people with disabilities?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (4m 43s):
Right. I think that many times in companies when people hear the word Disability, they think of something that is, you know, or somebody who is less capable. They think of someone who is lesser than others, and they may even think about accommodations, but think about how much that might cost or what type of inconvenience they might have in order to put an accommodation in place. And so oftentimes, it’s a negative bias that people have towards people with disabilities. So that’s very, very challenging because people with disabilities, as with people without disabilities, each one of us has unique strengths, unique talents, unique abilities that we can bring to the workplace setting.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (5m 33s):
And so it’s up to us as employers to really change the way that we interact with people so that we can make sure that we’re tapping in to that talent pool of people with disabilities and so that they can contribute to the workplace.

Matt Alder (5m 50s):
Many, many employers are looking very carefully at DE&I at the moment within their organizations and have been for quite some time. Where does Disability Inclusion fit within that?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (6m 3s):
Yes. So diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are often focused on race, gender, anything but disability. And so disability is sort of that last frontier, that sort of forgotten pool of people of talent that employers can tap into. And so that’s why October here in the United States is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This is the month when we try to promote as much as possible employment for people with disabilities and talk about some of the ways that employers can engage, recruit, and leverage their talents.

Matt Alder (6m 47s):
And what are some of the advantages for employers?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (6m 50s):
People with disabilities tend to have lower turnover and a higher retention rate, so they tend to be more loyal to companies. Also, studies have shown that the morale of people in inclusive work settings, disability inclusive work settings tends to be much higher. The reason why is because when you look around and you see that people with disabilities are being hired and they’re being accommodated in the workplace, people tend to feel like their employers really do care about them and see them as individual people. So those are some benefits of hiring people with disabilities and having them in the workplace.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (7m 31s):
The other thing is that people with disabilities have had many challenges in their lives trying to fit into a society that wasn’t built for them. And so with all of these problem-solving skills that they’ve had to develop and innovation that they’ve had to develop, they’re often people who think differently and approach problems in a different way. And so there’s a diversity of thought with people with disabilities that you gain when you’re hiring them.

Matt Alder (8m 3s):
And talk to us about neurodiversity in the workplace.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (8m 7s):
Right. So neurodiversity is a term that encompasses people on the autism spectrum, people who may have ADHD, or people who have dyslexia or dyscalculia. These are people who their brains don’t think in a neurotypical way. They don’t think like everyone else. And so the contributions that someone who is neuro-divergent brings to the table are enormous. They really bring a different way of thinking and a different way to approach solving problems. And so it is incumbent on us to make sure that we are looking at the talent pool of people who think differently, who are in that neurodiverse population, and bring them into our company so that we can really expand the diversity of thought and the diversity of our approaches to solving problems.

Matt Alder (9m 5s):
We’ve talked about inclusivity in terms of hiring people with disabilities. There obviously lots of lots of people listening working in talent acquisition, work in recruiting. What should they be bearing in mind if they want to tap into this community of talent?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (9m 21s):
That’s a great question. How do we find people with disabilities? How do we intentionally go into those spaces? And so my suggestion is to really, first in your company, there are probably people with disabilities already, but they may not have felt comfortable to disclose what that disability is. It might be a non-apparent disability. There are apparent disabilities, and non-apparent disabilities. So apparent disabilities are things that you can see, you know, people who may be blind, people who may be in a wheelchair. Someone with a non-apparent disability, that could be someone who has a diagnosis of anxiety, or it might be someone that has a medical condition that they might have to get treatment for.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (10m 9s):
It could be someone who is neurodiverse. You can’t necessarily tell just by looking at them. And so first ask in your company for people to disclose and make it safe for them to disclose. And then the next step I would think would be to discuss with the people already in your company, how can we make the employment setting more welcoming and more attractive to people with disabilities and really tap into the networks that the people in your company have to reach out and to say, hey, it’s a great place for me to work. I feel comfortable disclosing and I’d like to invite people in my network who I also know may share a particular disability diagnosis come work for us because it’s a place where it’s safe for people with disabilities to demonstrate their talents.

Matt Alder (11m 7s):
Tell us more about your own organization and some of the examples of the work that you do and the feedback that you get about your employees.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (11m 17s):
Right. So we place people with disabilities in a variety of settings. We have many people that we place on military bases and the feedback that we get about our employees are that they’re among the best. They’re diligent. They’re hardworking. They tend to stay in their role, in their jobs much longer than people without disabilities. And so, you know, we get nothing but praise for people with disabilities. And, you know, once they’re given a chance to demonstrate the talents and the abilities that they have, we get some terrific feedback. In my area, we work directly with people to place them in competitive, integrated employment.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (12m 2s):
And so what that means is that we will work with a person with a disability perhaps to interview or to put together their resume and help them get a job. We’ll work with the employer on any accommodations that they may need to make. And then we’ll even provide some job coaching for that person so that we support them in their job. So we provide a lot of different resources and support so that people with disabilities can really have their abilities shine in the workplace. And oftentimes, we get so much great feedback from the employers saying that they should have been hiring people with disabilities a long time ago.

Matt Alder (12m 47s):
For people who may be listening who know someone with a disability or have people within their family have a disability who are trying to get into the workforce, what would you say to them?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (12m 57s):
I would say to them to look up our company PRIDE Industries at to take a look at some of the opportunities that we have for people with disabilities and to hire, if you, someone as a company to hire someone with a disability to be very intentional about looking at this population of people. You know, we didn’t talk about the statistics, but anywhere between 15, 20 to 26 percent of our population has a disability, depending on how you define the word disability. So the CDC says that 26 percent of our population has a disability in the United States.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (13m 39s):
Our Department of Labor counted as one out of every five people. And then the World Health Organization says that it’s 15 percent of our population. And that’s probably understating our disability numbers just a bit. So if you put that into real numbers, you know, over a billion people in on the planet have some sort of disability. So we would be remiss to not look at that population of people and make sure that they’re included in employment. So people with disabilities can call our free helpline. It’s 1844-I-AM-ABLE, 1844-I-AM-ABLE. And we have people on the other end of that phone line who can help either with a job, help you get a job if you have a disability.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (14m 28s):
They can help you find employment in your geographic area.

Matt Alder (14m 31s):
And what about employers who might be interested in working with you?

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (14m 35s):
Yes, employers can look on our website, it’s or they can give me a call or drop me an email. My name is Jennifer Luebke, last name is spelled L-U-E-B as in boy, K-E. Contact me and I can help you get started.

Matt Alder (14m 54s):
Jennifer, thank you very much for talking to me.

Dr. Jennifer Luebke (14m 57s):
Thank you very much for having me.

Matt Alder (14m 60s):
My thanks to Jennifer. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future and you can now also follow the show on TikTok. Find us there by searching for Recruiting Future Pod. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get our monthly newsletter and the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening.

Matt Alder (15m 40s):
I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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