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Disabling Perceptions: Conflicting Opinions About Disability In The Workplace & Sports

Author: The Hartford : Contact:

Published: 2016-03-04


Research reveals gap between what Americans say about themselves and what they think about others when it comes to disability in the workplace and sports.

Main Digest

Disabling Perceptions: Americans Hold Conflicting Opinions About Disability In The Workplace, Sports. New research from The Hartford kicks off a national discussion about the "death of disability".

The Hartford, a leading group disability insurance provider, released new research that shows a gap between what Americans say about themselves and what they think about others when it comes to disability in the workplace and sports. Most Americans in the national survey said they would want to work and stay fit if they became physically disabled, but fewer felt strongly that people with disabilities could be world-class athletes or as productive as employees without physical limitations.

"Advances in technology and medicine, along with cultural changes, are helping to redefine what it means to be disabled, but this new research shows misconceptions linger," said Mike Concannon, executive vice president of The Hartford's Group Benefits business. "We are determined as an organization to help people of all abilities prevail. We do that by focusing on ability and providing the right technology, team and resources to bring about the 'death of disability' as we know it today."

A majority (76 percent) of Americans said they would find a way to be productive after a physical disability, even if it meant training and taking a new job. However, only one in four (26 percent) felt strongly that people with physical disabilities could perform most jobs done by individuals without disabilities.

Additional key findings of The Hartford's Disabling Perceptions Survey:

The conflicting opinions found in the survey may stem from how Americans define disability. When asked what they consider a physical disability, survey participants' top answers were paraplegia or quadriplegia (77 percent), loss of a limb (70 percent), and blindness/visual impairment (69 percent).

"In today's highly competitive marketplace, the companies that attract and retain top talent will be those with diverse and inclusive cultures, up-to-date technology, and resources that support employees' desire to enjoy active, productive lives," said Lindsey Pollak, The Hartford's workplace expert and best-selling author.

Pollak will delve deeper into the "death of disability" at South By Southwest (SXSW), the annual film, music and technology festival in Austin, Texas. In a panel discussion on March 11, Pollak and U.S. Paralympic gold medalists Alana Nichols and Brad Snyder will discuss how technology, medical advancements, and demographic changes are leveling the playing field between athletes with disabilities and those without.

Snyder and Nichols are among a team of athlete ambassadors for The Hartford, which recently renewed its founding partnership with U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee dedicated to recruiting and training elite athletes with physical and visual disabilities. The Hartford has supported U.S. Paralympic athletes for more than 20 years because they embody its Ability Philosophy – a focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do.

Inclusive Workplace

As a disability insurance provider that helps employees return to work after a disabling illness or injury, The Hartford commissioned the survey to understand perceptions of disability, as well as employers' support of people with disabilities.

While Americans said they want to return to work after a disability, they were uncertain of their employers' support of people with disabilities:

"The survey highlighted Americans' strong will to prevail, but also an opportunity for increased support of people with disabilities," said Concannon. "We engage every day with our business partners and employer clients on technology and resources, such as benefits, to support the abilities of all employees."

Survey Methodology

The Hartford's 2016 Disabling Perceptions Survey is a national omnibus survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 18 years of age and older in the United States. Questions related to employer accommodations for people with disabilities were only asked of consumers who are employed. ORC International's Online CARAVAN® Consumer Omnibus was conducted in January 2016. Based on year of birth and age in 2016, Millennials are defined as ages 18-35, Gen X as ages 36-51, and Baby Boomers as ages 52-70. The data was weighted to current population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau on gender, age, geographic region, education and race.

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