Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, is leading the way in enhancing hiring of people with disabilities. On June 14, 2007, the company opened a new distribution center in Anderson, North Carolina equipped with technology and management training to facilitate hiring and retaining people with disabilities. The center has touch screens for the vision-impaired, flexible workstations, wheelchair ramps and elevators. All workers receive disability awareness training, and managers go through a special program run by the University of North Carolina on supporting disabled employees.
For the past year, the distribution center has staffed approximately 400 people, almost 40% of who have a disclosed disability. The center’s creation is not about empathy and is not subjected to lower performance expectations. Each team member is expected to perform at same level regardless of whether or not he or she has a disability.
In fact, the distribution center has shown the positive contribution people with disabilities can make to companies. The center is Walgreen’s most efficient distribution center in the United States and has been a tremendous success that the company is opening a new center in Windsor, Connecticut later this year.
The following is a clip about the Anderson, N.C. center featured on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams:
To learn more about the distribution center in Anderson, North Carolina or to consider employment opportunities with the company – visit www.Walgreensoutreach.com. The website is designed to be accessible by people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities
Thanks, Walgreens, for being an example and leading the way.
For Julia Turner, who was born with Down syndrome, a full-time job might seem out of reach, but not here, at Walgreens’ first-of-its-kind Southeastern distribution center.
“I have found what I want, and I’m satisfied,” Turner said as she scanned boxes at the center, which officially opened June 14.
The drugstore chain’s plan is to hire an 800-person workforce that is one-third disabled, but it is ahead of that goal, reporting that 42 percent of the 250 people it has hired so far have a physical or cognitive disability.
Tommy Watson has Asperger syndrome, sometimes known as “high-functioning autism,” which makes him developmentally disabled in some ways but also fuels a startling facility with computers. When anyone has a computer problem at Walgreens’ Anderson center, they call Watson.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
The outreach is the brainchild of Randy Lewis, Walgreens’ senior vice president of distribution and logistics, whose 19-year-old son, Austin, has autism.
“Austin’s gift to me was to look past the disability to see a person,” Lewis said. It is a philosophy that many businesses have been slow to embrace
For Walgreens, the outreach is no charity. Disabled workers must meet the same performance standards as their non-disabled colleagues, Lewis said, and the company expects its new distribution center to be fully as efficient and cost-effective as its traditional facilities.
Lewis said the Walgreens program gives hope to the parents of disabled children, who he said often wonder “what would happen after I’m gone. Can I live one day longer than my child?”
Watson’s mother, Dianne Lipper, said Walgreens has answered that question.
“I don’t have to have that worry anymore,” she said. “He’s going to be [taken] care of here. As long as he performs his job and does his best for Walgreens, he’s got a home.”