DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens, a national drugstore chain, has launched an innovative initiative to hire people with disabilities at its new distribution center in Anderson, S.C., and is recruiting through a new, specially designed Web site.
Walgreensoutreach.com describes jobs available at the Walgreens distribution center and is designed to be accessible by people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities.
The center has begun pre-hire training and will open in 2007. Initially, Walgreens will hire more than 200 employees with plans to ramp up to more than 600 employees. Walgreens goal is to have at least one-third of the workforce consist of employees with a variety of disabilities working in a fully integrated team. This “real work for real pay” environment will be competitive employment in which performance standards must be maintained. Job openings at the Anderson distribution center include a number of management positions.
Walgreensoutreach.com provides information to help potential employees understand what work will be like at the distribution center. The site incorporates audio messages, photos, video and a large-print text option to depict jobs and worklife at Anderson. The site also is designed to be accessible to blind and low vision individuals who use screen reader technology. Under the jobs section, videos show employees performing various jobs, and the text describes what the workers are doing. Prospective employees unsure if they can perform the essential job functions can take a self-quiz to get an idea of the tasks involved.
From the same page, a series of photos shows an employee arriving at work and going through the daily routine — going to a locker, storing lunch, walking to a work station, taking a break and ending the day.
For potential employees considering relocating to Anderson, the site also has information about Walgreens partnership with 13 local disability agencies. Knowing the difficult challenges faced by people with disabilities who want to work, Walgreens designed the Web site to address concerns such as transportation, housing and the impact of gainful employment on Medicaid, SSI or SSDI benefits.
“We know this requires more than a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude to be successful,” said Randy Lewis, Walgreens senior vice president of distribution and logistics. Lewis, who has a son with autism, knows firsthand the challenges of everyday life for people with disabilities. “Our local partners and statewide officials have worked tirelessly in setting up a support network to make this outreach with the disability community a success,” said Lewis.
Larry Kraemer, human resources manager for the Anderson distribution center, said, “This is a workforce that is underemployed and has not had the same opportunities as others. This is a chance to change that.”
Walgreensoutreach.com also features success stories. One is that of Chuck Studzienko, an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) who has worked at Walgreens Lehigh Valley distribution center in Pennsylvania since 2004. Studzienko started as a stocker and was promoted to split-case picker, where he has a 100 percent productivity rate.
Walgreens worked with The Paciello Group (TPG) of Nashua, N.H., to make Walgreensoutreach.com accessible for people with various disabilities and to meet the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The Paciello Group was founded by Mike Paciello with a mission to make information technology resources available to the full spectrum of people with disabilities. Paciello has pioneered the field of accessible interface design as a technologist, consultant, author and professional speaker. “The impact of this new Walgreens Web site is immeasurable,” said Paciello. “It will be embraced by the disability community as a critical tool in the employment process. TPG is proud to be a part of this forward-thinking Walgreens initiative.”